Molly had known that faking a man’s death was going to lead to complications, eventually. She’d just never thought that it was going to lead to being whisked away in the dead of night by a stranger with a black Limousine.
She wasn’t too alarmed. Molly had gotten a postcard from her “French cousin” Auguste Vernet earlier in the week. The picture on the back was of a place she didn’t recognise and the name scrawled across it was unpronounceable. All she could tell was that it was grubby, smelt like cheap alcohol and came from somewhere in eastern Europe.
Dear Molly, (it read)
My trip to the Ukraine was highly educational. I also bumped into some friends. Only for a short get together, but we had a good chat. How’s Mr. Baker? Better? Worse? Please write to me soon.
It was the type of letter Molly usually got. Vague, carefully worded, but not exactly the enigma code. Most of the time these letters were just his way of keeping the only promise Molly had forced him to make before he had slipped away over a year ago; let me know you are still alive.
However this was the only letter she had ever received with a post-script. A messy, hastily written, barely legible postscript.
Our old school friend Darlene Ire maybe dropping in on you. Sorry for the short notice.
Molly hadn’t a clue who Darlene Ire was, but when there was a knock at her door in the middle of the night, and a young man in a chauffeur’s uniform had asked for her by name, Molly had quickly changed out of her Elmo pyjamas, grabbed her hand-bag and left without questions.
Molly was getting a little too used to having to do Sherlock’s odd jobs about London.
At first it had been little things. Sneakily looking up someone’s police file, or doing a small experiment and sending him the results. Basically it was the same sort of stuff she had been doing for Sherlock before, only now it was via encrypted postcard correspondence. But soon she was breaking into stranger’s apartments to collect their phone messages, or using her holiday leave to go to Cornwall and take pictures of a specific shipping container that may or may not have been used for something illegal in the past month.
And that was before his requests got weird.
Oh yes. A limo ride at two in the morning was one of the least dubious acts Sherlock had asked her to do over the past year. It was almost pleasant.
The limo pulled into a back-street and shuddered to a halt. Molly sat motionless while the driver got out, rounded to the back of the car and opened the boot. Molly looked out the window to see if she could recognise the area. Nope. She had gotten into a car with a stranger, drove to an unknown location and the driver was now getting some unknown object out of the boot. And yet she was trying to stifle a yawn. What had Sherlock turned her into?
The door across from Molly opened and the chauffeur slipped inside. His hands held a bottle of champagne and two flutes.
‘Thirsty?’ The chauffeur asked. Molly didn’t know how it happened but the driver’s voice had somehow become a lot more feminine during their drive. Molly smiled as everything clicked together in her head. Was this what Sherlock felt like all the time?
‘Yes please, Ms. Ire.’
The woman tilted her head for a moment and then removed her driver’s hat. Underneath her hair was still neatly pinned in a way that reminded Molly of all those glamorous stars from silent movies. In fact Darlene Ire may as well been in black and white. Ivory skin, silky black hair; the only thing that spoiled the effect was the woman’s eyes which were a clear, piercing blue. The poor forensic examiner, who had just pulled on a pair of jeans and a baggy jumper before heading out the door, felt like the gawkiest creature on the planet.
Ms. Ire held a glass out to Molly. She took it while the other woman poured.
‘Ms. Ire?’ the woman asked. ‘Honesty? That’s the alias he chose? Bit overblown, wouldn’t you say? Unless…’ she stopped filling Molly’s glass and moved to her own. ‘Did he say my first name was Darlene?’
Molly’s eyebrows furrowed but she nodded all the same. The woman who wasn’t Darlene Ire laughed.
‘And he says I’m the one who likes to play games. I’ll have to remember that one.’
‘I don’t need to know your real name,’ Molly said quickly. ‘I get that you may want to keep things quiet, or something. Not want your name being associated with something… not on the level.’
A grin spread across the woman’s face as she took a sip. ‘I think it’s a little late in the day to worry about sullying my reputation.’ The woman’s eyes flickered over Molly. Scrutinizing. Inquiring. Almost deducing. Molly felt her skin grow warm under the cold stare.
‘Er… while the champagne’s lovely and everything, would you mind telling me what Sherlock needs me to do. Please, I mean. If you don’t mind. That’s why we’re here… Isn’t it.’
‘Oh, I know why I’m here.’ The woman’s voice was dark and low. ‘I owe him a favour. More than a favour, actually. I owe him my life.’
‘Oh. Well I suppose there are many people who owe him that. But that’s not what I meant…’
Darlene Ire ignored her comment. ‘Yet I am not exactly sure why you’re here. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a mess like this, as the old saying goes.’
Molly blinked, not certain how to respond. Then she coughed.
‘He saved your life.’ she said. ‘I saved his.’
‘Ah, I see.’ The woman leaned forward. ‘You’re his keeper.’
Molly ducked her head. ‘No. I wouldn’t say… That’s more John’s… I just help out from time to time. When he needs me to.’
As she said those words out loud she realised how pathetic she must have sounded. Molly Hooper. Human Doormat. She felt a hand below her chin and her face was tilted up to meet the woman’s eyes.
‘I can see why he trusts you.’
Molly could feel her ears burn as the woman gave her a Hollywood smile and pulled her hand away. Molly hadn’t noticed that when the woman had gotten into the back of the limo she had bought a small suitcase with her.
‘My name’s Irene Adler,’ said the woman, opening the suitcase. ‘And we’ve got ten minutes to get ready. You’d better drink up, Molly Hooper.’
‘Irene Adler?’ Molly’s voice went up a register. ‘No wait. You’re not. Sorry, it’s just… Different Irene Adler. Must be.’
The woman had flipped open a compact make-up kit and was carefully highlighting features that were attractive enough not to need high-lighting. ‘Let me guess. You thought I was dead.’
‘No. No I… I did an autopsy on an Irene Adler. No you. Obviously. That Irene was definitely dead at the time.’
Irene gave Molly a side on look. ‘One would hope. Hurry up.’
Molly gulped down some champagne, so she could ask her next question. ‘So wait. Was that meant to be you? At Christmas?’
‘Yes. Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated. And I wouldn’t mind keeping things that way.’ She included her head to the suitcase. ‘There should be a dress in there that will fit you.’
‘What?’ Molly was still struggling with the fact the woman next to her was meant to be dead. Did anyone really die anymore? Was she going to get to go to that Michael Jackson concert after all? Was he next film she saw going to star Heath Ledger and Britney Murphy? Her eyes shifted to the suitcase ‘Oh… Thank you, but I don’t think…’
‘Honey, I’m afraid we are way past thinking.’ Irene snapped the make up kit shut and unzipped the suitcase. She snatched a dark blue dress from inside and flung it at Molly. ‘Put this on.’
‘Er… okay. Where…’ Molly was going to ask where they were going to change but the question dropped away as Irene unbuttoned her chauffeur’s uniform and peeled it away. Molly averted her eyes from the creamy white skin that was appearing before her. ‘Oh. Here. Oh. Are you, are you sure there’s enough… room in here. For that. To do that… changing?’
Irene slipped off her trousers in one fluid motion. Obviously, she was used to getting out of clothes quickly. ‘That’s why I rented the Limousine. On with the dress, so I can do your hair and make up.’
Molly swallowed. She didn’t feel comfortable getting dressed in front of Toby let alone a complete stranger, and not in the back of a car in the middle of some unknown street.
‘Are you sure that you really need me to do this. The stuff Sherlock normally gets me to do is a little more, you know, toned down. Something where I have to find a marshland or look up a type of chemical compound…’
‘Molly.’ Irene’s tone suddenly became more commanding as she locked eyes with the forensic pathologist. ‘Get changed. Now.’
Molly could tell Irene Adler was as used to giving orders and having people obey them, as she was getting out of clothes.