Ctrl + R worked perfectly for refreshing the page, but did nothing for his bank balance, which remained stubbornly stuck at ‘overdrawn – deposit required’.
This was not good.
When they’d first moved in together he’d assured Sherlock that he’d be able to meet the rent every month and all had been well for long enough, what with all those back-to-back cases of maternity leave at the surgery. Long enough for both John and his bank account to get all-too used to it. But the trouble with maternity leave was that it was just leave. Eventually the all the new mums returned to work and the locum lost his hold on the place that had never really been his to begin with.
He’d be sorry to leave the surgery. Not just because of the failed romance with Sarah that had evolved into a valued friendship, but because – bless her – she’d actually come to understand the other side of John’s working life. The side that involved him legging it across London in Sherlock’s wake at all times of the day and night, turning up for work with an injury for her to sort out before he was decent enough to face his own patients, and more often than not his being found fast asleep on an examination bed by the end of his shift.
There weren’t going to be many other overworked, underpaid practice managers prepared to put up with that sort of behavior from a freelancer. But there was no way now that John could give up his role as the world’s only assistant consulting detective, or whatever it was that Sherlock had made him into.
He could talk to the agency about sessional GP work, that might fit in with things more easily, but he still needed to find additional income from somewhere until he got sorted, what with the bills, the council tax, food, transport, and all that on top of the blasted rent.
He couldn’t let Sherlock down, and certainly not Mrs Hudson.
If only he could find something online, if only someone would email him with an offer of the perfect flexible, part-time job opportunity…
Ctrl + R
Ctrl + R
Ctrl + R
Sherlock flounced his very best flounce onto the sofa, all arrogant huff and indignant dressing gown, sending John’s carefully stacked pile of magazines flying everywhere.
It was his own fault, of course.
Not that he’d ever admit it.
Certainly not to Mycroft.
Though he might have to bend the truth somewhat to John…
After all, when they’d first moved in together he’d assured John that he’d be able to meet the rent each month. And to be brutally honest he could, with the what-Mycroft-described-as ‘more than generous’ and what-Sherlock-sneered-at-as ‘overtly miserly’ payment from his trust fund that his dear brother deigned to deposit into his bank account every first of the month.
But then there had been The Case of the Louis Morizot Père bow.
74.4cm, 58.3g of brilliantly balanced, perfectly sprung, shimmering silver and pernambuco elegance.
The rent or the bow?
The bow or the rent?
There was never any question, only ever an answer.
Sherlock, Sherlock’s Stradivarius, and the Louis Morizot Père bow were made to be together.
However now there really was a question, the one about the rent…
He’d never admit to Mycroft what he’d done, and there was no point anyway because then there’d be considerably less rather than more of his trust fund winging its way into Lloyds Bank as a result.
But he couldn’t let John down, and certainly not Mrs Hudson.
At this rate he was going to have to start taking money for cases.
He swore and fired a folded-finger gun at the pock-marked smiley face, John’s still-unframed print of whatever it was, and Victor’s annoyingly bony grin into the bargain.
If only he could get paid for loafing. He could make quite a second career out of loafing, if put to it. Body at rest, but brain firing on all cylinders. Perfect. The flaw in the plan was that nobody got paid good money for sitting around doing nothing all day.
Sherlock swore again and with nothing better to do grabbed the latest copy of the Marylebone Journal, which didn’t even have a jobs page, let alone a section devoted to Loafers Wanted…
The Pearl: a treasure chest for women of all ages.
Though really, she thought, it was for women of a certain age. A certain age that she had now attained, and was intending to remain at for the foreseeable future.
Gentle entertainment for the discerning middle-aged lady might be a more accurate description.
She was glad that The Pearl was still published and that it retained its familiar traditional style. So many other women’s magazines had traded in sewing and stories for sex, scandal, and celebrities. The Pearl was Mrs Hudson’s fortnightly oasis of peace and tranquility. Goodness only knew, she certainly didn’t need any more shocking excitement than she already got with Sherlock and John as her lodgers!
‘You seem to be in a lot more than you used to be, John. Is everything all right at the surgery?’
‘I’m not at the surgery anymore. I’m doing half-day session work through the agency. Told you that ages ago.’
‘Did you? Was I here at the time?’
“Here, yes. Hearing, obviously not. I’m not the one who holds conversations with his flat-mate when he’s not actually at home. The shifts fit in better with the sleuthing, or whatever it is we do. I did tell you… Never mind. Though talking of who’s in and who’s not, you’re out and about rather a lot of late. Something you want to tell me?’
‘Yes I’m out. No I don’t want to tell you. Stop worrying, it’s not a case. There’s no new chapter in the great game that I’m keeping you in the dark about.’
‘Not worrying, but it’s nice to know.’
‘Couldn’t do without my blogger, could I?’
‘Hope I’m more than just a pretty blog…’
‘Your basic web design leaves a great deal to be desired, but we shall have to leave that discussion for another time. Got to go. And no, I said it wasn’t a case and it’s not, so go back to whatever it is your poor over-worked forefingers are wearing themselves down to bloodied stumps upon this time and forget all about it.’
Sometimes he wondered if someone out there was making it all up. Employed to invent the questions he was employed to answer. But then again, there had been more than a few weird and wonderful complaints that had come through his various surgery doors over the years, so this was really no different in that respect. You just had to separate the wheat from the chaff.
There really could be someone out there who truly believed they were about to die from the violent and stinking flatulence brought on by an over-indulgence in Jerusalem Artichokes. No point in working on that one though. The problem would have solved itself day ago. Blown away on the wind.
John sniggered to himself, yawned, and ran a hand through his still sleep-spiked hair.
He couldn’t really complain, sat here at he was at a sunlit table in his t-shirt and boxers, with a pot of fresh coffee and half a packet of Abernethy biscuits before him. Money for old rope, as his granny would have said.
John wasn’t too sure about the name he had been asked to assume, mind you. But then again, nobody was ever going to know the truth. It wasn’t as if he’d had to go the whole hog and actually dress up. Not like Sherlock with that grumpy bearded old sailor who’d scared the living daylights out of him the other week. Though come to think of it, a grumpy bearded old sailor really was absolutely the last thing called for in the present situation.
Time for the good doctor to get back to work.
He yawned again, scratched his balls, and set about solving a mysterious intermittent rash accompanied by profuse nocturnal sweating.
That one, fourth from the left, Jonathan, the one working so enthusiastically on so ill-advisedly huge a project: he had a false leg.
Not that he’d said as much and nor had anyone else noticed, but Sherlock knew. The pathological gait was a dead giveaway. And of all things, the leg had been bitten off by a crocodile in India. Again, not that fourth-from-the-left Jonathan had ventured that information, but one only had to observe in order to know.
There was the way Jonathan had struck up an easy and almost immediate friendship with Messrs One, Two and Three on the left, a trio of gravely reserved Sikh gentlemen; the fact that he possessed the sallow complexion of one who had long resided in the sub-continent; and the clincher was the way he always shuddered and averted his eyes when forced to pass the large ceramic alligator (or the crockery croc, as Sherlock had come to think of it) which took up much of the right hand side of the room.
Thank goodness that he could still move his own eyes. Even Sherlock required some occasional mild distraction from the position he found himself in. A few moments spent analysing those around him was ideal brief relaxation for his brain in between its being subjected to whatever thought experiments Sherlock had decided upon for that particular session.
And not only that, but he was being paid for it!
It wasn’t so much annoying as puzzling.
The very thing she’d been down the road to buy and now here was one sitting on her own doormat when she got home again. She hadn’t even realized that you could get it through the post. Well, you live and learn.
Not addressed to her, though. Addressed, in fact, to the last person she would ever have expected. Well, perhaps not the very last person. Maybe the last-but-one, given who also lived in the house.
There was a letter for her too, which somewhat made up for the mystery. Now whose handwriting was that? Very smart, as was the envelope. Familiar, but not someone she’d heard from in a while…
The name was on the tip of her tongue…
Who could it be?
Oh yes! Of course!
‘Yoo hoo! Only me!’
Mrs Hudson let herself into the upstairs living room to find John hard at work at his computer, as he so often was these days. Sherlock was there too, which made a change.
‘Don’t mind me, boys, I just popped up for a moment with your post and to ask whether I might…’
‘Whether you might request that we supply you with the usual cheque drawn upon my current account in payment of the advance rental due from both myself and Doctor John Watson for the forthcoming merry merry month of May!’
Sherlock flourished his fountain pen, tore cheque from chequebook and thrust it at his landlady with a magnificently dramatic sweep of the arm.
‘Dear God help us,’ John muttered. ‘Larry Oliver lives and breathes.’
Mrs Hudson sank down into John’s favourite armchair, clutching the Union Flag cushion, cheque, and as yet undelivered post in her lap.
‘No, not that, though thank you boys of course, but really, what I came up to ask, well to ask Dr Watson, John, actually, because it’s his subscription and it’s all rather cheeky I know, but it does seem so silly for two of us to be buying it and I really don’t mind going halves, if that suits you, but if you’d rather not then I quite understand, I mean it’s not the sort of thing that some men would be into at all, but then again, well, when you’re, you know, sort of married...’
John’s eyes had been growing wider and wider throughout the labyrinthine twists of Mrs Hudson’s shpiel, but at the mention of sort of married he held up a firm hand in protest.
‘Mrs H. First and foremost Sherlock and I are not a couple! Understood? Never have been, never will be. I’m straight, quite straight, though I must admit I’ve never quite worked out what he is. Now, secondly, and just as importantly, what on earth are you on about?’
Mrs Hudson took a deep breath, wriggled in her seat and produced a sealed postal bag, which she lobbed onto the table.
‘The Pearl, of course! Here’s yours, which postie delivered while I was out buying my own, so it occurred to me that it was silly us both buying it when we all need to save the pennies these days, so why don’t we just go halves on one copy between us? It makes economical sense. I think. Doesn’t it?’
She glanced at the two of them in turn, suddenly slightly nervous about her proposition.
John’s gulp was possibly the most audible Sherlock had ever heard.
‘The Pearl?’ he enquired, unable to repress his sarcastic amusement. 'A treasure chest for women of all ages? John… Is there something you’d like to tell me?’
‘Shut up, Sherlock. Just… Shut up. Please.’
‘Oh yes! The Pearl! It’s been going for years, never changes, thank goodness, well not much anyway. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Toby Sherman, he’s my favourite. He writes the animals and pets column. Such a lovely young man.’
‘Mrs Hudson, please… Would you… Please…’
‘I’m not so sure about this new doctor though. Mary Morsten. She looks nice enough in her photograph, all sweet and blonde and simpering, but some of her answers… She wasn’t at all helpful when I wrote in asking about my strange rash and the way I’ve been waking up all perspiring in the mornings. Said it was the menopause! Really! The menopause! At my age! Of all things…’
By this time John had his head in his hands and was groaning, whilst Sherlock’s grin grew wider and wider.
‘Are you sure there isn’t something you wish to tell me, John? Or should I say Mar…’
‘Oh! And there was something else! Of course there was something else!’
Mrs Hudson’s runaway train of thought had veered from The Pearl and lurched on to her other piece of post. John heaved a massive sigh of relief.
‘I’ve received an invitation to an exhibition. An art exhibition. It’s from the late Mr Hudson’s late cousin Cecil’s wife. She’s not late though I don’t have much to do with her, but she does invite me to these exhibitions that she organises. She’s an art tutor you see, teaches life classes - you know, nude models - and every year her students hold a show of the work they’ve done. I tend to go because, well, you know, it’s family, of a sort, though after last year I swore I was never going again. Horrible it was! Tonga, a celebration of an Andaman aborigine it was called. But what they’d done to him! Every single portrait had him all ugly and squished up and…’
‘My dear Mrs Hudson! If you would only be so kind as to…’
‘…but this year it sounds oooh! So much better. Look! Mordecai, a celebration of the classical male nude. I thought that sounded right up your street. It’s a plus one, so I can take one of you along on this ticket and I’m sure Mrs Forrester will be happy to let us have another so you can both come. In fact we could take Mrs Turner along too, to make a foursome. I’m sure she’d love it!’
‘I’m quite sure she would but you two must go alone because unfortunately both John and myself will be unable to…’
John had been examining the flier with rapidly increasing interest throughout Mrs H’s latest verbal onslaught, and now it was he that refused to let the matter lie.
‘No reason to bother Mrs Forrester at all, none at all, because Sherlock here already has his own plus one invitation, don’t you Sherlock?’
You could hear the gritting of Sherlock’s teeth.
‘In fact, Mrs H, I think you’ll discover exactly why Victor already had an invitation stashed safely beneath him if you look closely enough at the promotional image, or should I say observe – that’s the term you prefer, isn’t it Sherlock? Or should I call you Mor...’
Mrs Hudson peered inquisitively.
‘Oh dear, I haven’t got my glasses, I can’t quite see… Oooh! Sherlock!’
‘I could call you Mary more often if you’d like…’
‘Shut it. I didn’t want to be Mary, I just wanted the job. Needed the money until I got some agency work under my belt. Had to be something that fitted in with us disappearing off chasing criminals any time of the day or night. Couldn’t find anything suitable anywhere, then the editor emailed me out of the blue, said she’d read my blog and liked my style, wondered if as I was a qualified doctor I could write a column, and so…’
‘And so Doctor John Watson became Doctor Mary Morsten, the new jewel in The Pearl’s box of treasures.’
‘Go on, laugh all you like. At least it paid the rent. And if you don’t watch it I’ll start calling you Mordecai.’
‘At least I found my job advertised in an upmarket journal for local residents, not pinged at me out of cyberspace from the brains behind Blue-rinse Fortnightly. And I got to choose my own pseudonym. Didn’t want any fifth rate amateur daubings associated with the fine physical form of Sherlock Holmes.’
‘To use your own words, Dr Watson, shut it!’
‘Pax. And neither of us ever mentions Mary or Mordecai ever again. Agreed?’
‘I think that might prove to be rather difficult…’
‘Ah yes. Indeed. After all, Mrs H is expecting to share your subscription to The Pearl, which was of course the free copy you received as a contributor, so now you’re going to have to keep buying it for her and put up with all the sweet little comments about being sort of married.’
‘I’m sure I can get out of that one somehow. But I wasn’t really thinking of that at all…’
‘No. What I was thinking of was Mrs H’s latest investment in the world of contemporary art.’
‘Oh good God! You don’t mean… No! She can’t have!’
‘Oh yes she can, and I’m afraid that she has. And it’s going in the hallway. You’ll see it every day, every time you go up or down the stairs. All five foot by three of it. Paid for with our rent money…
‘Mordecai rampant by Jonathan Small!’