Irene Adler (current alias Ann Brie, American passport, hair dyed pale blonde, which was not at all her colour) saw the headline in a cafe in Thailand that catered to expatriates. Someone had left their copy of The Guardian behind, and the headline caught her eye: Reichenbach Hero Exposed as Fraud.
She snuck into one of the gaming centres and used a proxy to find the article, and then went to John's blog.
He was my best friend and I'll always believe in him.
She did not cry.
She'd died twice, after all. She might allow Sherlock one.
Still, she had to be sure. In London (alias Jane Albright, hair curled tight and black as coal, dressed like a fashion victim from the early nineties), she caught sight of John Watson and realized at once that if Sherlock wasn't dead, the good doctor was utterly unaware.
His limp was difficult to watch.
Mycroft was far too dangerous to seek out. Detective Inspector Lestrade was older, paler, haggard. The landlady -- Hudson, that had been the name -- was much the same. Oh Sherlock, she thought to yourself. If you aren't really dead, you've made a bloody hash of it.
There had been a Christmas party; Watson, Hudson, Lestrade, someone else. A woman.
Molly Hooper dressed like the kind of woman who kept a herd of cats around for companionship, but she actually lived with only one, a lovely orange tabby whose collar tag read Spilsbury. Irene scratched the cat under its chin while she waited for Molly to come back to her flat. (Outside observation had been inconclusive, and Irene hated unanswered questions.)
Molly's eyes went wide when she saw Irene. "Don't," Irene said, as Molly's eyes darted around the room for a weapon. "I'm just here to chat."
"About what?" Molly asked warily.
"A mutual friend," she said, and added quickly when she saw the panic in Molly's eyes, "Sherlock."
"Oh," she said. Irene watched as Molly's face filled with a different kind of fear.
"So he is alive," Irene said.
"No!" Molly said hurriedly, but it was already done. Irene almost felt bad about it, but really, to die and not tell her? Damned rude of the man.
"It's all right, darling," Irene said. "I died myself, you know. Twice."
Molly really was quite pretty underneath the ridiculously juvenile cardigans. Her smile was pretty, too. "I can't really say, you know," she said, suddenly shy.
"Of course not."
"You're Irene Adler," she said. "Aren't you?"
"Come closer and find out," Irene answered.