Chapter 1: a Brilliant Child
It had been a rather boring day on board of the Tardis. As boring as they could get anyway, which just meant they hadn't found yet what they would be doing next. With so many places to go and things to see, sometimes it was difficult to choose.
And so, bored as they were, they had started talking. Donna about her father, her grand-father, her time looking for the Doctor after her almost wedding. The Doctor, in exchange, had mentioned what he still believed to be one of his strangest encounter with a human being -and that was saying a lot.
"Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Was five, maybe six at most. All alone in the middle of a shopping center. I think he had escaped his parents. He was just that tiny, serious little child, and I don't know, must have caught his attention because he stared right at me. So I stared back, because kids are just the best at staring contests, they take it just seriously enough to be fun."
"Staring contest, seriously?"
"What? They're fun. And anyway, suddenly, the child starts walking toward me, grabs my wrist, and claims, almost shout, that I have two hearts and I'm an alien!"
"Which is true," Donna reminded with a smile.
"Yeah but people never notice, not until I tell them! They can see all the clues, all the differences, everything that's not human about me, but they never seem to get it. I got used to people being stupid..."
"Oh, come one, I don't mean it in a bad way. You lot are less clever than me. Being very, very clever is part of what I am, that's all. But that kid! Brilliant child! He had a very weird name. Shirley maybe? Anyway. Smart. Terribly smart. I was looking for a stray tyoetfae that had got lost on Earth and as soon as I told him what they were like, he found if right away. And trust me those little devils are good at hiding. I would just have loved to take that kid on the Tardis, but..."
"A bit young for it, wasn't he?"
"What? Oh, yes, I guess there's also that. But the real problem was that by the time I had made sure the tyoetfae was safe, Sheldon was nowhere to be found. Gone back to his parents I guess. Shame. Such a brilliant child."
"Having a crush on a child? Even for you that's weird, spaceman."
"What? It's not! I'm not! He was just so clever! It's always the same with you humans, someone compliments someone, they must be wanting to be getting in their pants. Is it so hard to imagine I can just enjoy seeing people develop their full potential? That's why I like having someone with me when I travel, I like seeing people learn thing and become smarter."
"And You like having someone to impress."
"That too. But I don't think I'd have impressed him much. He didn't strike me as easily impressed. I'd have had to show him the very best I think, everything great in time and space to just get a smile from that one. But I'm always one for a challenge."
"Then why don't you just... track him down and see if you can make him smile?"
"Can't remember his name. Shane? Shaun? Sean? Something starting in 'sh'. And can't remember the place either. Wasn't in a great state of mind at the time, it was too soon after Rose. All I remember about him is... he was a very tiny little thing with all those black curly hair all around his head, and eyes, incredible eyes, and a smile... he smiled when we found the tyoetfae, and you never forget a smile like that."
"That's not much to find someone."
"Nah, it's not. Which is why I haven't tried looking yet. But if I just remember his name... He had a very weird name. Something unique. And I mean really unique. I had never heard it before, or since. Wonder what it was..."
Donna would have made a few suggestions at that point, but the Tardis chose that moment to pick a strange signal, and the conversation dropped. The signal, as it turned out, came from the planet Hat IV, which they both found hilarious. There was, after all, a planet of hats. And it turned out to be populated by creatures with long, sharp teeth, and there was a lot of running and shouting and being clever and laughing, and everything was great.
Some time later, during a new period of calm, Donna wondered if they should maybe go look for the Brilliant Child, as she had privately dubbed him. Finding him could be a nice adventure, and she'd have loved to meet that someone the Doctor thought clever.
But then, the end of her journey came, and Donna forgot the Doctor, the Tardis, and everything that had made her life so worth living for a few months. Her brain, unable to withstand the pressure of fusing with that of a Time Lord, had to shut down entire departments just to allow her to survive.
Her brain went asleep.
But one day, it would wake up. And then, she'd go back to that skinny spaceman and his blue box.
No force on Earth could stop her.
Chapter 2: Sunday Boring Sunday
It had been a rather boring day at 221B Baker Street. Or a boring week. Or month. A boring while, that was for sure. There had been no new cases for what felt like an eternity. John had been working an awful lot at the hospital, and thus had offered no distractions worth mentioning. Sherlock was disappointed: he had carefully planed several gruesome experiments just to see his reaction, and the man was too tired to even notice them. And the experiments themselves had turned out to be disappointing too, resulting only in the rather annoying smell of rotting flesh and mixed chemicals.
He wasn't even sure which day they were. He was well past beyond caring about something as trivial as that. He could certainly find out easily enough if he wanted -all he needed to do was check on what boring program John was watching at the moment -but even that was too boring. He wanted something to happen. Something. Anything. Even Moriarty would have been good news at that point, but no, the world had decided he would die of boredom.
Had to be a Sunday.
Sundays were always particularly dull. Nothing interesting ever happened on Sundays. Nothing at all ever happened on Sundays.
But then, somewhere downstairs, there was the sound of a knock on the door, the footsteps of Mrs Hudson, her voice and that of someone else, a woman. Not any of their landlady's friends, as far as he could tell. Potential client then, with any hope. Or one of John's girlfriends. Did he even have one at the moment? He had stopped keeping track of them. All dull and boring. Every single one of them. One might have thought John, as a man of taste -he thought Sherlock was incredible after all -would have found interesting sexual partners, but no. Always brought home the boring ones. Someone else might have realized that with all the excitement and adventures he had with Sherlock, John probably felt the need to be around someone normal one in a while. But the detective refused to think on his flatmate's love life more than strictly necessary. Such a dull subject.
A knock on their door was heard, and Mrs Hudson's head appeared.
"There's a young lady for you, Sherlock. I hope you're decent my dear. And just so we're clear, wearing your spare sheets isn't decent."
"Oh, he's dressed this time," John answered. "I think he's even wearing a clean shirt, if you can believe it."
Mrs Hudson nodded approvingly, then turned to the woman still outside.
"Come in dear, they're here. If anyone can help you, it's Sherlock Holmes, don't worry."
"Oh, I'm certainly not worrying, came the answer. I am many things, but not worried."
And she came in.
She was.... ordinary. Nothing special. Red hair, very red. Age between thirty-five and forty. Still living with her mother, working as a secretary but had recently quit. Trying to get a new start in life, as shown by the brand new clothes to which she wasn't used yet. Tried to appear confident, but wasn't used to having anything but a low self-esteem yet, and she would still eat her nails when worried. Which she was, no matter what she said. In one word: ordinary. Dull. Boring.
But a dull case was better than no case.
"Please, take a seat, Mrs..."
"Miss. Miss... Morstan. But call me Mary, please."
Fake name. Had found the first name very quickly but the last name had been more difficult to find. Why the fake name? Did not want him to find out who she was. Afraid of family's reaction if they found out what she was doing. Possible passive-aggressive bouts with mother who didn't approve of recent changes, worried father who tended to be overprotective.
"Very well, miss Morstan. What do you want? Straight to the point, if you can manage."
She smiled. Used to being treated as she was wasting someone's time, and usually agreed on that. Still seemed certain that this was worth being a bother.
"Well, you see, I'm a secretary. Or I used to be. Not the best of jobs, but I'm good at it. And not long ago, my boss came from some sort of... lunch business or something like that, with that weird pearl. Only it wasn't a real pearl, it was way too big, almost like an egg. A chicken egg. And all... bluish. Weird sort of blue. He said it was a present from a partner, and that it would make a great paperweight. Which was daft because that thing was very pretty. Don't think it was a real pearl, not at that size, but very pretty, and..."
"To the point, miss Morstan."
"We're getting to it, skinny boy."
Just in time, John managed to hide his laugh behind a forced cough. Sherlock glared at him for being amused, and at her for calling him that. He didn't mind insults as a rule, was in fact quite used to them, but this was... undignified.
"Anyway," said Mary Morstan, "the other morning, I come to work, and Mr Hughes isn't there, and neither is the paperweight. I know, because I needed some bits of paperwork from his office, so I went there even though he wasn't in -wouldn't have been the first time he decided not to come because of a hangover -and the... pearl thingy was gone, and on top of his pile of paper, there was that thing."
The thing in question is a piece of what appears to be paper, but to the touch feels nothing like Sherlock had ever known. Soft, think, but strangely heavy, with strange symbols drawn on it.
"Won't the police mind your stealing evidences?" He asks with a grin.
"The police didn't seem to worry about Mr Oldman, Mr Davis and Mrs Gilliam disappearing, and I know they were also at that lunch and had been given a pearl just like Mr Hughes's. They think they all went on an impromptu holiday. All three of them. And if they're not going to do a bloody thing about this, well, I am. And I'd rather like to have your help, because I've been told you're a bit smarter than most people, so why don't you prove it instead of asking stupid questions."
Sherlock's grin disappears. It is getting annoying, the way he has to prove his cleverness every time. But it can't be helped of course. People are stupid. With a sigh, he gets ready to tell her the story of her life. That usually does it.
"Oh, I know who I am, thank you very much," Mary interrupts him straight away. "I asked you to be clever, not to use that party trick of yours. Can't believe you're the one. You might be yet another skinny string of nothingness, you seem thick as hell."
"Come on, tell me what that paper is! Is it even paper? What do the drawings mean? Ever seen anything like this?"
"Am I losing my time here? You're my one chance, mister Sherlock Holmes, and I don't want to be wasting my time. So hurry up and be clever, or I'll just have to go!"
"Then shut up and let me speak, will you?"
She glares at him angrily, but stops talking. Thank heaven, Sherlock thinks, before looking again at the piece of paper, bending it, smelling it, and doing virtually everything that it is possible to do to an unfortunate piece of paper.
"It's not paper, obviously. New material. The lines look drawn on it, but it's more likely to be some sort of screen showing a picture of the original drawing: the lines looks like they slightly damaged the paper, yet to the touch it's still perfectly smooth. As for what the drawings mean, I'd say they are some sort of language, but not one I've ever seen. Possibly a secret code. You said the four of them had had lunch together, and been given the same pearl. How likely is it that they were part of a secret organization?"
The answer he expected was not likely. People never really thought anyone they knew did that sort of things. People were stupid.
"Of course I thought so," Mary said. "Why do you think I went to work for him? He was an annoying old man and the pay was awfully cheap, but there was something weird about him and how successful his business was, because I don't think that many people would honestly want to buy silly little cardboard dinosaurs, but he was making an awful lot of money anyway, and I thought..."
"You thought you could investigate, but you failed and now you're turning to someone who actually knows what they're doing."
She frowned at that, clearly annoyed, and Sherlock sighed. He didn't like having to deal with amateurs who had messed up their little game of an investigation. They were always so cross when he'd point out how obvious everything was.
He included the police in that category, of course.
However he couldn't refuse that case. He was far too bored, and it was mildly interesting, if only on account of that little treasure of new technology. There was something strange about it. Something wrong. Something... alien.
He sighed again.
"Very well, miss Morstan. First I'll need to see Mr Hughes's office."
Chapter 3: The office
damn but this chapter has been difficult to write! thanks heaven I had some help from my own personal Sherlock to make this slightly less bad.
Anyway, hope you'll enjoy it!:D
There was only one person on Earth that could be happier than Sherlock Holmes that the detective finally had a case, and that person was John Watson. If asked, he would claim that it was because his roommate had become insufferable lately, and that there were only so many rotting experiments he could suffer before he finally had enough and snapped. If he were honest, he might also admit that he himself quite enjoyed the investigations even with all their troubles and dangers, and that it had been a while since he had had anything to blog about.
If he were very honest, he'd say he was probably about as bored as Sherlock and damn it was about time something finally happened.
That the case was brought to them by a woman capable of verbally harassing Sherlock Holmes was just an unexpected bonus. John wasn't sure anyone beside Mycroft and Moriarty had ever dared to call the detective an idiot. The look of pure shock and horror on his face when miss Morstan had called him thick had been simply priceless. Even if that case turned out to be boring, John was sure he would enjoy this a lot.
The cab ride to Mr Hughes's office was a quick one. John had found himself sited between Mary and Sherlock -an instinctive decision on his part, he felt it would be best not to leave those two alone too much. He had tried to make some conversation, asking Mary why and how she had decided to investigate on her former employer, but she had just looked at her in a strange way, as if she hadn't even realized if was there.
He got that often when he was with Sherlock, truth be told.
“I just... did what a friend of mine would have done,” miss Morstan finally said. “Followed my instinct, looked for something odd, that sort of thing.”
“You have a friend who's a detective then?”
“She had,” Sherlock corrected. “They are no longer on speaking terms and she did this to try and prove that she was worth more than he thought. But she failed and now she's worried he'll mock her failure.”
“He'd never do that!” Mary protested. “You don't know him. You don't know a damn thing, skinny boy. He left me behind yes, but he had to, for my own good. He... But that's none of your damn business, miss Marple, so just focus on the case and leave me alone.”
John very suddenly regretted putting himself between those two. On his left was a Sherlock who clearly didn't like being called after a fictional detective but had to show some self-control and pretend he wasn't furious, because god only knew when they'd have another case if his charming personality lost them that one. On his right was a no less angry Mary who wasn't trying to hide it, who apparently really didn't like having her life exposed to the world, and whose mysterious friend was clearly a very sore subject.
And between those two balls of anger, a very uncomfortable John.
He'd never been happier to get out of a car.
Mary Morstan might have been, in Sherlock's opinion, a failed amateur detective, John still thought she wasn't too bad at what she was doing. After all, she had had the idea to keep a key of the office so that they didn't have to break-in for once, and if she had moved things to look for the pearl or any hints of what had happened to her employer, she had first taken enough pictures of everything that even Sherlock hadn't been able to complain. Much.
He had still thrown both her and John out of the office after five minutes at most, claiming angrily that miss Morstan was the Anderson of women and that if she wanted to be useful she'd better get away from him and remain silent as long as possible, if she could do such a thing. They were now both standing in the corridor, Mary biting her nails angrily, John wishing this wasn't something ordinary for him.
“God what a prick,” she said after a while. “Is he always like that?”
“No, no. Usually he's worse, you actually caught him on a good day.”
Mary looked at John in a strange way, and he realized she hadn't really been talking to him. But again, that wasn't unusual. Sherlock had a tendency to piss people off so much that he'd become the only thing they could notice, and John would be completely ignored until his annoying roommate needed him to act as an emissary to the rest of the world.
She still smiled at him.
“How you can live and work with that... man, I can't understand it,” she said. “I've read your blog you know, and I've done some research about him. He seems the most annoying person on the planet. Possibly in the universe. I think I could even say he's the most annoying man in the history of the universe.”
“I used to think so, yes.”
“What made you change your mind?”
“I met his brother. Believe it or not, he's actually worse than Sherlock.”
She laughed at that.
“Worse than miss Marple? Can't believe it! Who is his brother, Hercule Bloody Poirot?”
“Pretty much, yeah. He sort of dresses like Poirot does on TV too.”
They both laughed this time, until they heard Sherlock screaming through the door that he'd like some quiet to work so shut up both of you. Then they laughed some more. It was nice, John thought. Talking with someone who was neither on the verge of killing Sherlock, or in total awe of him -he included Sherlock himself in that- was nice.
“Do you think I should maybe apologize?” Mary asked after they had calmed down. “For the whole miss Marple thing? I sort of lost it, but he was being stupid, and everybody had told me he was clever!”
“You know, I think I love it when people call him stupid. Doesn't happen often enough, but he deserves it so much sometimes.”
“They do, don't they? People like him. Think they're bloody clever and so above all of us, but they make such stupid mistakes, because they can't understand we don't all think like them. And they seem to fail to realize we ordinary things have feelings that get in the way. Or worse, they just assume we know and see everything they do, and then they get angry or annoyed because, well, we don't always get it.”
“So you've met someone like Sherlock before, I gather? Who was that?”
Mary suddenly stopped smiling at that, and looked like someone who had said too much. She almost looked... sad, John thought. Which was too bad. She was prettier when she smiled.
“Wrong question, eh?”
“You could say that. Bad memories. Well, not that bad. Well, pretty good actually. Well, memories anyway. Lots of them. I'm not used to having so many, not yet.”
“O-kay. That was... a rather strange statement, but sure.”
She smiled again.
“I won't have Sherlock Holmes's partner tell me I'm strange.”
John frowned. Would it ever stop, that thing people did where they assumed he was shagging Sherlock even though that was the last thing on Earth he'd ever do? First, Sherlock wasn't, would never be his type. Sherlock was a five years old child with a brain the size of a supercomputer. Impressive, yes, attractive... not quite. And there was also the fact that Sherlock didn't seem the type to see people that way in any case. Sure there had been that business with the Woman, but even then, it was difficult to know if actual feelings had ever been involved.
And anyway why was it always women who thought that they were together, and why always the pretty ones, and why...
“How does your face even get that way?” Mary asked. “You look like you've had to swallow a lemon while watching teletubbies porn.”
“What? Okay. Not a mental picture I needed, thanks for nothing. And it's just...”
The office's door suddenly opened, and Sherlock all but jumped between them, looking ecstatic, a black diary in his hand and a smile on his face. John knew that smile. It was the smile that meant Sherlock thought he was extremely brilliant and everybody else was stupid and he was going to prove it.
“Being at that business lunch and being offered a strange pearl isn't the only thing your employer and his disappeared partners had in common. All of them ran businesses that, up until six month ago, were impressively unsuccessful. But then, for no apparent reason, they all started making money, so much so that Mr Hughes could even hire an incompetent secretary to help him.”
“I am more than competent, miss Marple!”
“You noticed the lunch where you employer received the pearl, but this wasn't anything exceptional. Someone slightly less unobservant would have noticed long ago that those lunches actually occurred every week, always on a Tuesday, always with the same people. People whose businesses had nothing in common, except the fact they had recently become impossibly successful.”
“And so what?”
Sherlock looked at Mary with evident disdain, then at John who felt that he was expected to say something mildly clever to prove that he wasn't entirely unworthy of being the detective's sidekick.
“So... you think the fact they disappeared has something to do with these lunches?” the doctor said tentatively. “Bad case of indigestion maybe?”
Sherlock frowned. Apparently, John had failed.
“Really John, you can do better than that. No, think, think for once! We have here seven people, seven mediocre people, all with a business of their own, suddenly making more money than they logically should. If they ate together it meant they knew each others, and even after their sudden success, it was a friendship they wanted to cultivate. Or more probably, they all wanted to keep an eye on the others, in case one decided to betray them. It's obvious if we find how they suddenly became rich, we'll find why they are disappearing one after the other.”
“So... we need to find the ones that are still around, and ask them what happened, is that it?”
And when Sherlock finally smiled, John knew he shouldn't have felt like a schoolboy being praised by a teacher. But that was still exactly how it felt.
“Let's go then,” John said. “Before they all get... kidnapped by aliens or god only knows what's happening to them.”
Sherlock nodded happily, then turned to Mary.
“Miss Morstan. You may leave. I'll have John tell you as soon as...”
“I ain't leaving, skinny boy. I am going with you.”
“I don't work well with amateur. Go back to you mother, watch some TV, and leave this to people who actually know what they're doing.”
“No. Opposite of yes. I'm coming with you. You'll need me, slenderman.”
“I doubt that.”
“Oh, really? Well then, do what you want, skinny boy. And if you change your mind, here's my number. Trust me. You'll need it very soon.”
She handed a piece of paper to Sherlock who refused to take it. John, on the other hand, did take it. If Mary's smile was anything to go by, she knew things Sherlock didn't. Or that she thought Sherlock didn't know, at least.
And she was rather pretty after all.
Chapter 4: Mr Hughes's diary
Mr Hughes's diary was interesting, if not a great addition to the world's literature. The man, apparently, had never been told that one ought not to use their professional diary to talk about their everyday life. Sherlock had the doubtful pleasure of being given a glimpse of the life of a middle-aged man who thought dinosaurs were the greatest thing ever, who didn't understand why his wife had left him -she had thought he was having an affair and had grown tired of being the only one making money- and who thought it amusing to be mysterious in his own diary.
There were many references to someone nicknamed“Mr Spaceman”, and even through the cloud of a terrible handwriting, Sherlock could tell that Mr Hugh thought it was a great nickname. That man was impressively stupid. It was a miracle that even with all the help he had received, he had ever made that silly little business of his successful.
That Mr Spaceman seemed to be the heart of the mystery.
One customer, bought red T-rex. Received strange email, someone offering business counseling. Meeting them on Tuesday.
Met Mr Spaceman. His propositions were strange. Might refuse. No sales today. Again.
Still no sales. Got a call from Oldman, said Spaceman had contacted him too, and he's going to accept.
Oldman, Davis, Gilliam and Tennant are going to agree to the plan. Barrowman and Jones still hesitating. Plan sounds fishy, but the cardboard dinosaurs really aren't selling well these days. Kids prefer stupid phones and sexting. Might have to agree.
First official meeting today. Went well. Mr Spaceman explained what was expected of us. Doesn't sound that bad in the end. Sold two dinosaurs when back from lunch. Pretty good day.
Ran out of most dinosaurs, have to order more. Mr Spaceman was right, everything's working fine so far! Might start offering new sorts of dinosaurs! Met the others for lunch today, they are all doing great too. Hope it will last.
Introduced three new dinosaurs yesterday, already sold out! People sure love their troodon! Lunch went okay. Davies seems to be having doubts lately. Said there was something strange about Spaceman and the electronics he installed in our shops. Said it wasn't normal. Of course it wasn't. Nobody would ever buy his ridiculous fruit juice if Mr Spaceman's device wasn't there to make them do it. Mrs Gilliam agreed Davis was an idiot. Everything is going so well.
Davis called. Oldman and him are getting scared. They think their business are going too well. How can anything go too well? Then again... this morning, there was a fight. Two kids wanted the same triceratops. One ended with a broken nose. Might ask Spaceman to reduce his signal. This is bad for our image.
Got a secretary now. Not the blond, gorgeous one I always dreamed of, and she shouts at me a lot, but very efficient and thinks dinosaurs are great. She'll do.
Donna discovered Spaceman's device, and asked questions. Told her they were security related, she seemed to believe it. Such a dumb girl. Still, will ask Spaceman if we can hide it better. That woman is stupid but curious, she could discover something. Spaceman hasn't come to our lunches for quite some weeks though, and he sounded worried during his last phone call. Might email him then.
Donna doing a great job, got us a discount from the cardboard factory. Probably shouted till they agreed. Still no news from Spaceman. Beginning to worry. Last one to hear from him was Mrs Gilliam, and she said he said he'd contact us soon. Something about our part of the bargain? We'll see.
Lunch with Mr Spaceman, at last! He had lost weight, barely recognized him. Said there was something unexpected happening with the device, but all should be fine if we follow his instructions. Gave us very pretty pearls, one each. He called them eggs, but they really look like pearls. Said we had to keep them safe until they could be used to power the device. Said the original source of power was running out, but this one would be better. Said lots of things really, most of which I didn't get, and I think neither did the others. Still we took the pearls and promised anything he wanted. I showed mine to Donna, and she said it'd make a great paperweight.
Donna was right, it's a great paperweight.
Tried to call Mrs Gilliam, wanted to ask her if she would sew some dinosaurs costume for the shop, but she didn't answer. Strange. She's never without her phone. Will try again on Monday.
Still no news from Gilliam. Tried to call Davis to see if he knew anything, but he didn't answer either. Should I call the police?
Gilliam, Davis and Oldman haven't come to our weekly lunches for two weeks now. No one knows where they are. Miss Barrowman said she had called the police about them, but no one seemed to care. Spaceman isn't answering our email either. Something's happening.
I think the pearl moved during the night. I'm sure I didn't leave it there, and Donna left before me and came in after me and I don't like it. Something bad is happening. I wish Spaceman would give us news.
Is it me, or is that pearl actually warm? Something's wrong. Something is very wrong. Spaceman still not answering. Gilliam, Davis and Oldman haven't reappeared. What if I'm next?
And that was the last entry. According to miss Morstan -Donna, as it turned out, Sherlock had been right once again, Mary was a fake name- Mr Hughes had vanished on the following Monday. And it had taken the woman almost a full week to come and bring the problem to him. So much time lost. The four remaining associates could very well have disappeared by now. But now, Mary, no, Donna had clearly been following what was happening, she would known and she would have told them. And speaking of her pretensions to being a detective, there was one thing...
The appearance of a cup of tea in front of his face made him lost his train of thoughts for a few moments. The cup was in a hand, and at the other side of the hand, John. He had his “even you need to eat and drink to function” face on. How bothersome. Sherlock still took the cup.
“Having fun reading that?” John asked.
“You'll be glad to hear I have found someone whose literary style is worse than yours, extraordinary as that may seem.”
“And yet my blog has visitors, unlike someone's website. Anyway, did you at least find anything interesting in it?”
“There was no computer.”
“What do you mean?”
“In the office. Mr Hughes's laptop was missing.”
“Stolen? And how do you know he had a laptop and not...”
“He had decided a laptop would make him look modern, but he still always left it at his office. That much is obvious. But if it had been stolen, surely our friend miss Morstan would have noticed straight away and told us. Even she wouldn't miss that.”
“So, obviously, she's the one who took it. That would explain why she wasn't upset when I told her to leave the room.”
“She was upset, Sherlock.”
“Not as much as she should have been. If she found time to flirt with you, she clearly wasn't bothered by the idea of being left out of the investigation.”
“She wasn't flirting.”
“She laughed at all your jokes, kept smiling at you, and one button of her shirt mysteriously became unbuttoned between the moment we arrived and the time we departed. She was flirting. And clearly undisturbed at the idea that I wouldn't let her participate in that case, even though it was something so important to her that she managed to get employed by a man she despised and who had the brain power of a dead fish. What does that tell you?”
“She knew you wouldn't find anything there that she didn't already know,” John said with a smile. “And if she really has the laptop, then she was right: you'll need her.”
Sherlock sighed at that.
“Clearly you're missing all the vital clues. Think about it: she came to us for help, but hid information and made sure we had no way of finding it. That computer must contain email to and from “Mr Spaceman” and his device. Device of which presence she was aware, having questioned her employer about it. What does it all mean? She doesn't need us for the case, she wants something else for me. Us. But what? What could that woman ever want? She could be Moriarty's, but no. Too obvious. A fan? No, a fan wouldn't be so antagonistic toward me, not straight from the start.”
“Two mysteries for the price of one. Must feel like Christmas to you. And what are you going to do?”
“If you don't work tomorrow, we are going to pay a visit to miss Alexandra Barrowman in her exotic vegetables shop. If that diary is anything to go by, she's the only one of that Tuesday lunch group to be clever enough to call the police when people started going missing.”
And John, indeed, didn't work. Which was just as well.
They then ordered Thai, and Sherlock condescended to eat some rice so that John would stop glaring at him, all the while protesting that it was a waste of time and that if it messed his brain up, John could only blame himself. To which the doctor had answered that he was pretty sure he could live with that guilt.
It was, all things considered, a rather nice Sunday evening. And yet, Sherlock could help but feel he had missed something about miss Morstan. Something important.
Chapter 5: Ye Olde Veggie
things I apologize for: I- this chapter is even less beta-ed than the previous ones because it's past midnight and I had a headache all day. I shouldn't be posting this really. I'll correct any mistakes later II- I like silly names. III-maybe John CAN cook but I can't remember him ever really doing it, sorry John.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Care to remind me why we are going to look at strange vegetables instead of retrieving that laptop full of critical information?”
“I need to verify something. The laptop won't go anywhere, but there's a rather high risk that miss Barrowman will disappear like her associates if we lose time. And I thought you, being a medical man, would approve of our buying vegetables. Aren't you always complaining that I need more vitamins?”
John grimaced as he got in the taxi. You could count on Sherlock to turn anything to his advantage.
“Ye Olde Veggie” was a rather plain looking little shop in Chiswick, and Alexandra Barrowman was a rather ordinary woman in her thirties. The products sold in that shop were, at best, interesting, and a source of wonder. At least, John was certainly wondering who would ever buy the purple carrots, black tomatoes or pink potatoes that were in the shop window.
But as soon as he stepped inside, he changed his mind. These vegetables were great. He had to try some. He had to try them all! Shallot! Shallot was great! Parsnips were wonderful! And those purple carrots and black tomatoes would look just great in a salad with that weird look red lettuce, and...
John had already filled half a basket with everything he could find when he realized exactly what he was doing. He turned to Sherlock, certain the other man would be highly amused by his sudden passion for veggies, but instead he found the detective staring at him the way he'd do with an experiment or a corpse.
“You resisted,” Sherlock simply said. “Interesting.”
“I resisted what? The impulse to buy these? It's not interesting, it's just logical. I don't need any of those. I don't even know why I picked them up in the first place.”
“I'm sure we'll find out in a few moments,” Sherlock assured him, before turning the other way. “You are going to tell us exactly what is going on miss Barrowman, won't you?”
The young woman, who had approached to see why John had suddenly stopped shopping, jumped and gasped when Sherlock talked to her. She had the looks of someone who hadn't properly slept in weeks, and she was looking at the detective as if he were a creature from outer-space. While that wasn't unusual, people usually waited until after they had started talking to Sherlock to act as if they were facing a strange alien.
“I-I don't know w-what you m-mean,” she stuttered. “There is nothing going on. T-This is a v-v-vegetables shop. I sell vegetables. And f-fruits sometimes. And I've t-t-tried eggs and t-tofu but it didn't work so well in the past.”
“Neither did the vegetables until six months ago, but now everything seems to be working very well.”
“Y-yeah p-p-people love old vegetables, b-b-because they are very h-healthy and...”
“So healthy that John here, who can't cook to save his life, almost bought half your shop? Unlikely. Something is going on, and I think you want to tell us what.”
Alexandra blushed, paled, then turned an interesting shade of green before throwing herself on Sherlock, locking her arms around his neck and crying on his shirt.
“Oh, I k-knew you'd come!” she sobbed. “They both said... well, Mr Spaceman said you might c-c-ome, and t-that we shouldn't help y-y-you and we sh-sh-should tell him r-right away if you came, but, but, but they're all going missing, all the others, and, and, and I'm so sc-sc-scared!”
It would have been almost funny, seeing Sherlock torn between making the woman go away and using the situation to get all the information he needed. John had to come to his rescue and unlock the woman's arms from around his roommate's neck, before making her sit on a chair so that she could calm down.
“S-s-sorry,” she mumbled. “It's... it's been pretty hard lately. I-I wish I hadn't... we sh-shouldn't have... it was a t-t-terrible idea. But, but, but you're here now! You'll make everything right! Oh, I'm so glad you came! I was starting to th-think I'd just d-d-disappear like the others and no one would ever c-care!”
John gently tapped her hand and smiled at her.
“Don't worry, you're safe now. You just need to tell us what's going on. Can you do that?”
She nodded shyly, and for a brief moment she looked calmer, but she suddenly started crying again, harder than before.
“They're all g-gone! Everyone else! I'm the last one! I'm so scared. B-but we didn't do anything w-wrong, not really! Mr Sp-spaceman said his device was really safe and would h-h-hurt anyone! It was j-just something to make people b-b-buy what we were selling. And that's really all it was d-doing! Nobody got hurt. Nobody b-but us.”
“What did you promise Mr Spaceman in exchange for this?” Sherlock asked. “It can't have been cheap.”
“It w-was actually. Five p-p-percent of the money we made, and access t-to some d-data from the d-device, and that w-was all.”
“Data collected by a machine apparently capable of influencing people's buying habits are a cheap currency to you. I dread to imagine what it is you would consider expensive.”
Finally, Alexandra Barrowman stopped crying and looked at Sherlock as if she was just discovering him at that moment.
“You aren't nice,” she said accusingly.
“Whoever told you I was lied.”
“But Mr Spaceman said you would probably act nice, especially if you thought we hadn't voluntarily done anything wrong...”
“You have done many wrong things. Whether you wanted to or not only makes a difference between you being an idiot or a criminal.”
“But that woman, she also said you'd be nice! She said you'd understand and if we were really sorry and ready to help you, you'd be nice, and I am sorry, and I want to help and make things right!”
“Ginger, a bit... well, not exactly heavy, but not really thin either and she talked a lot, and I didn't ask her name, forgot to, but she told me yours, told me everything about you. She showed me pictures, and said you might look very different, and you do. But she said you'd be nice. That you were always nice. And she told me how I'd have to write something on that internet forum after I had met you, because... well, that would be how you'd know you'd have to be here. I... I didn't understand all of it. But she said you'd help. So please, help me.”
“What did she say my name was?”
Alexandra smiled weakly.
“Oh, that's an easy question. Both that loud ginger and Mr Spaceman insisted quite a lot on that. Because we wouldn't really admit it could be a name, but... You're the Doctor of course, aren't you?”
this story runs so much on "oh this is cool let's do it that way even though that's not your original plot", it's embarrassing. And also fun.
Chapter 6: blinking lights
not really convinced by that chapter, sorry... may or may not re-write it later...:/
“Oh, that's an easy question. Both that loud ginger and Mr Spaceman insisted quite a lot on that. Because we wouldn't really admit it could be a name, but... You're the Doctor of course, aren't you?”
Sherlock and John exchanged a look, both confused by that strange answer. Sherlock looked remarkably lost, but at the time John didn't think much of it. After a few seconds, the smaller man put on his nicest smile and looked at Alexandra.
“I think you're making a slight mistake here, but that's all right. He is a detective and I'm the doctor.”
“You are?” she said, looking doubtful.
“Doctor John Watson, at your service, and this is...”
“No, no, that's not it,” Alexandra interrupted him. “You're A doctor. I'm talking about THE Doctor. He's THE Doctor. The one. The real one. You're just... someone who heals people as a living, it's not the same at all.”
As far as John was concerned, healing people was exactly what being a doctor was about, and he didn't see how you could get more medical than that. He was about to say as much, but Sherlock was quicker than him. With one of his best fake sympathetic smiles, he patted Alexandra's shoulder.
“You are perfectly right, miss Barrowman. John here is a doctor, but I'm the Doctor, and I'm here to help you. Now, could you try to...”
They all jumped as a great clanking noise was heard, coming for the back shop. John and Sherlock exchanged another look while Alexandra started trembling, looking positively terrified.
“B-b-but there's no one in t-t-there,” she whispered. “Should b-be no one! I w-w-was there just now, t-there was no one! D-d-do you think they're after m-m-me?”
“John, go have a look. And take something to defend yourself, just in case.”
The doctor nodded, grabbed a heavy looking parsnip and went through the back door. As soon as he had disappeared, Sherlock turned to Alexandra who almost jumped when she saw how serious he suddenly looked.
“You, miss Barrowman, are going to tell me everything you know about the Doctor. That is, about me.”
“Everything. Ever single thing you've ever heard about me.”
And if she thought it odd that he could want to be praised at such a moment, she didn't say it, and just started telling everything she knew.
Meanwhile, John was exploring the back of the store, and finding nothing. The back door was open though, so either Alexandra Barrowman was rather careless, or someone had come in at some point, and left. Or found a place to hide. John thought the second one was more likely: the room he was in only contained vegetables and boxes, nothing that could explain the metallic noise they had heard, and there was nothing of the sort outside either. Which meant there was another room somewhere, hidden where there was, or had been, someone.
You couldn't spend so much time with Sherlock Holmes without learning a trick or two.
Now all he had to do was find that room.
And that trapdoor on the floor seemed a rather good clue for where to start looking. It seemed an even better one when, as he walked towards it, John heard more noise coming from below.
He opened it, and found light, and a metal ladder going down. And, somewhere downstairs, he caught a glimpse of bright red hair. He climbed down, wondering if he should have warned Sherlock that miss Morstan was there. When he stepped down from the last rung, he decided this was all a terrible idea.
She was facing the other way, and didn't seem to have noticed him. She was too busy trying to sabotage a strange looking machine full of glowing parts and blinking little lights. It looked like something out of a bad science-fiction film from the eighties.
And while John had never seen anything like it, he had a very strong impression that it also looked like it was about to explode. Probably because of all those lights that were blinking faster and faster.
“Come on, stupid overgrown computer, do what I say!” Miss Morstan suddenly cried before kicking it. “Which damn button should I push to make you stop?”
The kick didn't help much, and John had the distinct feeling that the noises coming from the machine were now stronger than before. Miss Morstan, however, didn't seem to notice it, and she turned to grab a pipe, probably to make more damage to the device, but as she turned she finally noticed John.
“And what are you doing here?” she asked angrily.
“Investigating? What are you doing?”
She looked at the pipe in her hand, at the device, then back at John.
“I was trying to stop that thing. I'm not doing very well so far.”
“Have you tried anything, beside hitting it with a very big stick?”
“I've kicked it a lot too, and I tried punching it, but it didn't work great,” she said with a small smile, showing her left hand that still bore marks of the punch.
“Ah, well. Strange how metal is usually stronger than flesh. Have you tried anything less violent? I don't know, unplugging it or something?”
Her smile disappeared.
“I have tried things, yes. Just for a moment, I knew how it worked, really knew, and I was doing great, and I had almost shut it down, and then suddenly... pfuit! All gone. Couldn't understand what was doing what. That's when I hit it for the first time, and everything started blinking and glowing.”
“You mean you just... forgot how to do it halfway through?”
She grimaced, looking embarrassed.
“You wouldn't believe how often that happens. Memory problem. The brain is still trying to shut itself down to protect itself, and it usually does it at the worst possible moment. Which probably doesn't make any sense to you, but that's how it is. And now I just don't know what to do, and it looks...”
“That thing's going to explode,” John said. Stating the obvious again, Sherlock might have said, but Sherlock wasn't there.
“Do you think we should ask skinny boy to come down here?” miss Morstan suddenly asked as if she knew what he was thinking about.
“Electronics? Not his thing. He can crack passwords like nobody and can probably pirate websites like a pro, but he can't even touch the DVD player without making it explode. And I wish I were joking about the exploding part.”
John had lost his DVD of Hot Fuzz that day, and he still hadn't fully forgiven his friend for that.
But what mattered for the moment was the strange machine, its strange blinking red and yellow lights, and the rather worrying noises it was making. Not caring that miss Morstan was probably not to be trusted, John approached her and together they started pushing any buttons and pulling any levers they could find. It didn't help.
Visibly frustrated, miss Morstan tried to kick the device once again, but doing so she tripped on a huge cable on the ground and fell down.
A huge cable that went from the machine to a plug on the wall. The two of them exchanged a look and grinned.
“We can unplug it,” they said together.
And as soon as they had done so, the lights and the noise stopped, leaving the secret room dark and silent except from their nervous giggles.
“You”ll have to explain what you were doing here,” John said after a while.
“Trying to save the world, what else?”
“So am I. Oh, but you do sound serious, Dr Watson. I imagine that means skinny boy has found out what's really going on?”
“Well, he knows something is going on. And that you lied to us.”
“Only because I had to! You'd never have believed me if I had just told the truth. And even if you had believed me, I had no way to be sure he'd help me, this was the only way. I needed him. It had to be him. It can only be him, I can't go near any of the others, not yet, because I've seen them with him.”
“Others? Which others?”
Even in the dark, John could see her smile. It was sadder than a smile had any right to be.
“The other people who have met the Doctor, of course.”
They went back upstairs, and while they climbed up, miss Morstan - “Donna Noble actually, but I couldn't give my real name in case things went wrong” -tried to explain who the Doctor was. John found it rather strange to say the least, but he felt inclined to believe her. Anyone lying would have found something more credible. So this was either true, or she was mad as a hatter.
“Let me make sure I got it right,” he said. “That man, who is actually an alien, calls himself a Doctor, even though he has no medical training whatsoever, and he travels through time and space in a blue box that is bigger on the inside. Right?”
“And he likes to take people with him. Human people, usually, but sometimes aliens too I think.”
“And you were one of these people, but you didn't stay with him because...?”
“Something... went wrong. Could have killed me, or so he thought, so he just... locked my memories and left me behind. Just because he had decided it was best for me. Never asked me. There wasn't much time, but if we had tried we could have figured out something, he didn't have to just... disappear from my life!”
“Ah, well. People like that, they think they always know better.”
In any case, Sherlock usually did. For a brief moment, the doctor wondered what Sherlock would do if John were in danger and the only way to save him was to leave him behind. Knowing the detective he'd always find another way, if only because he hated doing what he was told, and because he needed someone to make him tea and buy the milk.
But as they entered the main room of the shop, John had a shock. Alexandra Barrowman was still there, nervously rearranging some shallots and onions, but Sherlock was nowhere to be seen. It wasn't unheard of for him to forget John at a crime scene, but it wasn't like him to send him to possible danger and then just not care what happened to him.
“Where did he go?”
Miss Barrowman threw him a questioning look, and John sighed.
“Sherlock. Or the Doctor, or whatever you want to call him, where did he go?”
“Oh. He said he had to go, and that you should interrogate miss Noble about the case, and that he would see you later because he had to go meet Mr Spaceman. He said you had to keep an eye on me too b-because whoever took the other would try to take me too and w-we had to wait for him somewhere.”
“And did he say where that somewhere was?”
“W-w-well, yes and no, b-but it was strange. He... he said 'by the blue box', a-and that's all.”
Chapter 7: alien pirate from outer-space
I sincerely apologize for how long it took me to write this! I sadly have trouble concentrating on a single project for more than a few weeks at a time, and had looots of important, real-life things to deal with.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sherlock knew himself to be a man of little imagination. One did not need something like imagination when one had access to logic and knowledge. Imagination was something stupid, ordinary people used because they weren't smart enough to have access to deduction, like the way John insisted to add all that useless glamour to their cases just because he couldn't fully understand the existing value of it all.
There was, in his entire life, only one occurrence when he had obviously imagined something. Or so he had always been told. He had been rather young at the time, and still believed that Mycroft and their parents knew better than him, so when they had told him what he had lived had been impossible, he had believed them, deemed the memory irrelevant and deleted it.
Or so he had thought.
Interesting how a single name could have him reminisce in such a way.
He had been five, and Mycroft had dragged him in a shopping center. His elder brother had been supposed to babysit him for the afternoon, but had then been called by a friend. Or an informant, more likely. Even at twelve, Mycroft had always done his best to know everything that was going on everywhere. It had taken Sherlock no more than fourteen minutes to escape him. It had been almost too easy, with so many people around. He could have done anything, gone anywhere.
It had been so easy it had become boring.
He had been about to go back to Mycroft to discreetly spy on him, when he had spotted a strange man. Even a less intelligent child could only have noticed the man in a suit that was searching the decorative bushes of the shopping center. But it wasn't just that, there was something about the way he moved, the way he looked at things. Something not normal. Something not human, Sherlock had thought, but he had been reading quite a few sci-fi novels at the time. As far as he was concerned then, there were aliens everywhere.
He had stared at the man for a while, until the man noticed him and started staring back, like it was the funniest thing in the world. Which wasn't something grownups did. At least not the ones Sherlock knew. So he had to be an aliens. Because aliens looked like normal people, but they acted all wrong. He had seen it on TV.
If he could catch an alien, everyone would have to admit how great and clever he was. He would have liked that. So he walked straight to the man, looking as serious as he could when he was in fact more excited than the time he'd proved that it was Mycroft who kept eating the biscuits, not him. He had grabbed the man's wrist, because that was the best way to capture him, really, and almost let out a cry.
A double heartbeat.
He could feel two hearts beating somewhere in that tall and weirdly dress figure. And he knew he wasn't mistaken, because taking everyone's pulse at home had been his favourite game since the day Mycroft had showed him how to do it.
“You're an alien!” He had cried in surprised. “You're an outspacer, with two hearts!”
The man had looked just as surprised as Sherlock. But it was a good sort of surprise, he had been pretty sure of it. And then, he had smiled.
“And you are a very clever little boy. Now tell me, have you seen a creature about that high, looking like a monkey with a parrot's beak, sort of green and blue and bits of yellow?”
Sherlock had shaken his head without a word. He was talking to an alien. An alien with a parrot lost somewhere. An alien pirate from outer space. This was brilliant.
“Ah, well, they're rather shy, so I'm not surprised. I'll have to keep looking. But if you see him, tell him I'm looking for him, and everything's going to be fine. Or just come and tell me. Not sure they understand human language. Not very fond of humans, the tyoetfae.”
And with that, the man had been about to leave, but Sherlock had quickly grabbed his coat to stop him. The alien pirate was his prisoner. He wasn't allowed to leave, because Sherlock had to show him off to the world and explain how he had captured him and then dissect him and then go with him all around the universe to capture more aliens.
The man had looked surprised, then had started laughing.
“Ah, well. Not the best moment to dissect me, I'm a bit busy. But you can come along and help, and then we'll see. You seem like a bright boy. Think you can help me?”
Sherlock had nodded. He really had wanted to dissect his alien, and so couldn't afford to let him leave his sight. And anyway he rather liked it when people noticed he was clever. People needed to notice it more
What had happened after that point was a bit of a blur. He remembered a lot of running, and a impressively huge amount of laughing, much more than had been usual, and then, that amazing moment when he had been face to face with a beautiful creature with green and blue fur and a sharp orange beak. It had taken his breath away. He had had many books about all sorts of strange animals at home, but he had never seen anything like it before or since. That... thing had been unique. Just like his alien pirate.
And it had turned out his alien wasn't just a pirate. He was very good at many things. He could run very fast. He could be very funny. He could open any door, like a wizard. And he spoke the language of the blue creature, which was a very pretty language, almost like whistling. Sherlock had decided after the dissection, he would ask his alien to teach him that.
But then he had forgotten about that plan, because the alien man had motioned him to move closer to the creature.
“Go on, you can touch her. She says you smell nice and she likes you.”
“Very nice creatures the tyoetfae. Their fur is one of the softest things in the universe, but they only let a few people touch it. People they trust. And she trusts me of course, and since you've helped me find her, she trusts you as well now. So go on, touch her. Gently, yeah, that's it. Good boy!”
It had been very soft.
And whenever Sherlock later thought again about this, about whether this was real or not, it was always the memory of that moment that decided it. Nothing could ever be so soft. It had felt like touching the first warm ray of sun of a beautiful Spring morning. Or so he would have thought, had he been of a more lyrical nature.
“That's it, you're doing just fine,” his alien had said. “She likes you a lot. She says you're very delicate, very good at this. Oh, she wants to know your name.”
“Sh'lock,” he had mumbled, too impressed by the surreal softness of the fur to speak properly.
“Nice name. I'm the Doctor. And I'm really sorry, because clearly the two of you are having some sort of a moment, but I'll need to take her back to her family.”
“Well, they miss her. She got lost, you see, but it's time for her to go back. But don't worry, if you want, I'll make sure you see her again. Would you like that? Meeting her family?”
Sherlock had nodded eagerly.
“Well, that's a deal then,” the Doctor had said with a smile. “Now, just wait here for a bit, I'll take her back, ask them if they mind meeting you -and they won't, awfully nice creatures they are- and then you'll see them all. The adults are much more colourful, you'll see! And I'll show you the Tardis, you'll love it. It's my ship. It's the best ship you've ever seen. Looks like just a... well, let's say a blue wooden box. But it's so much more and oh, you're going to love it.”
Sherlock has just smiled his biggest smile. He was going to meet even more aliens. That was the best day ever.
He had watched as the Doctor and the blue creature had left. And he had waited.
Until Mycroft found him, and scolded him for running away that way. Sherlock, of course, had tried to explain what had happened, the wonderful things he'd seen and done, and how he had found an alien and was soon going to meet even more of them, but his brother had just rolled his eyes.
“That's it, I'm telling mummy that you shouldn't read all those terrible novels. Aliens aren't real, Sherlock. Don't you think if they were, we wouldn't know?”
“You wouldn't. Aliens only like nice people.”
Mycroft had refused to dignified such a petty insult with an answer. He had just grabbed Sherlock's hand, and taken him away. The younger boy had fought back, kicked, screamed, bitten him even, to no avail. Mycroft was taller, bigger, stronger than him.
Once they had been home, Sherlock had tried once again to explain what had happened, but no one believed him. At first they had said he was cute. Then that he had played for long enough. By the end of the day, they were calling him a liar, and had taken away all his novels about pirates and aliens and “all such nonsense” as his father had called it. Sherlock had been bitter and disappointed at first, but with time, he had forgotten about it. Everything logical and sensible he had read afterward had told him aliens weren't real, that only the weak of minds and the superstitious could believe in them.
The Doctor, miss Barrowman had said.
An alien, she had said.
Hundreds of years old, and powerful, terrifying, she had said.
Also the kindest person one could ever meet, she had said.
Travels in a blue box that's bigger on the inside, she had said.
And miss Noble had given him a picture of him, several pictures of him in fact, from different moments of his timeline, and she had shown them to Sherlock, and there was no mistake possible.
The most recent one looked exactly like his alien had.
not sure this is the best place to put this chapter, really, but that was the only thing I could actually write at the moment, so there you go.