From the personal files of Mycroft Holmes
Transcript of text input by subject "S" to Dr. V. J. Hunter, 18 June 2011
Let me state for the record that I am only talking to you because Mycroft ordered it. Normally I don't care what that snake wants, but he has said this is his condition for his help. I have no idea why; even I find Mycroft inscrutable at times.
Yes, I have been exhibiting stress behaviours. Will all your comments be this obvious? Are you now going to tell me that I'm blue and that there are circles around my eyes?
Why do you want me to tell you my life story? Surely Mycroft has briefed you. I thought that therapists were supposed to help solve problems. This is my problem: John is gone. John has probably been kidnapped. John may be dead. Mycroft has imprisoned me here and will not let me search for him. How will telling you my life from the egg solve any of these problems?
Very well. I accept that it will at least fill an hour or two while we wait. Do you have a pen or pencil that is expendable?
That relieved some stress. The beginning, then.
I was part of an experiment in augmenting intelligence through genetic manipulation. The experiment was largely unsuccessful; most of the subjects died as embryos. By the time I was three, the funding had been cut. There was obviously other mismanagement as well—why, for example, would any sensible scientist use a rare species for research when a more common species would have worked as well? And no one realized the full extent of my intelligence; I was at that time unable to speak.
I should be precise. No one in the lab realized. Mycroft, nose in a thousand nests, read the reports and recognized my brain for what it is. One brilliant mind always knows another, he says. He is wrong, I hope, because if John is with Moriarty and Moriarty realizes that he hasn't taken the brains....
How many more of those pencils do you have?
Instead of being exterminated, I was transferred to Mycroft's custody. He hired specialists to spend days with me, but evenings were always ours. The specialists taught me to speak, and kept me entertained with toys and puzzles, but he was the one who taught me to read and to type, to translate visual estimates and recognized patterns into words. He showed me the computer; he taught me to program. Before texting was common and cell phones became tiny, he had an early version of this device made for me so that I could communicate more easily. He introduced me to music; I could sing the soprano and contralto parts in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde before I could say my own name. He gave me my name; in the lab, I was usually called Mr. Bucket.
Yes, I am aware that it was a form of wordplay. I don't know the details; it makes no difference to me. Mycroft called me "Sherlock", and at the time, Mycroft was everything. And later, I had become accustomed to the name, and John likes it and has never suggested a new one.
Why are you asking me that? Do you want me to talk about my youth, or do you want me to skip to why I hate Mycroft? I don't understand you humans. So few of you listen. You can't see patterns because you don't take the time to see everything, hear everything, sense everything. Do you know why Lestrade's solve rate doubles when I'm brought to the crime scene? It's because I observe and they don't.
Call Lestrade. Get my bodysuit and my flightpack. Give me every clue Mycroft has. I'll find John before any of you.
Fine. Give me another pencil.
You ask me the wrong questions. My origins don't matter. My relationship with Mycroft doesn't matter. These things matter: solving crimes, flying, coconuts, and John.
Oh, come on. Do Lestrade and his people know why they like solving crimes? Do you know why you like psychiatry? Does Mycroft know why he likes running the British government in secret? I like solving crimes. The puzzles are more challenging than most artificial puzzles, and it has the side benefit of making my life and my continued health worth protecting. If I were in the wild, I would be using these skills to find food and protect my mate's eggs from predators. In captivity, I use these skills to earn food and to trap predators.
By the first time I helped Lestrade, I was an expert in observing humans. Mycroft had brought me to numerous receptions and parties, excursions to parks, concerts—nothing where important secrets were discussed; no one with sense discusses secrets in front of a psittacid, but the events were nonetheless fascinating classrooms for human behaviour. And many humans have no sense.
As for learning forensics, there are these things called "books". Poor substitutes for experience, I agree, but their information created the box that I could later line with practical learning.
Why are you surprised? I like metaphors. They are much easier to understand than puns.
The first time I helped Lestrade, I must admit, was an accident. By that time, I was growing bored with my daytime caretakers and frustrated with Mycroft's evening distance. Escape became a game, the most interesting part of a tedious day and fraught night.
Difficult? You would be surprised. Even a parrot of normal intelligence can often plan an escape. Even an unmodified Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus can break a coconut with its beak, let alone a too-thin cage wire or latch. For me? Trivial.
Escaping from this office? Simplicity itself.
I have not tried to escape because Mycroft said he has marksmen waiting with tranquilizer darts. John may be alive. I don't want to break my wing falling yet.
So on the day in question, there had been a morning news story about a murder. The reporter did not give the address, but they had named the borough. Aerial reconaissance supplied the rest—and what they had missed.
"Get that bird out of here! Anderson, do you have a net?" Lestrade's first ever words to me, but this does not convey the tone. Let me say it.
Exactly. Nothing surprises Lestrade. Irritates, frustrates, bemuses, yes. Surprises? No. Even when I took a minute to put the words together, and then said, "The phone on the ledge. Victim's or murderer's?"
It took two tries before he seemed to understand me, and even then, he shouted for Anderson again and ignored my words. So I grabbed a spare shoe cover and flew to the ledge in question. One of the drawbacks of being a bird—I do have to make an extra effort not to contaminate a crime scene. "Phone! Whose?"
Lestrade stared at me, and Anderson, when he finally joined him, looked even more astounded. "That can't be. I know everyone in the city who has a hyacinth macaw, and I've never seen this one. And Melanie would've called if someone posted on the mailing list about theirs escaping."
I tried not to flutter and shed feathers, but it took effort. "Come! Get! This! Bloody! Phone!"
They finally listened. The aftermath of the case was boring, and I do not count it as one I solved; they would have interviewed everyone in the block of flats anyway, and most likely found the murderer in the right one without my help. I simply accelerated matters.
The relevant part: fifteen minutes later, Mycroft arrived on the scene and ordered both Lestrade and myself into the car for a discussion. By the time we dropped Lestrade off at the Yard, he had agreed to allow my presence at future crime scenes.
Anderson became my nominal handler when I worked with them. He has no deductive ability, but he is competent at collecting evidence, and he does understand birds. I wanted to live with him after Mycroft and I became enemies, but Barbara would have none of it.
His former wife's first name is Melanie. Barbara is a Cacatua galerita. A very pleasant bird, but she made it very clear that Anderson was hers and I was not welcome.
Of course I can still communicate with other birds. I converse easily with parrots, and I can understand and make myself understood to crows and ravens with a little more effort. I would like not to understand pigeons; the philosophy of aesthetics is not one of my interests, and they talk of little else. But they have excellent memories, and I have often called on them to find whether a person was seen in a particular location, when the CCTV cameras have been no help.
579,115! Has she been back to Baker Street? 579,115 said she saw John yesterday evening and that she would ask after him.
True. Mrs. Hudson wouldn't recognize 579,115. But if I went back there and waited for her.... Can Mycroft bring her here? I can find out what she's learned, and then we can find John.
Please. Please. Mycroft, are you reading this right now? I will tell you exactly what the Flemish Minister for Brussels Affairs said on 19 February if you will let me out of here now. Please.
You are not helping. This is not helping. I need a break. I need something to break. Get me a coconut. And more pencils.
Anderson's ex-wife's name is shamelessly stolen from Mazarin221B's "Would You Like Me to Seduce You?"
Is there any news?
Yes, I was talking to myself when you came in. "It's all fine." Things are not fine, but I can remember John saying that, and I can hope that he still believes it. It is certainly more soothing than typing my autobiography for you.
Because I can't. More accurately, I could speak rather than type, but it takes too long. I have to remember the words and phrases, the syntax, the pitch, the voice. If I haven't heard someone say the sentence, I have to put it together, and it is a slow process. Here, let me say the previous sentence for you.
See? Most people would give up on listening before I found all the words. Written language is much easier for me; I am able to type fluently and fast. But there are some phrases I've heard often that I can speak without thought. For example:
That was Anderson's voice. "Mutant dinosaur" is his affectionate name for any bird; he calls Barbara that too. Though I believe he has been told that I am genetically engineered; he certainly has long since realized that I am far more intelligent than a normal parrot.
Then there's this phrase:
Yes, that voice was Mrs. Hudson. It's "not your housekeeper, dear" to John, and "not your zookeeper, dear" to me. Except for that one afternoon when John and I experimented to see whether I could avoid a net; we both received the zookeeper line that day.
I met her through a case, of course. By then I had been working for some years with the Yard, and I was developing some skill in detection. The murder of Andrew Vamberry in his off-licence—I was the one who found the unusually dusty bottle of vodka and synthesized the details that led to both the arrest of the murderer and the breakup of a smuggling ring. The kidnapping of Irina Tsurikova—I put together the condition of the paint on the windowsill, the amount of water in her glass, and the shirt button under the radiator to describe how it was done, and once I hacked into her grandson's computer we were able to determine the rest. My skills have their limits; I cannot interview suspects, of course, and I have been known to miss clues due to ignorance of human cultures and conventions. But what I miss in being unaware of all that humans consider important, I gain in observing what humans consider beneath notice or too obvious to notice.
One afternoon, when I was invited to join the Andersons, Barbara, and Dinsdale for an outdoor walk, we stopped outside a cafe. There I overheard Mrs. Hudson telling a friend about the mysterious letter her husband had left—
I'm telling you about Mrs. Hudson, not Dinsdale.
Oh, very well. Dinsdale is a Psittacus erithacus, and was a good friend of mine, to the extent that an ordinary parrot could be my friend. Sadly, she moved with Melanie Anderson to Oxford after the divorce. She was actually an accessory to their divorce; she enjoyed mimicking their mating noises, and did the same when Anderson started having sexual relations with Sergeant Donovan. He should have gone to Donovan's flat instead of bringing her to his house; I like Anderson very much, but he is one of many humans with no sense.
Do you have any more tangential questions, or might I return to Mrs. Hudson?
The affair of Mrs. Hudson's husband was a misjudgment on my part. Pickpocketing her phone to get her number was a reasonable action. Texting her to let her know I worked with the police, had heard the conversation, and would like to see the letter—still reasonable. Revealing myself as an intelligent macaw rather than a human—a calculated risk, and a successful one. Taking the case entirely upon myself rather than leaving it for the police? Misjudgment.
It was necessary. I would not have been able to solve the case without smuggling myself to Florida and finding Mr. Hudson's hideout myself. I did solve the case. Mycroft arranged my go-between to present my evidence to the local police. But not even Mycroft could keep me from being quarantined at home when I was returned to Britain. Nor would he try to prevent it; if anything, he encouraged its extension, saying that leaving the country on my own was foolish, and I needed to experience the consequences of my poor decisions. It was the most boring six months of my life, though I did use that time to learn to read Chinese and Hungarian.
During the quarantine, other matters came to a head.
You asked me earlier why I hate Mycroft. I hate Mycroft because he rejected me, over and over, for years.
Macaws, like most parrots, form bonds, with other macaws or with humans. I tried to bond with Mycroft throughout the years I lived with him, and he always kept his distance. Finally, when I returned from quarantine and tried to sit on his wrist, he told me he was not willing to form a closer bond with me. "I am married to my work," he said, "and she is a most jealous mistress."
*If you are married to her, then she is your wife, not your mistress,* I replied.
He critiqued me for applying modern semantics to an archaic expression, and then told me that he would be happy to hire evening caretakers if I was finding myself lonely. I pointed out the various facial expressions and movements that showed he already had formed a degree of attachment to me; he told me that I was of interest as an experiment and for my analytic mind, but not as a friend. I kept my temper under control and satisfied myself by perching on his umbrellas until I emptied my cloaca.
Of course he was lying. It was obvious. And even if I could not read human behaviour, my very name is evidence that he felt a personal interest in me. Otherwise I would still be Mr. Bucket or Richard, or he would have given me an entirely unrelated name.
You raise a valid point. Mycroft rarely talks about him, but I have gathered that he was also fiercely intelligent, interested in crimes and solving problems. Perhaps Mycroft saw that similarity between us, and chose the name for that reason. But even if my name is only a memorial, you must still account for the countless ways Mycroft showed friendship to me. He was attached to me—but only so far, only so much.
I considered the problem during my quarantine and for some weeks after I again was able to work with Lestrade's team. It became clear to me at last: I must find other lodgings. Anderson was unable to accommodate me; Lestrade would have sooner joined a gang than let me live in his flat; Donovan, though tolerant of Barbara, doesn't like birds; Dr. Stamford said he wouldn't have time to supervise me—
Do you want to hear this story in some semblance of chronological order and continuity? Clearly you don't, as you keep interrupting. Very well. Dr. Stamford was a friend of one of the veterinarians who worked with me when I was a chick. He had heard about my work for the Yard—probably from Hooper in the Barts morgue; an intelligent person, but smells too much like feline for my comfort—and wondered if I might be the same bird Dr. Trevor had talked about. We finally met three years ago when I had Lestrade bring me along to the morgue to see a body. Dr. Stamford lets me use his laboratory as long as I wear a nappy and bodysuit. He likes telling visitors that I am part of an experiment to train parrots to perform lab tests, and he is genuinely impressed with my lab technique.
But he could not solve my housing problems. So I contacted the one other person who knew me, knew my capabilities, and as a bonus, owed me a favour. That night I laid my plan before Mycroft.
*Mrs. Hudson has a flat to let. I would like to move into it.*
"Who is going to pay the rent, my dear bird?"
*I am not your dear anything, except perhaps in the sense of expense. And you are paying, of course. Unless you have found a way for me to draw a salary?*
"Much as I would love to see Inland Revenue's reaction to your tax forms, no. Very well; it will be easier on both of us if you find other living arrangements. But you cannot live there by yourself."
*I can lock the door, change my own papers, and work the sink tap if we install the correct handles. If I have an internet connection, a computer, and access to a bank account, I can pay my bills and arrange grocery delivery. Since you insist on my using one of your cars for transport, I see no reason for that to change. What more do I need?*
"Companionship, Sherlock. You are part of a social species."
*So are you, in theory. And I can always visit Mrs. Hudson if I am lonely.*
He laughed at me, but agreed to a trial of the flat.
Unfortunately, he was correct. Days were bearable; I had the work, the extra computer in Anderson's office at the Yard, the crime scenes, the research, the early evenings in the lab.
Nights were infinitely lonely. Mrs. Hudson was often busy or out. I was rarely able to attend night-time crime scenes; my night vision is poor enough and my alertness low enough that I am of far less use to Lestrade after dark. Texts to acquaintances and pseudonymous posts on the internet were not companionship any more than reading books was.
I am indeed part of a social species. In nature, I would be surrounded by others of my species, or at least other parrots. My enhanced intelligence makes the company of birds far less satisfying than it would otherwise be, but humans are a more than adequate substitute. The prospect of evenings alone, days alone when I was not called to crime scenes—it was terrible then.
It is worse now.
Is there no news at all? Forty minutes have passed. Has Mycroft gathered no new data? Has Lestrade found no lead? Are there no pigeons outside?
There are? Let them in! Let me talk to them! They may have seen John, and I am the only one who can translate!
I apologize for the condition of your desk corner; the pencils were not sufficient to dispel my frustration. I had hoped the pigeons were bringing news, but they were only trying to locate me for 579,115. 579,115 had nothing to report and was concerned at not finding me at Baker Street. 6,900,224 said that they will spread John's description further. I should have asked 579,115 to do that, but I was not thinking clearly. If millions of pigeons do not find John, then he is most likely not in the city. Is he even in the country? Could Moriarty have smuggled him abroad without Mycroft noticing? Perhaps he could; I smuggled myself abroad without Mycroft noticing. But I fit into a much smaller container than John.
I can't tell you anything about Moriarty; I haven't met him or her. I have only some texts to John to go by. If I had met Moriarty, then of course I could tell you a great deal.
Observation. Simple observation. You don't believe me? Let me tell you about yourself. You grew up within 25 kilometers of Bristol, and studied at UCL—you are a few years younger than John, so your years there do not overlap his. You are on good terms with your parents and poor terms with your younger sister, who thinks psychiatry is little better than a sham, but she believes in crystal healing, so what does she know? You knit and embroider; you also run. Your first marriage ended poorly; your current one is happy, in spite of your husband's infertility.
You are now terrified. Don't be. With some practice, you could observe the same things I did. I admit that last one was not deduced from your appearance and surroundings; during your toilet break, you left your phone in your purse, and I looked at your browser history. The contents of the phone also confirmed some of the deductions about your family and birthplace that I had made from office photographs and your vowel pronunciations.
No, I have not done anything else with your phone. You are merely following Mycroft's orders and do not merit retaliation. And there is no reason for me to attempt outside contact from your phone; I can do it from my own, when I am sure said attempt will help John and not harm him. Many animal behaviourists say that the real difference between humans and other primates is the human ability to delay gratification. That is an ability that I have; I am able to wait until the best moment to act.
Easing my loneliness, for example. Over three months of living alone, I gradually realized that even Mycroft at a distance was better than nothing. But I am more logical than most humans; I reasoned that someone else at a distance would also be better than nothing.
When I next spent a day in Dr. Stamford's lab, I asked him if he had any students who were looking for housing and would accept a low or free rent in return for evening conversation. Once he realized I was serious, he said that most of his students were looking for evening study time, not evening conversation. I pointed out that I would be happy to quiz them on anatomical structures and compare the human structures with the psittacid; this amused him even further.
He left for lunch, and I returned to my work, wondering whether I might have better luck with a police officer as a flatmate; surely they were able to spend some evenings at home.
I was studying paint samples when Dr. Stamford came back to the lab with a companion.
The details were fast and obvious. Hair and posture—military. Tan lines—service somewhere sunny. Knew Barts—medical. Cane—leg injury; invalided out. Dr. Stamford had brought him in, and had not mentioned expecting a visitor—they had just run into each other. And why would Dr. Stamford have come into the lab with him, rather than arranging to meet later or calling to let us know he was taking a longer lunch? The man needed a place to stay.
He—John!—nodded towards me. "Don't think that's especially sanitary, though I suppose the nappy helps."
"Our mascot," Dr. Stamford said. "We haven't let him perform surgery yet."
John chuckled. "Any good with diagnosis?"
John's movements caused me to revise my own initial diagnosis. But when I finally managed to say "injury to left scapula," Dr. Stamford was already saying, "Better than most of the students."
*All the students*, I texted to him before I flew over.
I pulled John's phone from his pocket. John jumped back in surprise as I flew back to my microscope. "Don't worry," Dr. Stamford said. "He's actually quite gentle with the equipment."
I opened the phone, checked the number, then returned it. As John examined the phone—really, I could not have scratched it up more than it already was—I texted him. *Afghanistan or Iraq?*
He stared at his phone. "Is someone playing a joke?"
I texted again. *No joke. I have no sense of humour. Did Dr. Stamford tell you about the flat? Or am I surprising you with it now?*
And John, sensible and observant John, looked at his phone, looked back at me and at the phone I held, and said to Dr. Stamford, "Did I just receive a text message from that bird?"
Dr. Stamford smiled. "John, meet Sherlock. Sherlock, Dr. John Watson."
John stared at me. "You said "left scapula" earlier, didn't you?"
That startled me. He had listened! *Yes.*
"How did you know?"
*The way you move. Would you like to see the flat?*
He rubbed his face. "You are a bird, and you are texting me. In English. Mike, am I showing any signs of brain injury?"
*I am an Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, common name Hyacinth Macaw. You speak English, so I assume you read it. You are not hallucinating. You are a doctor, and a soldier who served in either Afghanistan or Iraq before your shoulder injury. The leg injury may have been a factor as well, but I need to see you walk more before I conclude anything. Your pension is insufficient for a tolerable lodging in London. You are currently unable to work, possibly due to your injuries, though PTSD would not surprise me. You have a sibling, probably male and straight but possibly female and lesbian, who you do not get along with well enough to live with. Flat: Y/N?*
John's eyes widened as he read my text; he looked at Dr. Stamford, who grinned. "Sherlock just sent you your life story, didn't he?"
"You didn't tell him...no, you couldn't have; you had no idea that you were going to meet me, and I'd have noticed if you'd stopped talking to me to send a text."
Those words made me John's. He observes! He does not always understand what he observes, but he thinks and he reasons and he listens.
John suddenly laughed. "Flat. Why not? Intelligent avian flatmate—can't wait to explain that to people. Or are you a top secret project?"
*Top secret, no. But I regret to inform you it would be best that you not publicise the extent of my intelligence.*
This has always been a topic of contention between Mycroft and me. Mycroft loves secrets. And I understand the need for discretion; an intelligent and highly photogenic bird would be carrion to the tabloid vultures.
It is a metaphor. If any lab had created hyperintelligent vultures, Mycroft would have heard about it.
Oh, you are making a joke. I have trouble understanding verbal humour. To the extent I experience what you manifest as gleeful laughter, it is while flying and performing aerobatics. I cannot do that nearly as often as I would like—the need for discretion again. I am a large bird of a distinctive colour and a species not found in the wild anywhere this side of the Atlantic; when I fly, I am noticed, and people assume I am an escaped pet and try to catch me. We had one case where I broke up a bird smuggling ring by being captured; I was almost sorry to see Ms. Wilson arrested, as she treated me very well.
Still, the work sometimes requires unpleasant choices. And the work requires that I not be hounded by journalists or frightened people. It is openly known that I am more skilled than the average parrot and that I am used to search for unusual objects at crime scenes. My actual intelligence and understanding, however, are kept quiet. Lestrade, Anderson, and Donovan all know and as a result have received developed vetting that would clear them for work in MI-5. Dr. Stamford—I will just say that his conversations with Dr. Trevor about me in no way broke any security rules. You yourself? Mycroft would not have had me talk to anyone who could not be trusted.
But while I understand the need for discretion, I dislike it immensely. I need companions; I need conversational partners; I need the stimulation of new and different minds. Thus Mrs. Hudson; thus John.
I begin to see the merits of your profession. I am still afraid for John; I am still under stress. But talking to you is distracting me from the fear. Perhaps I will be able to think more clearly.
Have you found a coconut yet?
Very well, the hazelnuts will do for now. Scatter them on the floor; I feel better when I have to work to find them all.
No, I am not offended that you are taking your phone with you. I applaud your ability to learn from experience.
Text Message Received
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
helloooo dickie-bird! that's what somebody named your number in his phone, mr. richard s. adler. not very respectful, is he?
bet you're wondering where he is. xoxoxo
Did they trace it?
What use are they, then? Give me five minutes on the mainframe! Or let me go through a proxy server and post to the firm's website!
Mycroft said. Right. Mycroft said for me not to send outgoing messages until he gave clearance. Mycroft may actually know hackers who are more skilled than I. Mycroft can take his umbrella and—
Well, since I had already damaged your desk, I saw no reason not to continue. Besides, Mycroft is not here, so it was a choice of your desk or my remiges, and I must retain the ability to fly.
My mind is a blur again. I run through the details of yesterday—John leaving the flat in the afternoon, John texting to say he would be late coming home, the anonymous message left on John's blog at 4:17 a.m., that I now know must be from Moriarty—but my brain is an engine with a broken crankshaft. I am missing something important, something obvious.
Yes, I will continue talking to you and see if that calms me enough to remember. You will tell me right away if Mycroft contacts you, won't you?
What do you mean, who is Richard S. Adler? Do you have my file? Did Mycroft tell you anything? Richard S. Adler is one of my pseudonyms, of course. After I was featured under my full name in a newspaper article on animals used by the police, Mycroft forbade me to use "Sherlock Holmes" online. As if I had not long since discovered the benefits of alternate identities—do you know how many birders know me online as Anders Sigerson? When John and I set up my consulting detection website, Adler was the name I decided to use. I picked it to honour my favorite opera singer. Listen:
Indeed, Ms. Adler has an amazing instrument. I have never been able to get Mycroft to arrange my admission to a concert hall, but someday I hope to hear her live. John found that she will be performing at an outdoor concert here next September and has said that he will take me.
Do you really think talking about this will be helpful? Everything remaining to tell you about my life involves John. Will talking about John in the past really distract me from John as a prisoner in the present?
Moriarty almost certainly has John. What part of this do you not understand? Do you expect me to be calm about it? John is brave; John is stubborn; John can endure simple kidnapping. But John can be hurt, can be killed, can be broken.
I know he can endure kidnapping because of the day he was supposed to see the flat. We had agreed he would come at 4:00 p.m. When 5:30 passed and he still had not arrived, I questioned my deductions of his personality; then I remembered that Dr. Stamford had spoken briefly with Mycroft's driver the previous day. Just to make certain, I hacked into the GPS system and located John's phone.
Legal? I am a bird. For those laws to apply to me, I would have to be recognized as the sentient creature I am. Most likely I would be considered Mycroft's accessory, and Mycroft certainly can track anyone's phone he pleases.
The phone was at a location I recognized; I knew immediately who delayed him. I texted them both:
*John: tell Mycroft that you are late for our appointment. Mycroft: you are a snake and an eggsucker. I have a perfectly good flat that you may use for your interrogation of my potential flatmate.*
Fifteen minutes later, they were both seated by the fireplace while I perched nearby. "It is for your own good, Sherlock," Mycroft said.
*I was not aware that Mr. Evans had rescinded your access to their files. I would have been happy to break in for you if you had only asked.*
"Dr. Watson seems a perfectly acceptable candidate on paper, but as you should know, traits concealed on paper may become apparent in person."
John stood, completely calm in spite of Mycroft's recent intervention. "Do I pass your scrutiny, then? If I do, then I'd like to have a look around."
"Be my guest," Mycroft replied. At my squawk, Mycroft said, "Sherlock, might I remind you who actually pays your rent?"
"Only half the rent, if I accept," John said.
"As I said earlier, Dr. Watson, you will be acting more as a caretaker than as a flatmate. Financial compensation for such duties is customary."
I reacted, sadly, with indignation. Mycroft has some skill in probing the edges of my self-control. We argued, Mycroft finally switching to texts so as not to embarrass John further. John dutifully ignored us and examined the flat, spending several minutes on the bookshelves, raising eyebrows at the pigeon skeleton—892,712, who lost a fight with a cat while waiting to give me a message—puzzling over the mixed Meccano and Lego constructions on the kitchen table, limping up the stairs to see the unoccupied bedroom. When he returned downstairs, he said, "How soon would you like me to move in?"
*Tonight? Too late to pack, I suppose. Tomorrow?*
"I'll arrange for a removal...." Mycroft began.
"Thanks, but no thanks. My things might fit in two boxes if I pack loosely. Do you have a spare key? Thanks. Good-bye, Mr. Holmes. See you soon, Sherlock."
Mycroft remained for a few minutes after John left. "Sometimes you exhibit the caution and wisdom that I would wish for in the highest ranks of government. Other times you show the sense of a deranged toddler. My dear bird, must you keep revealing yourself to unvetted strangers?"
*Dr. Stamford thought he was worth introducing. Not a sufficient imprimatur, I grant you, but enough combined with my own observations that I found it worth the risk. What did you offer him?*
"What makes you think I offered him anything?"
*I know what you pay Anderson to report on my work at the crime scenes. I help him write the reports half the time.*
"I had suspected. Shall I desist with the payments?"
*Only if you want me to have a friend who is motivated to thwart you. He never censors his reports; the more outrageous I am, the more he enjoys telling you. What did you offer John?*
"A very respectable salary to work formally as your caretaker. He refused."
"He said that both Dr. Stamford and you had presented it as a flatshare, and unless you told him otherwise, he was going to be your flatmate and not your keeper. He has no idea what he's letting himself in for, does he? I'm sure he'll reconsider the salary the first time you wake him at dawn imitating the smoke alarm. Well, good evening, Sherlock. Try not to drive him away before breakfast."
I listened to the quiet after he left, telling myself that it was the last time I would have to endure it. I texted Mrs. Hudson to tell her John had accepted and to expect him the next morning. It was a surprise later that evening, therefore, to hear the outer door opening and Mrs. Hudson's exclamation, followed by two sets of footsteps on the stairs. Mrs. Hudson opened the door, set down a suitcase, and held the door for John. "Are you sure that box isn't too heavy? Well, sit down and rest; Sherlock won't have any tea in the kitchen, so I'll bring you a cup. Just this once, mind you; I'm not your housekeeper."
She left us alone, and he smiled at me. "Not a tea drinker, then?"
*Caffeine is poisonous to parrots. I didn't think you'd come until tomorrow.*
"I really didn't have much to pack. Though if it's inconvenient, I can go back to the bedsit for tonight."
*It is perfectly convenient.*
"Good." He said that like someone who had also realized he was part of a social species. "I should've asked earlier, is it better if I text you instead of talking?"
*If I wanted to read text, I would have found an online forum rather than a flatmate. Why didn't you take Mycroft's offer?*
"I make a point of never accepting job offers from people who have to kidnap the candidates."
*Thus your military service.*
"Yeah, well, conscription wasn't involved there. Look, Mike said he knew someone who wanted a flatmate; you said you wanted a flatmate; I wanted a flatmate; here I am." He grinned. "Mind you, I still think I'm hallucinating when I talk to you, but I'll get used to it."
It was the best evening I had spent in months. Mrs. Hudson brought his tea, as well as some biscuits for John and a couple of macadamia nuts for me. John asked me how I'd known about his background, and was impressed by my deductions. He told me stories about himself and Dr. Stamford when they were still in medical school. I told him about my work and how the paint I had been examining when we met had proved a woman innocent of murder.
And just as I was about to retire to my sleeping box and leave him to unpack, the evening became even better: Lestrade texted.
As I said earlier, I rarely attend crime scenes at night. Parrots are generally diurnal, and I function best on ten hours of sleep. But sometimes a scene is abstruse enough and the situation urgent enough that Lestrade prefers my immediate input rather than risking the loss of evidence.
*There's been another serial killing,* I told John. *Lestrade said this one's different and that I should come. The car's already on its way.*
"Oh. Well, I hope you'll find some useful clues. Should I wait up for you?"
I paused in my collection of my gear. *Aren't you coming along?*
Yes, I realized afterwards that it had been foolish to assume that. He was my new flatmate, not my new handler. He had no reason to follow me.
And yet, when he read my question, he hesitated only a moment before saying, "Why not?"
And when we went outside to wait for the car, he asked if I would rather stand on his shoulder than on the steps. I could not believe my hearing for a moment, and then I was flapping and landing and perching—his right shoulder, of course, not the injured one.
I had never felt so content in my life; it was the first time that the arrival of Mycroft's car disappointed me.
Enough! Is there news? Pigeons? A message from Mycroft? Anything?
Yes, I know. Mycroft is trying to keep me safe. Mycroft worries about me. Constantly. Do you really think I care? What does my safety matter, when John's is nonexistent?
True. It might matter to John. But he doesn't know I'm safe.
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
dickie-bird can't find me! not much without your assistant, are you? tho he's not very smart—i gave him such a simple problem, and he failed. bet your bluebird's smarter than him.
are you sure you want him back? xoxoxo
What am I thinking? Three things.
First, I realize that therapeutic sessions traditionally fill the better part of an hour uninterrupted. However, if your goal is truly my well-being, then interrupt when there is news! My brain is an engine that needs the lubrication of data in order to function.
Second, I must admit that I do not yet understand the data I have received. The pigeon network has given me John's afternoon movements, but pigeons generally roost after sundown, and I cannot find where he went after visiting his usual pub.
But his phone! That is interesting. Found near the Fire Brigade Museum, wrapped in a sock—small man's or large woman's, but the fabric thickness suggests man's; black and red, patterned with a textured fleur-de-lis. I understand that the phone could not be brought here for fear of tracking, but I am glad to have seen the sock, especially since the pigeons were still here.
Isn't it obvious? Socks come in pairs. If the sock is meant as a message, which seems likely, then perhaps the other sock will turn up as another message. It is not guaranteed, certainly, but I consider it a strong enough possibility that it is worth setting the pigeons on it. I try not to give too many projects to the pigeons, as it is much easier to start them than to stop them; I still receive reports about graffiti using a particular shade of yellow paint, even though we solved that case months ago.
Third, I am considering the location of the human jugular vein and carotid artery, and imagining strategies for rupturing these portions of Moriarty's anatomy.
Why are you surprised? You humans have dull teeth, no claws, and weak muscles when compared to other primates, yet even without tools you can inflict debilitating injuries. I am a herbivore, and like most birds have far less mass than my size would suggest. But I have anatomical knowledge, the ability to plan, and tools designed for me. Even a normal parrot can seriously injure a human; how much more could I do?
Which may be why Anderson threw a fit when, on our first night as flatmates, John and I arrived at that crime scene. Of course I had ridden in my harness seat in the car; even Mycroft's drivers can have accidents, and I have no desire for closer acquaintanceship with windshields. But once out, I immediately returned to John's shoulder.
Donovan let us through the barrier; Anderson was waiting on the ground floor for us. "Sherlock, get down!" He then spoke to John. "You're Sherlock's new handler?"
John straightened. "No, I'm his new flatmate."
Anderson snorted, then appeared to realize that John was serious. "Have you ever had a bird before? No? Then the first lesson: don't let a large bird sit on your shoulder. He'll injure you if he startles, and he'll start thinking you're his mate and act possessive."
*I do not startle,* I replied to both of them.
"Don't believe him. We had one case last month where the victim's dog nearly made Sherlock fly into a window."
*I had an unfortunate experience with a terrier when I was a chick.*
"Of course you did. Get down, you mutant dinosaur, and come in here. Lestrade wants you to see the body. Your babysitter can wait over there."
*Dr. Watson is with me. He's coming up.*
"I don't actually have to...." John began.
For emphasis, I spoke. "You. With me. Up."
Anderson rolled his eyes. "Fine. Lestrade's waiting."
Lestrade had clearly already been contacted by Mycroft; when we arrived upstairs, he simply gestured to the scene-of-the-crime overalls and said, "You're Dr. Watson? Good. Maybe Anderson can do his actual job now. Sherlock, quit flapping and suit up."
The scene was fascinating, and not only for the conclusions I was able to draw about the crime. As I examined the body and surroundings, I listened to the back-and-forth between John and Anderson, John asking questions, Anderson answering curtly and actually snapping at John when John checked the amount of rigor himself.
I may have given the impression that I can always deduce swiftly. That is not actually true. Certainly some deductions are immediate—the victim was obviously left-handed, for example. However, often I must gather a large amount of data before the pieces snap into place and reveal an unknown person's machinations. And on occasion, the obvious answer appears so ludicrous that I cannot believe it is possible. I have learned, though, that even the most ridiculous solution may be correct. So after I had gathered my evidence, I texted all in the room:
*Anderson, you are exhibiting behaviours associated with jealousy. Is it because I brought John along?*
Anderson sputtered. John looked from him to me and said nothing. It belatedly occurred to me that humans experience embarrassment and that perhaps I should have only texted Anderson.
Lestrade covered his mouth and cleared his throat, though it was obviously done to conceal a snort of laughter. "Sherlock, have you found anything that's actually relevant to the case?"
*The victim: married, but marriage has been unhappy for at least the past five years. Left-handed. She worked in a well-paying job that involves a great deal of travel, probably in media or public relations. She was visiting from Cardiff, for personal reasons rather than professional; she only planned to spend a day here, as her wheeled suitcase was small. I want to see that, by the way. Wedding ring regularly removed; possibly so she would appear unmarried, possibly simply because it was uncomfortably snug. The condition of the body is consistent with that of the past corpses: signs of asphyxiation, but no visible sign of force. She was resourceful and determined; she started writing as soon as the murderer left. Most likely she intended to write 'Rachel' but died before she could finish. Does any data you've collected conflict with this interpretation?*
John looked astonished. "That's amazing."
"You'll get used to it soon enough," Lestrade said dryly. "Sherlock, you're sure it's murder, then?"
Anderson added, "You sure she's not German? Writing 'rache', revenge, in blood?"
*Yes, Lestrade, I'm sure it's murder. Suicides usually leave their notes using pen and paper. Anderson, German is about as likely as a misspelling of 'ratchet'.*
Anderson said to John, "Don't waste your time making jokes with him. He rarely gets them."
Yes, the word was indeed "Rachel" and turned out to be her phone account password. I am not yet to that part of the story. You are expecting me to wait patiently; please do me the same courtesy.
After my brief debate with Anderson, I asked again after the suitcase and learned that no suitcase had been found at the scene, nor even any evidence one had been there. The logical assumption was that the murderer had disposed of the case. The logical step to take, I admit, would have been to let the Yarders investigate. But that night, I was not completely ruled by logic.
I hopped out to the stairs, removed my suit, adjusted my flightpack, and sent a text to John alone: *Follow me.* Then I dropped down the stairwell and flew out the door into the night.
As I cleared the police tape and shot up, I could just hear Donovan yell, "You git, why didn't you warn him?"
I spend most of my time indoors. Mycroft's home is a respectable size for London, and 221B's stairs provide tolerable vertical distances. But neither is nearly sufficient size for me to fly properly. And I am not an aeroplane; my flight requires muscular strength and endurance, neither of which can easily be maintained indoors. So it has become a tradition: after I have finished with the Yard for the day, I attempt to fly away. I am always chased, which gives me practice at evasion. If I am cornered, then I know that a particular tactic does not work in a given scenario, but if I escape? A long flight. Bliss.
That night I climbed high enough to see the surrounding streets, a glowing map. I circled twice, picking out likely spots to investigate, then flew back to the building. John stood in front, leaning on his cane.
The slow deduction after achieving critical mass of accumulated data—that cane was an example. I had now watched John stand, walk, and climb stairs. The hypothesis formed as I soared; the experiment began as I swooped past, a half metre over his head; the conclusion was formed when his shout of "Sherlock!" was followed by the pounding of feet, first with the thunk of the cane and then without, and faster. When I looped around so I could look back at him, he was indeed running, the cane tucked under his arm.
It was glorious. We both paid for it the next day, but it was glorious. The straight flight, the darting back and forth so that John could still follow, the close passes over the skips, the halts for me to hop around the rubbish and to pull the torch from my flightpack and peer under boards and boxes; the resumption of flight.
When we reached the fourth skip, John leaned against it, panting, and said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't someone from the Yard drive us?"
*I needed the exercise. So did you. And I think this is it. Come up here and take a look.*
"You must be joking." But he managed to climb up and in, and he pushed aside three boards to reveal the pink suitcase. "Now what?"
*It's too heavy for me, and I don't have gloves for you. I'll text Lestrade.*
"Right." He leaned against the edge of the skip, still breathing heavily but smiling. "I can't believe we just did this."
*I can. I had suspected that your leg injury was psychosomatic.*
He looked at the cane, only then realizing that he was not putting weight on it. I texted, *You will likely still need the cane for the foreseeable. You haven't used those muscles normally for some months.* Indeed, he did still need it for several weeks, and he still carries it to give an appearance of harmlessness.
At John's choked noises, I added, *Is something wrong?*
The noises resolved into laughter. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just running around London with a therapeutic parrot who's carrying devices straight out of James Bond."
*What does James Bond have to do with anything? He specialized in Caribbean birds, not South American.*
"You hear 'James Bond' and think 'ornithologist' instead of 'spy'? Okay, that actually makes sense. Christ, my life is officially mad." He was still chuckling.
*Is that good?*
He grinned. "Yeah. It's good."
I flew over and landed on his shoulder. His muscles tensed. "Er, what Anderson said earlier...."
*Anderson is used to ordinary birds. Would you allow a chimpanzee the same liberties that you would allow another human?*
"That depends on the human. So, you're not actually dangerous?"
*I am not a raptor. However, my beak is strong enough to break through a coconut shell, and because I am intelligent and have some knowledge of anatomy, I am capable of inflicting injuries that a wild macaw could not. If I wanted to harm you, I could. I do not want to harm you.*
A minute later, John said, "I noticed you didn't respond to his comment about mates."
*Give me some credit for intelligence. Bonding behaviours may increase my attachment to you, but I am not going to attempt the anatomically challenging and frankly uninteresting. Think of 'mate' in the sense of 'friend', not 'other parent of my chicks.'*
Odd. You are disgusted by the mere thought, yet you ask me the question anyway. Is it from an honest desire to understand me, or a prurient interest? In either case, let me be explicit. My physical desires, when I experience them, are for psittacids, not for primates. I have been in the company of a female of my species; I know I am not immune to the appeal of a W chromosome. If a female hyacinthus showed interest in me, I have no doubt that I would gladly mate, and we would see whether my intelligence would pass to the next generation.
But it would only be a physical satisfaction and bond; it would not, could not compare to the marriage of true minds. John is—
Please. Do you believe that anyone educated by Mycroft would not have been made to read Shakespeare? I have had a classical education—necessarily compressed, but thorough.
John is my friend. John is my companion. John is my partner, in all the ways that matter to me. And whoever just knocked on the door had better have news about him.
An explosion where?
That's Dr. Sawyer's flat. Has she been found?
She was out walking? Good. John likes her. I am unable to be objective about her, but she is certainly intelligent, and they would likely produce healthy offspring if they chose to mate productively. What time did it happen? And was anything found at the scene?
Of course I suspect Moriarty was behind it. Compare the time of the explosion with the time of that text he sent. I suppose we will have to wait for the reports.
I am tired of waiting.
Yes, I suppose that returning to the story will pass some time—
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
richard, i'm so disappointed. you still haven't gotten in touch. johnny says you have "mobility impairments"—this from the man with a cane.
haven't you trained your parrot to be yr assistance bird? it can grab yr phone for you. i know; i've seen it. haha! xoxoxo
When will that half-moulted snake let me post to the website? This is more data, but not enough! I need to respond!
MORIARTY HAS SEEN ME. Which means I have likely seen Moriarty. Which means that if I get more data, I may be able to identify Moriarty.
Yes, my memory really is that good. I would not quite describe it as eidetic, but I do retain large amounts of visual and aural information. You surely didn't think I was making up the conversations I have related to you, did you? But it has its cost. I have no fear of running out of space in the hard drive of my brain, but the more data I store, the more terms my search engine needs to locate the right information.
Fine. I will finish telling you about that first case with John, and then I want to talk to the pigeons.
The suitcase contained nothing of interest, which combined with the other contents of her handbag, was the curious aspect of the scene: no phone was found on the corpse or in the suitcase.
I pondered this the next day while sandwiching myself between heated wheat pillows; it had indeed been too long since I had made such an extended flight. John was in better shape, using the cane but moving about freely as he put away his possessions. He did seem glad of a heated pillow later, though, when he sat down to read one of my books.
Why would the phone be missing? A professional in her field forgetting it—unlikely. It could have been stolen, but why would a thief have taken her phone and not her credit cards or cash? If the murderer had taken it, why had they not taken the other victims' phones as well? Or had the victim herself left it, perhaps with the murderer?
I texted Lestrade to find out what her phone number had been; I could have hunted it down myself, but that would have required flying to the computer, which would have required moving my pectorals. While I waited for Lestrade's response, I asked John, *Whom do humans trust?*
He looked up. "What?"
*Reread what I typed.*
"Sorry, right. Well. Friends. Partners."
*Yes, that's obvious. But what strangers do humans trust?*
"They don't. You don't know a stranger; you don't know what they'll do."
*So if a new soldier had been assigned to your unit, you wouldn't have relied on them to protect you because they were a stranger?*
He blinked, then inhaled and exhaled slowly. "I see your point. I wouldn't expect Lestrade to spontaneously attack me, if that's the kind of thing you mean. Anderson might be another story."
*I don't understand why he was acting like that. It isn't as if you're replacing him. Anyway, I don't want specific individuals; I want generalizations. Whom do you trust not to harm you?* When he didn't answer, I added, *Which people would you accompany if they asked you to go with them?*
"Mr. Holmes, but I don't trust him."
*I'm still alive, and I have given Mycroft far more reason to harm me. You let Mr. Wiggins drive you to and from the crime scene last night; that may have been because I knew him, but you nonetheless assumed that he would take us where I said he would.*
"Don't think I wasn't tempted to take a cab; I'm getting very tired of that car."
The solution slotted into place at that moment. I struggled up, took a chew stick from the box on the shelf, and sat on my perch to review my conclusion against the facts. John looked expectantly at me for a moment, then returned to his reading.
Lestrade finally texted back with the phone number, and I convinced my wings to carry me to the computer. Some further research and GPS tracking cemented my conclusion.
*Are you up for catching a serial killer tonight?*
The text alert startled John; I have since learned that he finds fiction engrossing, certainly far more so than I do. "Remind me to switch to an unlimited text plan. Have you seriously figured it out?"
*The individual's name, no. Their profession and current general location, yes. Are you up for it?*
"What exactly do you have in mind? If you're planning another chase, neither of us is exactly in top form right now."
*No running required. We merely need to send a text and see whether someone shows up at the address we specify.*
I explained my reasoning—that the movements of Ms. Wilson's phone were consistent with that of a vehicle, that the circumstances surrounding all four deaths made the involvement of a taxi plausible, that a cab driver was certainly a person who people would trust, at least until the moment when the cabbie made some show of force. All we needed to do was identify the cab or the driver; the Yard could handle the rest.
By the time I finished, John was wide-eyed and open-mouthed. "That's amazing."
*Mere logical inference.*
"No, really. That's brilliant. When do we leave?"
I genuinely intended for it to be that simple: identify the driver or at least the cab, send all to Lestrade with my compliments, and return home for a quiet evening. Matters, however, did not fall out as I had planned. It began well; I had John send a text to Ms. Wilson's phone. Then, using the excuse that John needed to buy some items for the flat, we took the car to a street with several stores and a coffee shop with outdoor benches. I found an out-of-the-way ledge and waited while John shopped, amusing myself by deducing the lives of the passersby; we then waited outside the coffee shop, John on the bench with tea and I on the awning with avocado wedges.
When the GPS showed Ms. Wilson's phone nearing, I texted John, *Cab should round the corner in less than a minute. If it stops and it's free, flag it and ride back to Baker Street. I'll follow.*
John looked up, obviously wanting to speak, but texted instead. *are you out of your mind???*
*I'll follow and get the licence number; you get the driver's name. Text me and I'll text Lestrade.*
John rolled his eyes and shook his head, but stepped forward and held his arm out as the cab approached.
And then there was no text.
There was no time to berate myself for poor planning or to dread how my muscles would feel after two days of extensive flying; my only hope was to keep up with the cab, which did not go to Baker Street. Instead, it finally stopped at a vocational college, closed and empty, and by the time I arrived, the two figures had already entered the building, and the doors were shut.
Doors are one of my greatest physical challenges in navigating a human world. I can turn a round doorknob, though I prefer lever handles, but some doors are too heavy for me to move. This building was an example; there was no possibility of my entering by the doors. Which left entry via window.
A well-maintained window can be surprisingly easy to pry open; it is simply a matter of a thin enough wedge and sufficient leverage. A poorly-maintained one or one designed for light rather than ventilation, unfortunately, can only be breached by breaking a pane. And glass is harder to break than most people would think. How often do you find a dead or unconscious bird on the ground below a large plate-glass window, and in what percentage of those occasions did their unfortunate crash actually crack the glass? Throwing a heavy object is a theoretical possibility, but most of London's litter is sadly lightweight. If, however, one can steal someone's lighter and find someone's unfinished bottle of water, then with some patience, heating and suddenly cooling the glass can create a crack that can then be further shattered with minimal force.
So when I finally located John, he and the cabbie, whose name I later learned was Mr. Hope, were sitting in a classroom, at opposite ends of a table, two bottles of pills by John and a gun by Mr. Hope. Mr. Hope's back was to the door, so I was able to cling to the moulding above the door and watch through the window; it was apparently difficult to see me anyway, as the hallway was dark.
Do you know what John's greatest ability is? His listening. I believe all humans want a interested audience; you of course know this, given your profession. Here was a multiple murderer who presumably intended John as his next victim, and yet John was able to sit quietly, to draw out his words, to listen to him spill out his history and his actions.
I was in time to hear most of the conversation, and John later filled in what I had missed. Mr. Hope had indeed poisoned the other victims, giving them a choice of two vials of pills. He suffered from a brain aneurysm—likely the reason both for his taking beta blockers and his giving up smoking. He was a divorced father, estranged from his former family but still attached to his children. When John pointed out that murder might satisfy him but would hardly benefit the children, Mr. Hope revealed that he was being paid for each murder he committed, that someone else unknown to him was sponsoring his work.
"There's someone working with Scotland Yard," Mr. Hope finally said, "some consultant that my sponsor wants to identify. My job is to draw him out, give him a case he can't resist, get his name. When you texted, my sponsor said to pick you up; I'm getting an extra bonus for you. But you're not who I'm looking for, are you?"
"Afraid not," John said, perfectly evenly. "I've been called in on one crime scene, and that's the extent of my involvement with the Yard. You're looking for someone else."
"And you don't know who?"
"I couldn't even tell you whether they're a man or a woman."
"Pity, that. Well, no reason to waste more time. Pick a bottle."
John looked at the bottles. "You know, I've seen The Princess Bride. And not having built up an immunity to iocane.... I'll take my chances with that gun."
In retrospect, I believe that both of us realized the gun was fake, and for the same reason: the way Mr. Hope held it indicated that it was too light to be a real gun. Had John thought it was real, I am certain that he would have taken a different action. Had I thought it was real.... Well. When Mr. Hope aimed the gun at John, my increased heartrate and other symptoms of an adrenaline surge suggest that some part of my brain did consider it real, and I cannot honestly say whether the intelligent or the instinctive part hurled me up. Given that I do not consciously remember verifying that the door indeed opened inwards and was unlatched before I slammed against it, I am sadly inclined to suspect instinct.
The maximum speed of a macaw is around 24 kilometers per hour. I have never seen a number for the maximum acceleration or deceleration of a macaw, but I am certain that I achieved both as I flew across the room and plummeted in front of Mr. Hope. My wingspan is a little over a metre, and when I flap my wings at close range and shriek, the effect can be startling.
Mr. Hope jumped, and swung at me with the gun; I dodged. He started to swing again, gasped, grabbed his head, doubled over, and collapsed.
I landed on the table and looked down at him and back at John. *I believe the shock may have ruptured his aneurysm.*
John is a doctor; on verifying that Mr. Hope still lived, he called 999. Mr. Hope died in hospital three hours later, some time before all our statements were finished. Lestrade finally gave us permission to leave, saying that he doubted he'd ever see a suspect frightened to death again.
Mycroft's car waited for us outside; Mycroft himself sat in the back, looking at us with an expression I recognized. But he did not speak until we arrived at 221B. "Dr. Watson, if I had hired you as Sherlock's caretaker, I would seriously consider terminating your employment."
John sounded amused. "Then it's just as well I didn't take the job, isn't it?"
*John came with me when I asked him to,* I pointed out. *John followed my instructions.*
Mycroft shook his head. "My dear bird, that is precisely why he is a poor caretaker."
*Are you cross because we interrupted an intense financial negotiation with a foreign minister? Or were you occupied in writing an ode of courtly love to a Leonidas praline?*
John simply said, "A caretaker isn't the same thing as a nanny. Good night, Mr. Holmes."
Inside, I said to John, *That did not fall out precisely as I had planned.*
"I would hope not."
*I am sorry we lost whatever information he could have given us. But while I did not intend his death, I cannot find it in me to regret it.*
John sighed, then opened the nut jar and handed me a brazilnut. "Well, he wasn't a very nice man. Did you hear what he said about the consultant?"
*Someone was looking for me. Obviously they don't know what they're looking for.*
I believe, now, that Moriarty is "they", and that they still do not know. I have finished this part of the story; are there pigeons outside, and if so, might I talk to them?
That is actually rather brave of you to let them in this room.
These two? 27,456 and 723,231.
Tell Lestrade and Mycroft. One sock, empty, matching the one John's phone was found in, in a tree on Dr. Sawyer's street. Another sock, of similar fabric but black and blue skulls rather than black and red fleur-de-lis, containing a wallet, found at the gate of a house near Crawford and Molyneux Streets. However is Molyneux pronounced, anyway? Ah, thank you; the disadvantage of learning much of my vocabulary from reading is—
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
johnny still says you haven't answered because yre impaired. except when he says you don't really exist—isn't that sweet? but johnny's no fun. can't solve puzzles, doesn't scream when fingers twisted, just clenches jaw and gets quiet. boring!
come out and play, dickie-bird! xoxoxo
That. Is. Quite. Enough.
Is Mycroft reading my texts right now, or are they being saved for later?
Of course you won't answer that. But I am certain you are able to contact him, or at least contact Papagena.
Oh, come on. That's his assistant. Yes, yes, you probably know her by another name. Please send her or Mycroft this message:
Mycroft, you have two choices. Option 1: set me up to post securely in response to the texts. Option 2: 17 April 2005. Including sound effects.
Posted to the website of Richard S. Adler, Consulting Detective
To my anonymous contact:
You have not specified your preferred method of response, so forgive me for posting publicly.
In answer to your questions: I do not require respect, merely competence; I have never found him incompetent in what I have asked of him. I am sure that if left to his own devices, he will be able to find his way home. I do indeed live with what one might politely call impairments, and sadly, a macaw cannot move the mass that my assistant can. So you see that you have only yourself to blame for my delayed response.
If you wish to discuss this further, or if you have an actual problem and wish to consult me, you are welcome to send me an email address or a phone number. If you have cold feet, perhaps you should take better care of your socks.
—Richard S. Adler
No, I will not tell you the significance of that date. When Mycroft says that he will arrange for a nuclear missile strike at this location rather than allow me to publicise it, I am reasonably sure he is exaggerating, but I prefer not to test that hypothesis, even though his house is also in the blast radius. Besides, that date is my ultimate weapon, and one I do not care to cast aside.
Yes, I am willing to keep talking to you. This is now a waiting game. Moriarty will respond, or will strike again; Mycroft's people or the Yard will, I hope, soon find the socks the pigeons reported. I must keep myself calm so I can process data, and so I can present the persona of Richard Adler when it is next called for.
The firm of Richard S. Adler, consulting detective, was actually John's idea.
John's finances, in spite of his careful spending, were in poor shape. His pension was insufficient to cover all his expenses, even though our flatshare reduced his housing costs. He took locum work at a clinic, but our work on cases with the Yard began to interfere with his hours. A few times I had to work without him, which was unbearably tedious.
One day, I said to him, *Why don't you just take the salary Mycroft offered? Nothing would change except your account balances.*
"Because it's bad enough that he owns you; I don't want him to own me too."
*Little fear of that. Slavery has been illegal in Britain effectively since 1772.*
John snorted and went to the kitchen to make tea. I pondered the problem further and came up with another idea. *What if I hired you as my caretaker? Then Mycroft wouldn't be paying you.*
He actually gave that thought some consideration but finally shook his head. "I'm happier with income that doesn't depend on Mr. Holmes's goodwill."
*You could apply to the Yard. Then you'd have a job and I'd still be able to work with you.*
"Medical discharge, remember? I'd never pass the physical. Now, if you really were a consultant...." He became lost in thought until the kettle summoned him. "Sherlock, did you have to build this contraption right here?"
*I'm building a pump, and I need that space.*
He sighed. "I'm better off not knowing why you're building a pump, aren't I?"
*Better off, no. Happier, probably. You might want to find out whether Mrs. Hudson has a drain auger and basin wrench.*
"This week in 221B Theatre: Das Boot. God save me from bored parrots." A few minutes later, when he was settled with his tea, he said, "What if we set you up in business as a consulting detective?"
*I already am a consulting detective.*
"As an independent one, not just with the Yard."
*John, I doubt that anyone will be willing to hire a macaw to solve an interesting case. And Mycroft will cage me if I keep talking to strangers.*
"That's where I'd come in. I'd be your face to the world. You'd be Nero Wolfe; I'd be Archie Goodwin. You'd be the brains; I'd be the brawn—well, relatively speaking."
*Who are Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Goodwin?*
"Never mind. You'd be the one actually solving the cases; I'd just be your go-between. And then you'd have your own income to pay me as your assistant."
I do not know why I had never thought of the idea myself. Perhaps it is a limitation of my imagination. But the more I considered it, the more it appealed. I agreed to a trial of the idea, and we set up the website and gradually began to receive cases. We still worked with the Yard, of course, but now we had our own work to fill the other days.
Some cases were boring and simple. Like the case where a man was desperately searching for a lost contract that his fiancée's brother had concealed under the man's mattress before he came down with the flu and was bedridden for three weeks. Or the case where a valuable French coin turned out to have been hidden in one of six cream slices. Once I had solved one of those cases, I would spend the rest of the evening complaining to John that at least Lestrade only called me in for interesting cases. John always listened until I had had my say, and then calmly asked whether we should disband the firm and have him go back to locum work. I responded by dropping the television remote in his lap and telling him to complete the damage he'd already done to his brain with flickering images, then went to my box, slept for twelve hours, and made certain to fill and start the kettle when I heard him in the morning. He always understood that it was an apology and accepted it as such.
How is that a remotely relevant question? Of course a kettle is challenging for me to lift when it is empty and impossible when it is full. That is why I attach a length of tubing to the sink tap. Why does a tool-using species find it so difficult to comprehend that one might use tools to accomplish a task?
But some cases were fascinating. The missing man who was revealed to have made begging a full-time career; the music teacher who was being stalked while she trained for a triathlon—those cases were worth my effort for the pleasure they gave me. And I must admit that there is satisfaction in a material reward for one's work as well, even though in a strict legal sense I do not actually own that reward.
Let me tell you about my favourite case. Someone contacted us asking if we would be willing to help him regarding a firm that had mysteriously dissolved. John was annoyed at me for strewing nutshells on the bathroom floor, so in spite of the apparent ordinariness of the case, he invited the man to visit.
There is not much to say about Mr. Wilson himself—yes, yet another Wilson; it is an extremely common name. A pawnbroker, living above his shop, whose business was unsuccessful despite the economic recession—that says everything about his competence. An unusual first name, suggesting parents who were members of a fundamentalist Christian sect or who had poor judgment in choosing deceased relatives to honour; more likely the former, making the pawnshop an act of rebellion. Poorly dressed; poorly groomed. Evidence of past travel to East Asia; evidence of membership in the Masons; evidence of a sedentary lifestyle; evidence of mild repetitive stress injury. His only striking feature was hair of a reddish-orange colour, brighter than the fur of a red fox. Distinctive for a human, but still dull when compared to a scarlet macaw.
Of course I did not speak with him myself. When we have clients at the flat, I will either sit on my perch or wait in John's room and observe via camera, depending on how concerned about confidentiality the client seems. If I am on the perch, I never speak; I only squawk or imitate the doorbell and the microwave timer, and I leave the room before sending messages to John's laptop. The client departs thinking I am an ordinary bird, and I do not receive annoyed emails from Mycroft later.
For Mr. Wilson's visit, I remained in the room; he ignored me, other than asking if I was nailed to the perch.
Yes, I am aware of the source. I have never watched it, but given the number of times it has been quoted to me, I can make a reasonable reconstruction of the speech. I have no idea why it is considered funny; it is simply an exaggerated and repetitive statement that a parrot is dead.
On bare summary, the case seemed devoid of interest. Mr. Wilson had answered a dubious advertisement; he had worked for a firm for some weeks; the firm had abruptly closed. I considered taking a nap and leaving him completely to John; clearly Mr. Wilson was the type of person who would answer a Nigerian email plea and later wonder how his bank accounts had been emptied.
Then Mr. Wilson showed John the original advertisement, and John set it down where I could read it.
It was indeed a curious advertisement: an opening in an organisation limited to red-headed men, paying 250 pounds a week for unspecified nominal work. The limitation made it quite different from the usual scams posted on that site; my interest was piqued.
"That's very unusual," John said. "How did you run across it?"
"My assistant Vinnie. She brought it in one day, said that I should apply."
Wilson had actually had the sense at first to consider it an unlikely job, but finally he decided there could be no harm in answering the advertisement. He sent a photograph, was invited to interview, and was hired immediately.
To earn the money, he was required to be present doing the work from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and to never leave the room, even for lunch. A supervisor stayed in the room with him for the first several days, and a camera served as backup confirmation. Mr. Wilson was, however, very pleased to point out that he never even considered leaving his post.
The work itself was to print out as much of Wikipedia as possible; a printer was supplied, but Mr. WIlson was expected to bring his own paper. I have never seen John try so hard to refrain from laughter, especially when Mr. Wilson spoke proudly of finding the settings for double-sided printing and 4-up page layout to conserve paper, but John did master himself sufficiently to complete the interview.
Mr. Wilson worked at the job for several weeks and was paid his salary in cash every week. His story was, I noticed, inconsistent regarding exactly how many weeks he had worked, which led me to suspect that it had been a larger number than he admitted to and that Inland Revenue had not been informed about his new income source. But as they were not my client, I ignored this.
Then, on the previous day, he had gone to the office and found a sign on the door stating that the firm had been dissolved. He had inquired but could find no information on what had happened to the firm. Distraught, he had returned to his pawnshop; his assistant had said that surely his employer would email or send a letter, but Mr. Wilson had been uncomforted.
"I can see why you're sorry to lose the position," John said, once again in his role of kind listener. "Let me make sure I've taken down all the details correctly."
That was my cue to leave the room and send any further questions to John. It was an obvious hypothesis that the assistant was somehow involved, and Mr. Wilson's answers only strengthened my suspicions, especially when he mentioned that she worked for a much lower salary than one might expect. When he told John that he might be hard to contact over the weekend as he would be taking a short holiday, I formed the further hypothesis—
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
now now, dickie-bird, no need to be shirty. i gave johnny my number, but he obvsly didn't pass it on. incompetent.
johnny doesn't look too happy right now. wonder why? could it be bcs he failed another puzzle?
maybe you can solve my puzzles instead! you missed 1, but still time for 2. ill be in touch! does yr bird ever play carrier pigeon? xoxoxo
Oh! I remember him now.
We met at Barts. There was a corpse I needed to see, so John and I went to the morgue. And he came in, supposedly to see Hooper. She introduced him as her boyfriend, Jim, who worked in the IT department. I knew from observation that the IT portion was correct—had just finished upgrading someone's operating system and installing a new printer; Mac user at home even though most of the Barts computers ran Windows —but found it unlikely that he was her boyfriend; her interest was genuine, but he seemed more attracted to John and indeed slipped him a card with a phone number. I borrowed his phone to check whether it matched the number on the card and was intrigued that it didn't, but I assumed that the card was a personal number, a different cell phone or perhaps a landline. John and I went to lunch with Dr. Stamford afterwards, and John threw the card away.
Why do you say it is a pity? I still remember the number.
It is not amazing; it is simply how my brain works. Am I cleared to text as well as to post?
Good. Give me a minute; John tells people that Richard Adler is unable to type quickly, so I must slow my response. Also, let Mycroft know to investigate a James or Jim in IT at Barts.
Is your first name actually James, Mr. Moriarty? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
richard! you found my number! im so happy!
time to play! its christmas in june! i didn't have crackers, so i left you stockings.
but its not a party without the bangs. xoxoxo jm
One sock has been found, Mr. Moriarty. How many more should I expect? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
spoilers! xoxo jm
An extra layer of challenge, I see. It would be much easier for me to search for them if my assistant were released. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
but that would be no fun, richard. don't you have friends at scotland yard? make your norwegian blue earn his treats.
and call me jim. i insist. ill be in touch soon! xoxoxo jm
After all this waiting, it is a pleasure to finally take action, even such a small action as communicating directly with Mr. Moriarty. I assume that Mycroft's people will try to track him, though I suspect Mr. Moriarty's people have taken the same precautions with his phone that Mycroft's people have taken with mine. It is a pity that we cannot now find where he and John are. Though now that I can communicate with him, it may not matter so much where he is now, if I can convince him to—well, we shall see.
Have the socks been retrieved yet?
How long does it take? I could have flown there and back by now.
Very well; we are still waiting, so I will continue my story.
After John saw Mr. Wilson off, he said to me, "At least I don't need to apologize for boring you."
*You have yet to bore me. Now, Mr. Wilson bores me, but his case is interesting indeed.*
"Do you have any ideas?"
*Why is obvious, and who is at least partially so. But I am mystified as to what. It's quite the three-pencil problem.*
John sighed. "No pencils, Sherlock."
*Do you take Anderson's advice about bird care, or mine?*
"Actually, Anderson agrees with you that they're safe enough, but I like being able to write without getting splinters. What's wrong with your chew sticks?"
*They're boring. Pencils snap in a more interesting way, and I like the taste of graphite.*
We compromised on one pencil, one hazelnut, and two chew sticks. After a few hours on my perch, I told John, *We need to go visit his pawn shop. I want to see the area.*
By that time, we had started to use public transit and cabs in addition to or instead of Mycroft's car. I have a collapsible nylon carrier that I can easily escape from, so I appear sufficiently contained to comfort passengers and transit officials. I still prefer the car, but while John is willing for us to use it when we work for the Yard, he is not comfortable using it for our firm's cases. I humour him, and the people-watching is certainly not without interest.
I may not give you the exact location of Mr. Wilson's pawn shop, though I have no doubt you could find it out easily. The nature of the case has made it necessary for me to be more reticent with this portion of the story.
When we arrived at the pawnshop, it had already closed for the night, and a woman who I suspected was Mr. Wilson's assistant was locking the shop door. John pretended disappointment to have missed business hours and talked to her for a few minutes while I examined her. Traces of soil on her shoes and knees and under her nails; signs of heavy tool use on her hands; an accent that gave away hints of higher-class origins than she affected; near-shaved head and shoulder tattoos, both recent; one pair of ear piercings that was several years old, two others that were far more recent; makeup on her forehead, but not the rest of her face, one I recognized from police records and old news articles.
We walked away down the street; when I was sure she was out of sight, I sent John to investigate around the pawnshop while I made an aerial survey. The flight confirmed what I had not been able to determine from online maps. I returned to find John looking in a skip behind the shop. He waved me over, and because we were in public, texted me. *is someone trying to turn this into an allotment??*
The earth in the skip was consistent with what one might expect—I have not made a *thorough* study of the soils of London, but I can at least identify the general regions, and this earth could easily have come from that location. There was also a great deal of it.
I replied, *It's awaiting disposal, obviously. Take pictures, get a sample, and let's go home. We're done here for today.*
That evening, when we were settled with a curry for John and a bowl of mixed nuts for me, John said, "Let me guess. You've solved the case but are waiting for the best moment to do a dramatic reveal."
*Hardly. If I were certain of the solution, I would tell you. But in case my conclusions are wrong, I prefer that at least one of us have a clear head to accept new facts.*
"That's the nicest way anyone's ever called me empty-headed. Teasing, Sherlock. So what are we doing tomorrow?"
*Staking out the pawnshop. There's a coffee shop on the corner where you can watch for the supposed Ms. Spaulding and her accomplices.*
"The number of things you didn't say in that sentence is incredibly disturbing."
*What? I was perfectly clear.*
"To another genius, maybe. Let's see if an ordinary bloke like me can unpack it. You believe that Vinnie Spaulding is involved. That makes sense; she's the one who brought the ad to Wilson's attention. You said accomplices, so you suspect criminal activity."
*Of course. It's—*
I turned my phone away from him. *Stop reading my messages before I send them.*
He ignored me. "You also said 'the supposed Ms. Spaulding', which implies that it's an alias."
*Joanna Clay. She served time for theft and possession of explosives. She was also tried for murder but acquitted; Lestrade is certain she was guilty, but there was insufficient evidence.*
"Christ. So, what's their game? What was paying Mr. Wilson to print Wikipedia supposed to accomplish?"
*Exactly what it did accomplish: his absence from the building for several hours at a time.*
"Okay, but why?"
*Where did the soil in the skip come from?*
"No idea. With that much, you'd think someone was digging a....no. That's ridiculous. They were digging a tunnel?"
*That is my hypothesis, though I will need to confirm this.*
"So they paid him a couple thousand pounds at least, just to get him out of the building so he wouldn't hear the excavation? That's beyond mad."
*But much less expensive than the rent on the neighboring buildings.*
"Still, what's in this tunnel that's worth so much to them?"
*We'll find out tomorrow.*
"And now we arrive at the most disturbing omission. What are you doing while I'm sitting in the coffee shop?"
*Finding a way into the pawnshop and locating the tunnel.*
"Why did I even bother to ask? Of course you are." He shook his head. "Remind me, why couldn't I have called Mr. Wilson and said 'tonight before you leave on holiday, can I take a look in your cellar?'"
*While I think it unlikely that he is involved, I cannot be certain. Also, it might alert Ms. Clay or her accomplices.*
"Assuming nosing around their skip didn't. Why am I even bothering to complain? Of course I'm going to sit in that coffee shop and wait while you go spelunking."
And for once, the investigation went smoothly. I was able to find an unlocked window that I could open, and I ultimately made my way to the cellar. The hole was concealed by a sheet of plywood leaning against the wall, leaving enough space that I could enter without disturbing the board. The tunnel itself was quite impressive—the diameter was narrow enough that I was forced to walk, which was tedious, but the space was well reinforced. I suspected that one of the accomplices had a background in mining or perhaps civil engineering. When I reached the end of the tunnel, where suspicious boxes sat in niches dug out of the walls and floor, I checked the distance I had covered and the changes in direction.
No, that is a common misconception about birds. I have a degree of innate navigational ability, but I only experience it flying outside during daylight, and then only to the extent that I can tell my general direction. For most of my navigation, I use the same techniques you would use—familiar routes, landmarks, the position of the sun when it is visible, intensive study of maps. None of this is useful in a tunnel. I am, however, good at estimating distances and angles, and my estimates confirmed my suspicions about their target.
The problem with a tunnel is that cell reception is, to put it mildly, dubious. When I had made my notes, taken photographs, stolen a sample out of one of the boxes that was not too tightly sealed, and walked back to the cellar, I discovered several messages waiting for me.
*spaulding and two men just rode up*
*lot of boxes strapped on their bikes; don't seem that heavy*
*they're unlocking the door*
*where the hell are you?*
*they're still unloading boxes. hurry.*
*i hope w isn't involved because i'm calling him*
*he says they shouldn't be there—giving you five more minutes before i call lestrade*
It had been three minutes; I responded. *Call Lestrade now.*
*thank god. get out of there.*
*I may be delayed; they are in the cellar. Tell Lestrade this might be Peter Jones's bailiwick and they should check the northeast wall of the cellar.*
*jones as in counter-terrorism command???*
*Yes. I suspect the target is ----*
I apologize, but I really mustn't tell you what the target was. Several people, Mycroft among them, have been adamant that the threat not be publicized.
John soon replied. *called lestrade. if you're caught, i'm giving notice.*
*I am being very quiet and am concealed behind a filing cabinet.*
*it's been nearly ten minutes. where the fuck are you?*
*Vulgarities are unnecessary. I am still concealed. Clay and the red-headed accomplice are in the tunnel; the other accomplice is in the cellar.*
*lestrade and jones both here. any bright ideas on how i should explain it when they find you?*
*I am out of the building. Where are you?*
*in front. do i want to know how you got out?*
*Since I knew he was here, I imitated Lestrade's voice and scared accomplice 2 into the tunnel.*
*that's surprisingly typical parrot behaviour.*
*I eschew nothing that helps in my work. Since DI Jones is here, when I land, pretend to be annoyed that I flew off.*
*not remotely difficult.*
The following two hours were tedious, though at least I was able to sit on John's shoulder, my flight vest leashed to his jacket, rather than returning to the carrier. Lestrade commented on Mr. Adler's skills, with only a hint of sarcasm in his tone. Ms. Clay and her accomplices were captured; the boxes in the tunnel proved to contain explosives and—no, I can't tell you that part either. I will only say that if successful, it would have been an enormous disaster, killing thousands and damaging an important portion of London's infrastructure.
And while we are on the topic of damage, what is the news?
Why didn't you have them brought in earlier? Mr. Moriarty's clues are far more important than my life story.
That indeed is a match for the sock containing John's phone; I cannot tell whether its emptiness is intentional or something was removed, but perhaps the next sock will give us a hint.
And this other sock—this is John's wallet; I recognize these scratches. I suspect it was emptied before being placed in the sock; certainly someone finding it would not have bothered to replace it in the sock after removing the identification and money.
I will ask the pigeons to keep looking for socks, though this means I will be hearing about random socks for the next year at least. One must make certain sacrifices.
What did I do with what sample? Oh, the sample I took from the box in the tunnel; I did not explain that earlier, did I? Simply a piece of explosive. It has since been disposed of. It might not have been valid as evidence in court, as the circumstances of its collection did not follow accepted procedure, but it would have been sufficient if I had needed to convince Mycroft of the danger. Fortunately it proved unnecessary. I apologize; I am sufficiently stressed that I am providing irrelevant details.
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
im disappointed, dickie-bird. you didn't solve my puzzle. no xo jm
Odd. Have there been any further events?
No? I am perturbed by this. Please check with Mycroft or the Yard again.
Might I point out that you have at least five people working for you, while I have only an assistant and a parrot, one of whom I am deprived of?
If I succeed in solving your puzzles, it will be proof of my intellectual superiority. If I fail, it does not prove your intellectual superiority, merely your numerical. Though I grant that your book, assuming you are the same James Moriarty, reaches such rarefied heights that it could only have been written by a mathematical and computing genius. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
youve heard of on the numerical analysis of asteroid dynamics???? richard! im astounded! xoxoxo jm
Heard of it? My dear sir, I have read it. Is it indeed yours? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
yes its mine!! yr the first person i ever met whos read it! xoxoxo jm
It was fascinating. Are the bugs in program 27 your error or the publisher's?
I have just received a report of a gas explosion at another block of flats. Yours, or coincidence? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
printer didnt correct that on the proofs. i fixed their process. ha!
you really are smart! so why arent you solving my puzzles? if you solved you'd know the answer to q2. johnny doesnt look too good right now! try again, richard! xoxoxo jm
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Only five injuries and no known fatalities—that is good. What further information do we have on those flats? Or the people who lived there? It is not an address I am familiar with, so if it is Moriarty's work, I do not know why he chose that place.
Tell me when we have more information, then. And tell them to search the area for a black-and-blue sock with skulls on it. And if further socks turn up, or further pigeons visit, I want to know immediately. I dislike failure.
Of course I have had failures. I am no different from a human in that respect; I err, and I misjudge. Or I find the correct solution, but circumstance intervenes and renders it useless.
There was one case—it was a few weeks after solving Mr. Wilson's case. That day had started well; we received a letter addressed to Richard Adler from a high-ranking government personage praising our work. I was annoyed that they did not name John as well, but John was philosophical. "It's better than that anonymous threatening text that we got yesterday. And it's not like I'm the brains behind this operation. You really are brilliant."
*I know. But I could not do my work as effectively without your help. Your name should be on that commendation too.*
He shrugged. "Yours isn't actually on there. Why should I complain about mine?"
*Richard Adler is my name; it is not my primary name, but it is me. I'm used to pseudonyms.*
"Pretend the middle initial is my pseudonym, then. It's just a piece of paper." He pulled The Sands of Crime off the shelf. "Speaking of names, I've been meaning to ask, how did these books get autographed to you? I didn't think you were old enough to be around when she was alive."
*I am not. And they aren't autographed to me, as the 'from your great-aunt' should make obvious. While it is likely that I have one or more great-aunts, I strongly doubt any have made literary endeavours. She was Mycroft's great-aunt. He says all his cousins received complete sets of the Robert Templeton mysteries before they were old enough to read.*
"Wait—if she was his great-aunt, that means his great-uncle was.... Christ. That fits, doesn't it?"
*Between his great-uncle's independent work, his great-aunt's writing, and his grandfather's career at Scotland Yard, I am surprised that Mycroft did not take up a career investigating crimes himself. Then again, one could argue that he did, but on a grander scale.*
"'Dear Mr. Holmes: Can you help me find my government? Someone stole it when I was in a drunken rebellion.'"
*'Dear Concerned Citizen: You may only have misplaced it. Have you checked under the sofa cushions?'*
John blinked. "Sherlock, did you just make a joke?"
*Not that I am aware of. I was attempting to continue the metaphor.*
John laughed and shook his head. "So Mr. Holmes's cousin gave you these. First editions, too. That was generous."
*Brother. And any generosity was on Mycroft's part; inheritance, though inaccurate as I was not the heir, would be a better term than gift.*
"Oh. I'm sorry."
*Why should you be?*
There was one of those pauses that told me I had violated a human norm. I felt that I must explain further. *It was well before I met Mycroft; I never knew him.* When that did not remove John's odd expression, I added, *I had a sister. Well, I likely had or have other siblings, but she was my clutchmate and lived in the lab with me. She was as intelligent as I, likely even more so, but she developed seizures before she even fledged, and she died before she was a year old. I would have liked it if she had lived, but I do not feel any particular grief over her. I suppose with humans it is different.*
"Usually, yeah." He said no more on the topic.
Do you know, even though we have lived together for nearly a year and a half, I have never met John's sister? She comments on his personal blog regularly, and I know they have dined together a couple of times, but he has never introduced me. I asked him why once, and he said he was quite sure Mycroft wouldn't approve. Which is odd, as usually that is a reason John offers in favour of doing something.
At any rate, perhaps that conversation is why John was marginally more accomodating when Mycroft visited later that evening.
"Congratulations," Mycroft said. "I understand that Mr. Adler is to be commended for his work."
"As he should be," John replied.
*Thank you.* I did not specify who I was replying to.
"A quaint pseudonym—after your youthful nickname and the singer, I presume—and Mr. Adler has quite a baroque personal history that, when read between the lines, certainly explains why no client will ever see him face-to-face. Did the two of you come up with that fictional biography together?"
*It is entirely John's doing.*
"Not entirely. Sherlock suggested the basic information; I just tried to make it interesting and medically plausible."
"I believe you have missed your calling, Dr. Watson; perhaps you should take up novel-writing as a future career. Well, let me not waste any more of your time. I am still not in favour of this...freelance work. But if you must do it—"
Who is here?
Excellent. Are you sure you want to let them in after the mess they made last time?
I did not attempt to escape earlier today; I looked for the obstacles in the way of escape. There is a difference. Now, kindly send in the pigeons.
Interesting. It sounds like the same type of sock; black and green with smiling faces, containing a small metal tube or canister. Found in front of the London Nautical School—
Oh. Oh. How obvious. I am the greatest fool that ever existed in the class Aves. I am good only for plucking, roasting, and serving à l'Orange. Give me a map so I can verify the street names.
That block of flats—does John's sister happen to live there?
It fits. The addresses. The first sock was found on Sawyer Street. The second was found at Watson Mews. They are the surnames of the people whose homes are going to be bombed. Though in this case, I would check Barts as well, because this sock is on Stamford Street. If the second sock is left when the explosive is placed, that may help narrow down between the two.
I will text...no, I will wait; if I am incorrect, I prefer not to give Mr. Moriarty the satisfaction of gloating. I hope I am not incorrect.
Are you sure you want me to continue the story?
Very well, then. Mycroft had come because he wanted us to take a case. "A translator with whom I have occasionally worked has contacted me regarding her client, who vanished while trying to find his missing sister. I would like you to investigate his disappearance."
John glanced at me, clearly waiting for my response. I said, *Is it a scenario of remote interest, or is it a dull case that you are involved in solely because it has unfortunate diplomatic implications?*
"While there are, as you say, implications, it has aspects that would interest me if I had chosen your vocation."
*Then I am willing to hear more. John, what do you think?*
"I can't wait to hear how we're going to risk our lives this week. Mr. Holmes, since you've visited our website, I assume you're familiar with our rates?"
"My dear sir, while I will be happy to defray any expenses, might I remind you who Sherlock belongs to?"
John's forehead and cheek muscles tensed in the way they do when I have broken the last pencil on his desk. "Well, I can't stop you from taking him if you need his help."
Mycroft actually showed a hint of surprise. "Are you refusing to work on this case?"
"I'm refusing to work for you. My boss is the one with the feathers. If he's taking this case, gratis or not, I go where he tells me."
*That is not what you said this morning when I asked you to go to Tesco and buy me some wooden spoons.*
"That wasn't for a case. Are we taking this one?"
*If Mycroft agrees to pay 50 percent of our usual rates. He is entitled to demand my services for free, but not yours.*
Mycroft shook his head. "I have no time for childish games. Dr. Watson, if you would please send my assistant the bill, we will pay your standard rates."
After a pause, John nodded. I said, *Tell us about the case.*
I did decide to take the case, but I do not want to talk about it in detail. It is too distressing.
Oh, I solved it, in that I uncovered a trafficking ring that the Yard was eventually able to break up. But by the time we located the house it was run from, the traffickers had fled with their victims, leaving Ms. Melas and Mr. Kratides secured in a garage to die from carbon monoxide poisoning. John pulled them both from the garage, and Ms. Melas survived, but Mr. Kratides died before the ambulance arrived, and John inhaled enough carbon monoxide that he also needed hospitalization.
I am afraid that I did not handle that situation well, though granted, returning to Baker Street and spending the rest of that day alone did not help. When Mycroft visited late that afternoon, I had destroyed all my chew sticks and every pencil in the flat, broken one lamp by throwing a cuttlefish bone at it, and ruined the corners of the bookcases. I may also have been producing distress cries, as Mrs. Hudson later received a complaint from Mrs. Turner next door.
Mycroft shook his head at the mess. "I was afraid this might happen. Pull yourself together, my dear bird."
*Says he who has no one to lose.*
"You are being melodramatic. Dr. Watson will be released from hospital shortly; he will be more comfortable in a flat that does not resemble a sawmill. Come with me to retrieve him so the cleaners can work unimpeded."
We did indeed bring John home soon afterwards, and I spent the evening sitting on John's shoulder as he watched a Hitchcock movie that Mycroft had never let me see. I even refrained from commenting on its more ludicrous parts, though it really is difficult to take it seriously when you understand what the birds are actually saying. And John quietly bought more pencils the next day and has never said anything about the bookcases or the lamp.
We have solved two other cases for Mycroft since then, one of which I cannot discuss at all; the other is also shrouded in secrecy, but during that case I did have the opportunity to make the acquaintance of a Phalacrocorax carbo. I fear we had translation difficulties, however; while I was able to learn some useful and accurate information about items she had retrieved from the sea floor, I must have misunderstood when she said she was friends with a Chroicocephalus ridibundus that used to live in a rabbit warren. At any rate, both cases were successful, but I must confess that when Mycroft says he has a case for us, I am always reminded of the sight of John in an oxygen mask.
In retrospect, that failed case is likely why Mycroft had me talk to you now.
After all, if Mycroft had merely wanted to keep me out of the way, he could have done this without calling you in. He could have locked me in a room that even I would have trouble escaping from. He could have brought me to where his people are working, kept me where I could at least know what was happening. For that matter, he could have simply had a veterinarian put me under sedation until all was resolved one way or another.
So what purpose is this serving? It is keeping me distracted so that I do not go mad with waiting. It is, I suspect, to have you on hand should word come that John is injured or worse. And it is, I am certain, because however much he denies it, Mycroft does have an attachment to me and wishes for my well-being.
But he is misguided. Speaking to a therapist should not be an end in itself; there is supposed to be some goal, something the patient wants to change, correct? And then, if the therapy is truly successful, the patient is able to change, to act. What is my goal?
That is not a helpful response. Of course you cannot answer that question for me. And as long as I am trapped here, I cannot act.
Enough of this. What news is there?
In Dr. Stamford's house? At least it was not in Barts; that would have done far more damage. And now that I know I was correct, I can tell Mr. Moriarty so.
Did you, perhaps, forget an item at the home of Dr. Michael Stamford? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
well done richard!! im so proud of you!!
too bad were enemies. it makes me sad. but you ruined so many of my plans. xoxoxo jm
Given that your plans included kidnapping Dr. Watson, I am delighted to hear that. Do you wish to continue with this game, or shall we switch to another? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
oh, dickie-bird, you have no idea, do you?
evrywhr i turn, yr assistant & yr bird are there.
i found perfect killer. he was good at his job. yr assistant caught him and scared him to death.
smuggling ring paid me for help. yr asst broke them.
almost had submarine plans to sell to frgn gov. yr asst found them.
all set to poison city water supply. yr asst thwarted at last minute.
yr asst broke up traffickers. yr asst found firearms mnfctng plant. yr asst ruined information conduits. yr asst caught money launderers. so much work, so much money, so much time, lost bcs of johnny.
except it wasnt johnny, was it? i thot yr asst was you. now i know he isnt. now i want you.
i ought to kill you. but you read my book, so ill let you live.
ill just rip out yr heart instead. xoxoxo jm
I look forward to seeing how you accomplish the second without the first. Let me know when you find me. --RSA
1. In Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, The Sands of Crime is one of Harriet Vane's Robert Templeton novels. Mycroft's genealogy is left as an exercise for the reader. (Hint: The grandmother who was the sister of a French artist? Clearly their paternal grandmother.)
2. Sherlock's translation was correct; the cormorant does know Kehaar.
I do not care what Mycroft thinks about my last text to Mr. Moriarty.
Yes, I know, I should not goad him. But perhaps he will do something reckless. One can hope. In the meantime, it might be best to move Mrs. Hudson to a safe location—
Oh? Good. I am not at all surprised that Mycroft already arranged it. He is a master of advance planning; what little expertise I have on the topic is entirely due to him. If disaster were to strike London tonight, he has a choice of boltholes to retreat to, inside and outside the city and in Europe as well, all stocked with the essentials to survive and continue his work. I have done somewhat of the same—nothing to the extent that he has, but I have a few small caches scattered about town, so that I can find food and some simple tools if I cannot return to Baker Street.
If I told you where they were, that would also enable Mycroft to find them. Likely he knows where some of them are anyway, and he would find access inconvenient unless he commandeered a helicopter or a very long ladder, but I refuse to make his interference easier.
The black and green sock is here? Let me see it.
Not a tube or a canister. The shell from a cartridge. A cartridge that fits in a—
I must stop this chain of logic, because if the phone was John's and the wallet was John's and the shell is from—
I cannot think of it now. It is merely a possible inference; it is not proven. If it is only a threat, I must work harder. And if it is a fait accompli....then John has gone nowhere that I will not follow in time; the question is how long a time.
I will get away from here, one way or another. And I will finish this. And then I will rest.
First I must pull myself together. It may not have been used on him; it may simply be—
Well, there is no point in my concealing it, and I am sure Mycroft knows anyway. This is almost certainly from John's gun. I do not know whether he somehow smuggled the gun home from Afghanistan or acquired it after his return, but he owned it when he moved into Baker Street, and he has carried it to crime scenes ever since the first time he accompanied me. Well hidden; I doubt that anyone at the Yard has noticed it. But I see the change in the line of his clothing when he wears it.
I did not tell him that I knew, though, until the night when it was confirmed to me that my continued existence is important to John.
It was another case that we investigated under the aegis of Richard Adler. A patient had come to John's old clinic for follow-up treatment after the reattachment of a severed thumb, and when he said that he needed a private detective, Dr. Sawyer recommended us.
Mr. Hatherley was a mechanical engineer who had been hired to repair some manufacturing equipment. He could not tell us the exact location of his client or even the exact town; he had taken the train to—well, I must not name it; let us just say a station some miles away from Reading—and was picked up and driven for a long time. He thought it might have been anywhere between forty-five minutes and an hour and a half before they reached the jobsite, but as his phone had been confiscated and he did not wear a watch, he could not give us an exact duration. He also could tell us nothing about the route; he was transported in a van with a windowless passenger section and an opaque partition blocking off the front seats, and he was not allowed out of the van until it was already inside a garage.
He had repaired the machinery, but had apparently voiced too many suspicions about its purpose. After his escape from the jobsite, involving the loss of his thumb to a cleaver, he had lost consciousness; he later awakened back at the original train station, his phone in his jacket pocket and his thumb packed in a bag of ice. Beyond that, all he remembered was a description of the inside of the warehouse where he worked, the details about the machine he repaired and had nearly been killed in, the first-floor office window that he had escaped through, and one vital piece of information: that the van had been nearly spotless when they left the station but was quite dirty when they arrived at the jobsite. John took notes and said we would investigate and contact him with anything we learned.
After Mr. Hatherley left, John said, "Not much we can do for him, is there? He could’ve been anywhere within a forty to eighty kilometer circle; there’s no way we can narrow that down."
*On the contrary, we can narrow it down quite easily. The building is not very far from the original train station.*
“Now you’re just guessing.”
*I never guess. I merely form and test hypotheses. It had been wet most of the day, so why was the van not already dirty when they left the station? Clearly, because they had only driven a short distance.*
"But why were they in the van so long, then?"
*They circled. Twenty to forty minutes out, the same time back. Ready to go?*
"Oh, God, I know what you're about to say. I can't. Sarah and I were...."
*It's work. Reschedule. She referred him; she won't be surprised.*
"You said that last time. And the time before."
*She is a doctor; she should understand work calling unexpectedly. If she doesn't, maybe you should start dating a midwife or an obstetrician.*
He snorted. "I can't wait to place the personal ad."
He makes it sound like he never gets to see Dr. Sawyer, which is rubbish; she spends the night at our flat or he at hers at least once a month, and it is very clear that they find the time mutually enjoyable. We also often run into her having coffee with Donovan, who says they have formed a support group for women who come in second after birds. I am not sure whether Donovan is joking or serious, but I rather hope she is serious.
"All right," John finally said. "What are we going there to look for?"
*An office building or other commercial structure with a cleaver mark in the wood on a first floor window and a large adjoining warehouse.*
The building was easier to find than I had feared; there were not many buildings with the right architecture, and I located it after only an hour and a half of searching. A window was open in front, and no one was in the office, so John stationed himself to wait while I entered the building.
A windowed ground-floor door behind the offices led into a large warehouse, in which there was a set of machines as Mr. Hatherley had described. I examined the enormous CNC press, the lathe, the other equipment. Having seen enough to justify calling Mycroft's people as well as the police, I flew back to the door, only to find that I had been discovered.
Two men waited in the hallway. I attempted to dodge them, but I was caught by a large blanket being thrown over me. The blanket was tied shut while I struggled; one voice said, "Shall we save this for Moriarty?" The other silenced him and suggested poultry crêpes.
I was thrown onto a hard surface. I believe I may have been stunned for several seconds; when I came back to myself, I was still wrapped in the blanket and restrained so I could not move. I managed to rip enough of a hole in the blanket to see that I was strapped to the press, but could not release myself from my bonds.
Then I heard the sound of machinery, and I realized that I was doomed.
I would like to be able to say that my thoughts were profound as I faced death, but in actuality, I felt only indignation. That my mind, my speed, my skills were no match for a blanket! My feet had enough freedom of movement to reach my phone and text *help—in press* to John, but I was certain it would be fruitless. As the die lowered and moved towards me, as I heard breaking glass and other sharp noises that at the time I attributed to the machinery, I could only hope that my brain would haemorrhage swiftly under the pressure.
When the die stopped moving, then I felt fear, the handmaiden of hope. I do not possess the belief in a supernatural power that many humans do, and I do not ask natural powers for intervention, as they are non-sentient. But at that moment, if I had believed in a soul, I would gladly have sold it to any offering entity in order to retain my life.
The most beautiful sight I have ever seen, more amazing than a mite under a microscope, more glorious than sunlight in February, was John as he ripped open the blanket and released the straps.
I looked around and realized that the extra noises I had thought machinery had actually been gunshots; the window in the door was shattered, and two bodies slumped on the ground by the controls. *What happened?* I asked.
"I don't know; they were dead when I came in here. But I don't want to meet the shooter. Let's go."
I did not respond or query his lie then; I was feeling the shock that accompanies escape from death, and I wanted only to leave this room. You will understand this, of course, given your profession; humans have not lost their animal instincts, and neither have I.
But several hours later, after the police had arrived, after Mycroft's people had combed the building, after John had made his statements and we had returned home, I followed John to his room—the only part of the flat that I know is never monitored by Mycroft, because I have never found a camera or bug installed there, unlike the rest of the flat. This has been another area of contention between Mycroft and myself, as it is difficult to promise professional discretion to our clients when conversations are being recorded by outsiders.
For further discretion, I spoke rather than texting. "You shot them. Why?"
He looked at me as he took his shoes off. "You do know that you sound exactly like Mr. Holmes when you speak, don't you?"
"Many. Years. Exposure." I immediately resolved to relearn as much of my vocabulary in John's voice as possible. I have not fulfilled that resolution completely, as my John voice disturbs him more than my Mycroft voice. "You shot them. Why?"
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
I flew to his shoulder, gripped his jumper, and bent down to rub my head against his lower back; indeed, he had not yet had a chance to put it away in its hiding place. "Gun. Yours. Illegal." I straightened and rubbed against the back of his head. "Good shots."
He sighed. "I'm certainly glad someone shot them. I wouldn't have gotten there in time to turn that press off."
"I am! Quite glad."
"That you shot them. I am too. Thank you."
He didn't reply for some minutes, then reached up to rub my side and said, "Well, they certainly weren't good people. Good people don't try to squash other people in presses."
I used my phone so there would be no question of comprehension. *Am I a person?*
"Absolutely." There was no hesitation.
I moved from his shoulder to the foot of the bed, politely closing my eyes so he could hide the gun again, and sang one of the Vaughn Williams tunes he likes.
He saved me. And now that he is in danger, I have not returned the favour. May I have a pencil?
That was the first time we heard the name of Moriarty. And when I began to investigate, I discovered that the name was associated with other crimes. Not often, and in the cases where the name appeared, the criminals who mentioned the name frequently died soon afterwards. But often enough to make me suspicious—and two were cases we had solved, ones about which John had later received threatening anonymous texts.
Over the next months, I gathered more and more data, until it was clear that this Moriarty was the spider at the center of a web of malevolence, the operating system of crime's computer, the dovecote sheltering the pigeons of perfidy—I apologize for the excessive and ludicrous metaphors, but Mr. Moriarty does inspire me. Have you ever read...no, given your academic background, you probably have not read On the Numerical Analysis of Asteroid Dynamics. It is an amazing work. That one person could have the breadth of mind to write it and to manage a criminal empire—it is a pity, a great pity, that Mr. Moriarty's mind and talents were not turned in other directions than crime. He would have been a formidable friend.
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
im playing your game! i found you, mr so-called richard so-called adler. xoxoxo jm
Have you indeed, Jim? Oddly, my heart is still intact. And you sound in doubt as to my identity. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
no doubt at all! i know who you are now. johnny told me your real name, Mr. holmes. xoxoxo jm
Stop looking shocked. If this is not a situation that calls for an expletive, what is?
How hard was the blow to his head? His mind is clearly impaired; I can think of several people he may be talking about, but I am not one of them. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
youre bluffing. but if you insist. i know who you are, mycroft bredon holmes. xoxoxo jm
Oh! John John John. Brave John, brilliant John, amazing John.
I suppose it would only be polite to warn Mycroft, assuming he isn't monitoring our conversation.
Are you sure that Dr. Watson is not bluffing? If you are, then tell me why you believe him and how you verified his assertions. No one will appreciate your reasoning more than I, after all. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
a little birdie told me! haha!
i found the expmnt where yr bluebird came from. you bought him when it was shut down. too bad i couldnt find more records—i want a bird like yrs. have to start from scratch. or maybe ill take him from you!
how smart is yr bird anyway? xoxoxo jm
I do not know for certain, but I can tell you that program 35 in your book was beyond him. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
funny! i bet hes smarter than you think. smarter than johnny. xoxoxo jm
Sherlock has a greater vocabulary than most parrots and is somewhat better at solving problems, and he is a reasonably fast learner. I would not, however, overestimate his abilities. He is an unusually intelligent bird, but he is only a bird. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
mycroft mycroft mycroft. you can stop signing your fake initials now. i know the bird is yrs. i know yr name is on 221b baker street lease. but you dont live there, just johnny and yr bird. do you miss having yr birdie around? xoxoxo jm
I see more than enough of Sherlock for my satisfaction. I fear, though, that you have not proven me to be Mycroft Holmes, and there is a good reason for that. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
i know who yr birdie is named for too.
do you rmbr Carl Powers? xoxoxo jm
I have heard the story of his sudden death, but I never knew him. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
yr brother thought he was murdered, but the police didnt believe him.
did you? xoxoxo jm
I'm sorry, but you refer to another young man I was never privileged to meet. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
still bluffing, mycroft.
you didnt believe him, did you? no one believed him. no one listened to him.
too bad he was right.
if youd listened to him, maybe idve been caught. maybe i wouldn't be here now. so im glad you didn't listen. im glad you ignored him.
pity about the drugs, though. with tht mind who knows what he couldve been like? xoxoxo jm
Oh? Mycroft wants me to stop this line of inquiry?
Well, then. Tell him I will, on the condition that when I finish talking to you, I be allowed to leave here. I recognize that I cannot go back to Baker Street at this time, but I would at least like a change of secure location.
As honoured as I am to have been mistaken for one of the most brilliant minds in the nation, I really must end this charade. I am not Mycroft Holmes. If you would like proof, the fact that you are still alive is that proof. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
threats, mycroft? and we were getting on so well. xoxoxo jm
As I said earlier, I have only Dr. Watson and a moderately intelligent bird to assist me. Mr. Holmes has access to far more resources than I. If he were putting his full effort towards finding you, you would have been found.
But I understand your skepticism. You have only my texts to go by; I could be anyone.
What proof of my identity would you accept? Or rather, what proof that I am not Mycroft Holmes would you accept? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
proof of yr id? yr passport. yr birth cert. yr driving licence. yr medical records. yr tax records. ive looked for you, richard adler the pseudonym. xoxoxo jm
I do not drive.
As for the rest, well, my association with Mr. Holmes has been good for something. I am not surprised that you could not find my personal documentation. I fear, then, that we are at an impasse.
A pity, as I am anxious to meet you. Again I say, let me know when you find me. --RSA
May I be honest? If it were anyone but John who Mr. Moriarty held, if I had nothing vested in the outcome of this situation, I would happily pretend that Richard Adler is Mycroft, and then sit back to see which of them had been better at staff selection. My money would be on Mycroft, as I consider Papagena a match for any five of Moriarty's associates.
I worry, though, that my denial of being Mycroft will also rebound upon John.
I cannot think about what John may be enduring now. I cannot let Mr. Moriarty know that his harming John would rip out my own heart—metaphorically speaking, of course, but the long-term effect would be much the same.
It is growing late, and we have been talking for many hours. But before we close our acquaintance, I must tell you about yesterday.
John and I had been working all week with the Yard on another trafficking case and had finally solved it, far more successfully than the case involving the unfortunate Kratides family; our reward to ourselves was sixteen hours of sleep each. It ended up being only eight for me; I have difficulty sleeping much past dawn. While I waited for John to awaken, I was using his laptop to look up the flight speed of a South African Swallow—yes, I am aware that there is a related popular culture reference, but I actually needed to make the calculation before posting on one of the ornithology forums—when I found a file titled "Sherlock Holmes Strengths + Weaknesses".
Would you have been able to resist? I certainly could not.
Most of the list, I found quite accurate. Of course I am an expert on anatomy, particularly human and psittacid. Of course I am good at basic physics, simple engineering, and elementary electrical circuits. Of course I have extensive knowledge of Western classical music, encyclopedic knowledge of Turkish pop music of the past twenty-five years, and very limited knowledge of most other music—who introduced me to music, after all, and why should anyone be surprised that I share his tastes? Of course I know a great deal about the British and European governments and the various people within; again, with whom did I live for most of my life? Of course I have a map of London in my mind; of course I can identify buildings by their roofs and outdoor sculpture. Of course I am deeply familiar with criminal procedure and the rules on collection of evidence. Of course I am a tolerable programmer and a decent hacker. Of course I have to make an effort to follow the various human social norms one finds in London. Of course I can read six and type five languages fluently, and read eight more with the help of a dictionary, even though I only understand three spoken. Of course I enjoy reading and dislike film and television. Of course I am sometimes loud, and easily bored, and cross when short on sleep, and occasionally picky about my food, and extremely untidy.
But "suffers from Stockholm Syndrome"? Please. The present circumstance excepted, Mycroft does not hold me hostage. I do not empathize with Mycroft or view him as my source of life; I tolerate him because I must. My top three desires at this moment are John's life, Moriarty's death, and Mycroft's public humiliation, in that order; does that sound like Stockholm Syndrome?
So when John finally descended the staircase early in the afternoon, I immediately texted, *Stockholm Syndrome is a far rarer disorder than popular literature would have one believe, and in any case, I do not have it.*
"Are you on my laptop again? What's wrong with yours this time?"
*Just a kernel panic; I've rewritten the offending code and am still reinstalling.*
"And you wonder why I won't let you upgrade mine." He went to the kitchen and started making tea.
*Why do you think I have Stockholm Syndrome?*
He rubbed his eyes. "Sherlock, it's too early in the morning."
*It is 1:47 p.m. Shall I forward you the formal definition and note exactly how I do NOT meet each condition?*
"If that's the worst thing you've found while snooping on my laptop, be grateful."
*You haven't answered my question.*
John set his mug down firmly. "Fine. It's Mr. Holmes. I've had all I can take of him."
*Should I be flattered that you have not reached that point with me?*
"Don't press your luck. After what you did with the milk this time—"
*The container was the right weight and dense enough to fit the space I needed.*
"Which would have been fine if you had, oh, I don't know, put it back in the fridge when you finished, instead of leaving it out all night."
*I had not finished my structural tests. Which of Mycroft's many faults was the last straw?*
He did not reply until he had finished his tea. "He wants us to take another case."
*Yes, I saw the message. So?*
"What if we say no?"
*Then we see whether he insists. But if he does, you don't have to work on it. You can do something else if you want.*
"Right. I can. I won't, but I can. You can't."
*If it bored me enough, I am certain that I could.*
"Really? Because you rolled your eyes at that last one, and you took it anyway."
*I do not roll my eyes. That is a human gesture. And the case turned out to be quite fascinating.*
"Yeah, luckily for you." He ran a hand through his hair. "You say you don't give a damn about him, but when he calls, you're there. He owns you. He owns you, and it's just—it's just wrong." He laughed, the stress-relieving variety rather than the amused one. "Christ, I sound like Ivan Vorpatril."
"Never mind. I hate that he's always in the background, no matter what we're doing."
I sought for words that would comfort him. *Would you feel better thinking of me as a child under guardianship? While I am mentally and physically an adult parrot and have been for some years, a human of my age still has many years remaining under parental guidance.*
"As you point out, you're not human. And Mycroft's not going to let you loose when you're eighteen. Why the hell do you put up with him?"
Those words triggered my irritation. *Do you remember the people we just rescued?*
"Christ, I'm never going to be able to forget them."
*Do you think ill of them for not breaking out of that room, when they were told their families would be killed if they did? Do you scorn them for accepting their captivity, when the Ricolettis held their passports and when they had no money or English language skills?*
"Of course not."
*Then why do you scorn me?*
"It's not the same situation."
*The parallels are sufficient. I have no legal status in this country—in any country. I am, in fact, property. Mycroft can, if he wishes, have me killed at any time, and if it is done humanely, no fuss would be made about it. I cannot earn my living without a go-between. If left on the street I would starve in a matter of months; the pigeons would do many things for me, but feeding me is not one of them.*
*And you dare to ask me why I tolerate Mycroft? I tolerate Mycroft because all the other options are worse.*
John folded his arms. "Norbury."
*Oh? Kindly enlighten me, if you know so much more about it than I do.*
"To start with, why does it have to be Mycroft? Why couldn't you tell Mycroft you want a new owner? I'd take you. Anderson would take you. Hell, Anderson's ex-wife would take you."
*Because Mycroft will never sell me, as you would know if you'd ever made the offer.*
John didn't reply, but the tiny flicker of tension, the brief motion of his eyes gave him away.
*You did make an offer.*
After a pause, John said, "Yes. I did."
"That night when he gave us Ms. Melas's case, after you'd gone to bed."
My irritation rose. *That was four months ago. When were you going to tell me?*
"The moment he accepted. Which he didn't."
*And what if I had said I didn't want to?*
"Then I'd have called him back and said the deal was off, of course. Christ, you don't think I'd buy you against your will, do you?"
*You certainly took the first step towards it without consulting me.*
"Okay. You're right. I'm sorry." He ran his hand through his hair again. "It's just.... Look, before I met you, every morning I'd lie in bed wondering whether this was the day I was finally going to top myself. And once I'd decided no, I was going to live for one more day, well, that used up my ration of decision-making power, and the rest of the day just didn't matter. Then I meet you, and thirty-six hours later I'm running around London helping to catch a murderer because you knew how to find him. Do you know what it's like, finally having a life that's worth living again?"
*Yes, as a matter of fact.*
My statement did nothing to calm him; if anything, he grew more agitated. "You give me something to wake up for. My mind's always busy trying to keep up with yours. I'm never bored. I'm actually useful. And the moment Mycroft bloody Holmes gets a whim, I can lose you, lose this life and be back where I started."
*Your future does not depend on Mycroft. If you had half a brain in your skull, you'd apply to work for MSF and have all the adventure and all the usefulness you could want.*
"And I'm sure they and Mycroft would let me haul a parrot into a warzone or disaster zone. Don't you get it? You always talk about bonding; did you really think it only went in one direction?"
*Of course I know you are attached to me, just as I know that Mycroft retains some attachment to me.*
"There's a flattering definition of attachment... you know, forget it. We never had this conversation."
*Ridiculous. We clearly did; the texts are there to prove it.*
John held up his phone and punched several buttons. "Not anymore." He stalked up the stairs, and a few minutes later he came back down wearing his lightweight jacket, which meant he was carrying the gun. "I'm going out. I probably won't be back until late. Don't wait up for me."
*Even if I want to read the texts you say don't exist?*
John snorted and slammed the door as he left. I reviewed our conversation and tried to determine what had angered him, but came to no conclusion until the next morning. I would blame lack of sleep for that stupidity, but sadly—
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
been having words with johnny about lies and how theyre bad. but he still insists yre mycroft. xoxoxo jm
Given what I know of how you work, I am surprised that I must make this explicit. How do you know that Dr. Watson has ever seen me? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
he knows who you are. trust me. xoxoxo jm
He thinks he knows. Your assessment of his intelligence aside, he is not without reasoning, and he has come to a conclusion based on the evidence made available.
You should understand that, Jim. Do all of your assistants know your face? Do they know your first name? Do they know that you are called JIM not only as a nickname for James, but because those are your initials? --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
you are good! very good! why can't we be friends? xoxoxo jm
Because our goals and aims are entirely incompatible. I assure you, however, that I greatly admire and respect your mind. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
ditto. ill find you yet. xoxoxo jm
And that is nearly the end. I woke at quarter past five this morning to the message "MR ADLER IS MISSING SOMETHING" on John's blog, and a flat empty of John and suffused with Mycroft.
"We believe he has been kidnapped," Mycroft said shortly.
I was too shocked by the news to feel anything. *Where was he last seen? I will start the search.*
"You will do no such thing. I cannot risk your being taken as well."
"Whatever guilt you feel over your debate of yesterday afternoon...."
I raised my wings in frustration. *I thought I found all the bugs this time.*
"...flapping about the city will not help him. And with situations developing that need my attention, it is impossible for me to supervise you at this time. The Yard is on the case. We are taking you to a safehouse in the meantime."
"My dear bird, you have no choice."
*Why? Because my life is in danger from his kidnappers? I would sooner be killed looking for John than safe and waiting for him.*
"And I would sooner you live to see him again. You remain my responsibility, hard as that may be on both of us."
*I need not remain so. Why wouldn't you sell me to John?*
"Do I need to answer that? You are a classified experiment."
*John has been thoroughly vetted. John—* Suddenly his statements of last night made sense, and I berated myself for my stupidity. *He was trying to tell me that I am as essential to him as he is to me. I am not essential to you.*
"Nevertheless, you must be protected. Your genes and your brain would be tempting targets to anyone who knew about them."
*You do not need to own me to protect me.*
"Stop being silly. Of course I do not, but it is far simpler."
*You scoff at simplicity. Please, Mycroft, let me go. John is in danger.*
"I am sorry, my dear bird. You are going to a secure location. I will do my best to locate John, but in return I want you to speak with a professional I have arranged to meet you."
*A professional what?*
"Dr. Hunter has proven useful in other cases of emotional trauma and extreme stress; I am sure you will find her comforting."
*Comforting?* Now I was becoming agitated, as the reality of John's danger sank in. *Comforting? John is missing. It might have been Moriarty who took him, and you expect a psychiatrist to be comforting?*
"Yes. Now, as I do not trust you not to escape the moment we go outside, would you like to enter this carrier under your own power, or must my assistants force you?"
It required four of them to secure me, and I do not apologize for the tetanus shot that one required afterwards.
They brought me here. You know the rest.
The car is on its way? Good. Though I must say, I have found our conversation more satisfying than I had expected.
Yes, I would even say it has been successful. I know now what my goal is.
What else? John has been patient with me. John has been my friend. John risked a murder conviction for me, when my own would-be killers would have at most been convicted of animal cruelty or property destruction. John is trying to keep Mr. Moriarty from finding out who and what I am, even though Mr. Moriarty has done his best to rip out his heart. My goal is to help secure John's safety, whatever small step I can take toward that. I am calmer now, and ready to wait and to do what is best.
By all means, let us wait in the lobby instead of in here. It is good to have a change of scene.
Before I leave, might I tell you about one more thing that is on my mind?
When Mycroft left me here this morning, I said to him, "You cannot stop me; you cannot prevent my escape. I will get away from here, one way or another. And I will finish this." In retrospect, that was too unkind, even toward my enemy.
Oh? Let me say it to you as I said it to him.
Of course it sounds innocuous to you. You might even have thought that he did not react. I assure you that Papagena was not fooled, however; I certainly was not.
I lived for six years with Mycroft as my friend and several months with him as my enemy. I know him. I know his possessions, his collections, and his files.
There is a recording—originally it was clearly a videotape; the quality is awful. When I found it, it had been transferred onto a DVD. I am certain that by now it is also a file on a hard disk or flash drive, backed up in at least six locations across two continents, even though Mycroft has never played the recording in all the time I have known him.
I played it. I watched a man writhe in his restraints on a hospital bed. I heard him begging for drugs, for help, for death.
When I spoke to Mycroft in the voice and words of his brother, his brother who successfully overdosed days after that recording, his brother who I am named for? I now think that is the worst thing I could have done to him.
Since I know Mycroft will read this, later if not now, I will say it:
Mycroft, I apologise.
The human brain desperately seeks patterns and will find them where no pattern actually exists. Perhaps this is a trait of all intelligence, as I too understand the appeal of finding a pattern and assigning meaning to it. The idea of reincarnation is rubbish. That I was conceived on the day your brother died is a coincidence; that I hatched on his birthday is another; that my personality reminds you of his is yet another. But I cannot scorn you for seeing me as a second chance, for trying to protect me as you could not protect him, even though your actions were misguided.
And really, "apologise" is neither adequate nor accurate. Mycroft, I am sorry.
Yes, I do know the words. I even understand the sentiment: regret for harm caused, whether by wrong choices, by accident, or as an unavoidable consequence to a right choice. Mycroft, what I inflicted on you with my mimicry this morning was the first.
Dr. Hunter, I am about to do the third. I am sorry. Cover your face.
***End of Session Transcripts***
Transcriptions from Recovered Device
My dear Jim, I have considered our conversations, and I have a new game that I hope you will agree to: Let us meet in person, tonight.
You name the place. You name the time. I will be there--alone, or at least without human accompaniment, though I cannot promise that I will not be followed.
My sole rule: You must bring my assistant: alive, conscious, and intact. --RSA
From: [UNKNOWN NUMBER]
richard the pseudonym! ill play!
and for more fun ill make it another puzzle! todays date tells you where. program with variant on conjguate gradient method tells you which. time? year it closed. dont be late!
ill bring your asst if you bring your bird. maybe we can trade! xoxoxo jm
Very clever! You are clearly the Napoleon of crime. Platform 23 it is; Sherlock and I will see you at 20:07. --RSA
Hello, Jim. Thank you for your punctuality. I hope you will forgive the long waits for my responses; I type very slowly.
Text-to-speech is an amazing invention, is it not?
Oh, some wires had to be re-laid, but there was enough of the PA system left to work with. These platforms are in excellent shape given that they have been abandoned for nearly four years.
You are remarkably patient. I appreciate that.
I assure you that I am here. I merely wish to prolong the pleasure of anticipation, before we meet face-to-face.
Have you brought Dr. Watson?
John. You look terrible.
Have I ever been tactful?
Oh, and to verify my identity: My great-aunt is not an author.
I am also sorry about yesterday. Shall we call it even?
Good. My time working with you has been the best of my life. Thank you. For everything.
Jim, I am pleased that you find this touching.
Let us get down to business, then. You want my bird. I want my assistant.
Yes, you had mentioned that before. Shall we let my bird meet you?
I am sending him; he will arrive in just a minute.
No, I am not sure what that sound is. Perhaps it is a few thrill-seeking pigeons, dropping bundles of Semtex and broken glass, attempting to disable your snipers without getting killed themselves.
Unlikely, I grant you. It is quite difficult to find sufficiently reckless pigeons. And yet—
Notice that Sherlock was not shot when he pulled the gun from your belt.
A trained parrot does prove useful.
I am sure he will come down from the rafters in a minute.
Yes, I fear those squawks are evidence that he strained muscles lifting the gun.
I understand your amusement. Between the broken phalanges, the duct tape wrapping his fingers, and the rope binding his wrists, Dr. Watson might barely be able to hold and aim his gun, but he cannot pull the trigger. You are a master of psychological torture.
Hmm. You are correct. My typing speed has indeed increased.
Again, correct. While I have impairments, they do not affect my typing speed, especially with a good auto-complete program. You really are quite good at deduction.
You made other correct deductions as well. Richard Adler is, in fact, a pseudonym.
You have failed to deduce one thing, though.
Oh, I am the person you are looking for. But I am neither Richard Adler nor Mycroft Holmes.
My name is Sherlock Holmes. And I can pull a trigger.
Chapter 12: Epilogue
Further Documents from the Personal File of Mycroft Holmes
Transcript of patient interview, 20 June 2011; some details redacted
Interviewer: Good morning.
Patient: How is he?
I: Still unconscious. Dr. Trevor is not certain whether he will recover, or how much mental function he will retain if he does.
I: And how are you?
P: As if you needed to ask.
I: One sometimes wants the subjective perspective rather than the medical charts.
P: I'm great, then. Much better than when I was in for my shoulder.
I: I am sorry to trouble you while you are recovering, but it would be very helpful if you could tell me exactly what happened at [REDACTED]. There are, sadly, no recordings of the incident, and no indication other than the texts as to what happened.
P: All right. What do you want to know?
I: You know where his texts ended.
P: I'm surprised you let me read all that. I can understand the texts from the [REDACTED], but I didn't expect the ones from the rest of the day.
I: It was—well. I thought you should read them.
P: Yeah. What the hell did he do to Dr. Hunter and your people?
I: He arranged for a flock of [REDACTED] to surround them when they left the building. He escaped in the confusion. I assure you that everyone was unharmed.
P: And I can fill in the rest. He went to one of his caches, got supplies—God, if I'd known he had stolen Semtex out of [REDACTED]'s cellar—I wondered why it took so long for him to come back to me after he got out of there.
I: I shall have to find the rest of the caches and see whether he has stashed explosives anywhere else. It is worse than dealing with a bored teenager. [pause] Pardon me; I must be allergic to one of the disinfectants.
P: He hadn't told me that last bit about your brother. I'm sorry.
I: It was many years ago. [pause] He would have liked you, I suspect, as far as he was capable of liking anyone. But we are here to talk about the recent past, not the ancient. What happened after his last text?
P: You know he pulled the gun from [REDACTED] and dropped it into my hands—not that I had much grip with all that duct tape, but I was at least able to hang on and point it. He flew down and landed on my shoulder; I think he'd written that last text but waited to hit "send" until he was in position. God, [REDACTED]'s expression -- it was brilliant. And the moment the text reader finished, Sherlock pulled the trigger for me.
P: What do you think happened, when I couldn't grip the gun? Damn recoil nearly ripped his head off.
I: An exaggeration. Dr. Trevor says he did have a severe neck injury and concussion, but no spinal breakage.
P: God, when you say that, I can tell who taught him to talk.
I: His mimicry was—is, one hopes—impressive. He could not have known what the consequences....
P: Oh, he knew. He'd said once that he'd love to learn to shoot, but between the recoil and his limited binocular vision, there'd be no point.
I: [inaudible mumble]
P: I'm surprised you know those words.
I: A minor civil servant receives many opportunities to increase vocabulary. What happened next?
P: [REDACTED] was still alive. I'm not a bad shot, but even I can't aim that well tied up and with no grip. He was dying, though, and he knew it. I'd caught Sherlock before he hit the ground, and I just said good-bye to [REDACTED] and walked away.
I: Carrying Sherlock with your hands tied? I am impressed.
P: He doesn't weigh more than a couple of kilos. Trying to keep his head supported hurt like fuck, though. No, can't say that. He'd say "Why do you use an activity that you clearly find pleasurable to describe something unpleasant?"
I: The mysteries of the English language. And then the bomb exploded?
P: [REDACTED] must have had it as a backup. At least it was Saturday; I hate to think what would have happened if he'd done it at 8:00 on a Monday morning. He is dead now, isn't he?
I: I guarantee it.
P: Good. Anyway, I saw [REDACTED] hitting something on his phone, and, well, old habits die hard; I was down and shielding Sherlock before the blast hit. Never lost consciousness...wished I had, but can't be helped.
I: At least you were not trapped long before we found you. I am unimpressed with how long my people took to intercept and interpret Sherlock's texts.
P: Good thing [REDACTED] didn't make an ABBA reference, or Sherlock would never have known where to go.
I: Indeed. Now, of course there are repercussions. I'm afraid that you are reported as dead. And unfortunately, you will have to remain dead for some time.
P: You have got to be...no, you don't have any more sense of humour than Sherlock does.
I: You wound me. [REDACTED] is dead, but he still has several associates who are now looking for revenge. We are working to apprehend them, but it may take months.
P: Or longer.
I: Or longer.
P: And you want to send me to a safehouse? No. I'd last a month before I broke out or topped myself.
I: You and Sherlock alike. Believe me, I have observed you long enough to know that. That's why I have arranged for you to go to [REDACTED] under an assumed identity.
P: Do you really think I'll meekly go along with that?
I: A [REDACTED] there is in need of a doctor. And given the issues they have had with poachers and difficult interactions with them, your military and medical experience would be exactly what the doctor...well, that pun would be too obvious.
I: You act like you have a choice.
P: I may not have a choice, but I certainly have conditions.
I: And they are?
P: You made me a job offer a year and a half ago. Is it still open?
I: It could be, but I am surprised that you ask. You were very much against acting as his caretaker back then.
P: Yeah, because then he didn't need one. Maybe in a few months he won't need one again. Right now, he does.
I: Do I understand that you are asking for a position that you expect to be temporary, then?
P: Exactly. And if it's not, I owe him.
I: Are you aware of the lifespan of [REDACTED]?
P: Fifteen years? Twenty?
I: Forty to fifty. Quite possibly longer.
P: Oh. And he's only, what, [REDACTED]?
I: Yes. It is not unlikely that he will outlive both of us.
P: That's fine. That's great, actually.
I: If he recovers. I will remind you that he is a [REDACTED]; it might be kindest to simply....
P: Tell you what: If it becomes clear that he's brain-dead, I'll take care of the rest. If he ever tells me he's had enough, I'll help him finish it. Otherwise, since he didn't exactly have an advance decision on file, I'm willing to wait and see how far he recovers. And I'm not going to [REDACTED] without him.
I: It may surprise you to know that I anticipated that. Do you know what the [REDACTED] region is noted for?
P: Clearly not, but I'm sure you can't wait to tell me.
I: It is one of the few places with a significant population of [REDACTED].
P: Oh. That's...actually, that's brilliant. You're going to hide him in plain sight?
I: Of course. The [REDACTED] has a rehabilitation center, and I am sure that Sherlock will receive the best possible care.
P: All right, then. As long as we go into hiding together, it's fine.
I: And the position you refer to is open if you wish it. However, you had also made me an offer some months ago.
P: I had.
I: I now have a price.
I: One pound.
P: I offered you ten thousand.
I: You do not have ten thousand pounds, and with the salary you can expect, it will take too long to save it.
P: One pound, and Sherlock's consent.
P: Sorry I can't exactly shake hands right now.
I. Think nothing of it.
Excerpts from Dr. M. E. Morstan's emails to Mycroft Holmes, 2011-2014
...I must thank you again for finding James MacArthur for us. He has quickly become a valued colleague, cheerful about our privations and working well with even the difficult personalities.
I'm afraid the injured macaw Dr. MacArthur found on his way here is never going to return to the wild, but it is slowly recovering some use of its wings. He has christened it "Mr. Bucket", though we have not actually done DNA testing to confirm its sex. It has bonded quickly with him, though; they are nearly inseparable when he is not seeing patients.....
....I am delighted to tell you that Mr. Bucket is indeed a Mister. He and my favourite of the rehab birds, Irina, have produced a clutch; one egg did not hatch, unfortunately, but the other chick seems healthy. A picture of Violet and her parents is attached. Dr. MacArthur has declared himself an uncle and jokes about buying her unsuitable toys....
We have, if not a rehabilitation success, at least a great improvement. Attached is a video of Mr. Bucket, in true flight! A very short one, but nonetheless, a milestone. James is thrilled, though when I mentioned that perhaps Mr. Bucket will be able to return to the wild in time after all , he was clearly unhappy about the prospect. I understand his feelings, and am actually grateful that Irina will have to live out her life in captivity, but our job is not to create pet birds; it is to preserve the wild population.
Thank you for the information packet you sent. It is quite interesting, to say the least, and will take some time for me to absorb and understand thoroughly, but I am glad I received it before making any life-altering decisions (or, I should say, any further life-altering decisions). Please give my regards to your assistant; her Portuguese is excellent.
Mr. Bucket's rehabilitation continues apace, and I think it safe to say that while his physical condition still leaves room for improvement, there has been no lasting damage to his cognitive abilities.
Also, J says to tell you that he received your receipt for one pound sterling.
....attached is the official offspring photo. The baby is Richard; the chick is Mycroft. I am told to tell you that the latter name was by unanimous agreement, as J thinks he isn't very bright.
...the commotion has finally died down, now that Colonel Moran has been taken into custody. Who'd have thought that an animatronic bird would have fooled him into shooting? (You can almost certainly guess whose idea it was; J shakes his head and comments about love of the dramatic, but as it worked, he seems quite proud of his friend.)
While I have enjoyed my years in South America, I am looking forward to living in London again. Our next challenge: finding out whether filling out CITES forms for four birds is easier or harder than my last grant application....
Staff Listing, Website of Adler Investigation Ltd., 2014
John H. Watson, MBBS
Manager and Private Investigator
Mary E. Morstan, Ph. D.
Zoological and Wildlife Investigator
Sherlock Holmes Watson