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Arrhythmia

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Lazy Sunday mornings were something of a treasured rarity for John Watson. On the off chance he did get a calm, quiet moment to himself on this sacred day, he would allow himself an hour’s extra sleep, slowly enjoy his tea, and take pleasure in getting a chance to read the whole newspaper before Sherlock can take scissors to it and cut it to bits.

Another reason John’s Sunday morning was passing so peacefully: Sherlock was out. Molly had Sundays off, so Sherlock liked to abuse his privilege of owning a key to Bart’s morgue and collect body parts for his experiments. On that particular morning, with the smell of rain and the threat of a thunderstorm hanging in the atmosphere, he had set out to harvest samples of lung tissue in order to test the damaging effects of motor oil on human alveoli. When Sherlock had kissed him goodbye that morning, John had been half asleep but still able to see the poorly contained glee on the detective’s face at the prospect of more corpse components to carefully destroy.

So John lounges in his favorite armchair, sips contentedly at his earl grey, and leisurely flips through the Sunday news. There’s another picture of Sherlock that day. The photographer only managed to catch his coattails and a hand gloved in black leather covering his face. John smiles to himself and turns the page.

The tranquility of these early hours is broken when the doorbell rings. John slumps in his chair. He groans. It’s barely half-eight, and he’s only one quarter the way through his paper. The tea hasn’t even been given a chance to cool. Mrs. Hudson is out to breakfast with Mrs. Turner from next door, so it’s up to him to answer the door.

The early-morning caller rings the bell one more time. John sighs. “Coming!” he yells out, lifting himself out of the chair. He grumbles all the way down the stairs. It must have been a delivery or salesman; surely a client wouldn’t show up this early on a bloody Sunday.

“Hello,” he mumbles upon opening the door, plastering an annoyed smile on his face.

“Thank god!”

On his doorstep is a teenaged girl. A very small, very thin teenaged girl. The hood of a dark green zip-up sweatshirt obscures most of her face, but John can make out a pair of eyes rimmed in thick, colorful eye-makeup. The strap of a large shoulder bag lies slung over the front of her jacket. The American accent John hears throws him back a bit.

“I thought for sure I was gonna get stuck out here in the rain!” The hood is pulled back, and John’s mouth falls open at the wild mane of rainbow-colored hair that begins to whip about in the pre-storm wind. Honestly, he’s never seen anything like it. The girl’s curls have been dyed into sections of lemon yellow, sea foam green, hot pink, turquoise, and a faded lilac color.

“Um.” He licks his lips. “Okay.”

A hand with a ring on nearly all five fingers is thrust out to him.

“I’m Jemima,” she chirps.

John hesitantly takes her hand, giving a fleeting shake before dropping it. “I—“

“You must be Dr. Watson!” She grins, revealing a set of startlingly white teeth. They’re straight and perfectly shaped, like in a toothpaste commercial. “Is Sherlock Holmes, uh, home?”

Her accent is not only American, but heavily laden with the lazy drawl of the nation’s southernmost states. John’s inner eye suddenly barrages him with images of Spanish moss on plantation houses and sophisticated ladies in white, wide-brimmed hats.

“Not at the moment, no.” He shuffles nervously. “Can I help you?”

“Yes. I’ve got a case for him.” She laughs and her shoulders come up in a bashful shrug. “I e-mailed day before yesterday, but he didn’t reply. Normally I wouldn’t have come without making plans, but it’s very, very urgent, and I desperately help from the both of y’all.”

“Oh.” John looks down the sidewalk. No sign of Sherlock. A distant rumble of thunder goes off. “Well,” he says, glancing at his watch, “I suspect Sherlock will be back soon. You can come in and wait for him, if you like.”

“Yes please.”

John swings the door wider and she eagerly walks inside and out of the threat of being caught in a torrential downpour. She ascends the stairs without being prompted and stops at the doorway to 221B.

“Um, sorry about the mess,” John says, looking around at the perpetual clutter of his flat. A hand comes up to scratch at the back of his skull.

She laughs a little. “That’s okay.”

Before crossing the threshold of stairwell to sitting room, her eyes flicker across the walls and at each corner. John can see them drinking in the elk skull on the wall with its headphones and the spray-painted smiley face outlined in bullet holes. Her brows furrow.

“You can just sit down anywhere. Tea?” he offers, turning for the kitchen.

“Please. Green tea, if you got any.”

So John pours out the pot of cold earl grey and starts the kettle for green tea. He’s actually not fond of green tea at all, but it’s one of Sherlock’s favorites so they keep plenty on hand. While waiting for the water to boil, he peeks around the corner to check on the girl. She is quietly sitting in Sherlock’s chair. Her brown combat boots lie unlaced on the floor, and her legs are crossed underneath her. The green sweatshirt is draped over the chair’s arm, and John sees she’s wearing a white chiffon button-up blouse that’s too big for her. His ears turn a little pink when he realizes that he can practically see through it. The sleeves are rolled up to her elbows. She’s still curiously examining the sitting room, which, he has to agree, is littered with strange objects.

Soon enough, the kettle shrieks, and he pours one mug of pure green tea for his guest and brings it to her. She smiles and takes it from him with a polite “Thanks.”

John sits in the chair and crosses his legs, hands falling into his lap. “So,” he says, “Jemima is it?”

“Yes, sir. Jemima, or Mimi for short.” She blows on her tea. “Is that a real skull?”

John follows her line of sight to the skull perched on the mantle. He’d put a pair of sunglasses on it not too long ago as joke, and they hadn’t been removed as of yet. “Oh, that? Yes. Sherlock’s.”

“The sunglasses his too?”

He chuckles quietly. “Ha, no. Those are mine. Bit of a laugh, you know.”

“Mhmm.” She takes a long gulp of her tea and sets it down on the end table, atop a potholder turned into a makeshift coaster. John opens his mouth to ask her where she’s from, but she beats him to it with a question of her own.

“Is Sherlock Holmes really Mycroft Holmes’s brother?”

To John, that was a bit of an odd question. He thinks on it for a second before nodding. “Yes. He is.”

“Are they close?”

He blinks. “No. No, I wouldn’t say that.”

“Oh.”

“You seem eager to meet him.” John says this with a hint of suspicion. It wouldn’t be the first time some smitten teenage girl has shown up on their doorstep in an attempt to get at the great Sherlock Holmes. If that is the case, he’s prepared to bring this little meeting to an end.

“Just a little curious. I looked him up on the Internet and found your blog. I read some entries. He can really tell everything about somebody from just those tiny little details?”

The front door opens and shuts. John turns his head to the stairwell. Sherlock’s footsteps grow closer and closer until he bursts into the sitting room, pulling a plastic biohazard bag out from underneath his suit jacket. John cringes at the thought of decomposing human flesh that close to Dolce and Gabanna silk.

“Male, fifty-four years of age, sixteen stone, five feet 9 inches. Non-smoker,” he calls to John, striding into the kitchen. “Not the desired specimen, but the best I could come up with. Molly seems to be catching on. Who is in my chair?” The fridge opens and shuts, and John can only hope he put it in the crisper sectioned off for miscellaneous body parts.

“Client,” he replies.

Sherlock emerges from the kitchen, unbuttoning his suit jacket. Before John can say anything, the girl springs up from her chair and rushes to Sherlock, hand outstretched.

“Hello, Mr. Holmes,” she says, beaming. Sherlock’s hand is clasped in hers before he has time to resist. The metal tinkling of her multiple bracelets as she vigorously shakes his hand rings throughout the room. “I’m so pleased to meet you. I e-mailed a couple days ago, do you remember? I don’t think you replied.”

Sherlock pulls his hand from her grip, a slight curling overtaking his upper lip. The girl’s smile doesn’t falter, not even in the face of Sherlock’s condescending tone when he opens his mouth. “You can hardly expect me to remember an e-mail I might have not even read, much less replied to. Especially without even telling me your name.”

She giggles. “This is gonna sound a little silly, but, well, I read that you could, you know. Learn about people just by looking at them.” Her hands disappear into the pockets of her cut-off denim shorts. “I was kinda hoping you could do that now. With me.”

Sherlock regards her with an almost bored expression on his face. He gives her one long look up-and-down. His hands come up, fingers steepling under his chin as he thinks. Jemima places her hands on her hips and stands up straight, as if she’s putting herself on display. John smiles a little as he observes her. It’s been almost a week since Sherlock’s had a real case, which is partly the reason for the newly relocated lung in their refrigerator, as well as numerous other human tissues now taking up residence in their kitchen.

After nearly a minute, Sherlock’s spine snaps taught. His chin lifts up just an inch higher and he clasps his hand behind his back. “You,” he starts, eyes once again rolling over her small form, “Are seventeen years old.”

She lets out a pleased, surprised sound and claps her hands together once. “Oh, very good! Please, go on. Tell me how.”
John can feel Sherlock’s ego growing by the millisecond.

“Your plane ticket is sticking out of the outermost pocket of your bag by the chair. It reveals that you flew as an unaccompanied minor, which confirms you are under the age of eighteen. Although you look like you could be anywhere from thirteen years old on, the class ring on your third finger indicates you to be of the graduating class of 2012, this year, so I assumed you’ve skipped ahead in your schooling. Could have been fifteen or sixteen, but seventeen is the safer guess based on your choice in clothing and curvature development in your spine.”

She looks back at John in disbelief for a brief moment. He shrugs, a small proud smile hidden behind his hand. “He’s good.”

“It’s obvious from your accent that you are from the United States; Louisiana to be exact. Your accent is blatantly southern, but not, oh, what’s the word, twangy enough to be from Texas, and not inflected through the nose enough to be from Arkansas, Alabama or anywhere north of there. Too much of a French influence on your vowels to suggest Georgia. Now, as to where in Louisiana, I’d venture a guess and say New Orleans; the underground New Orleans designer Maison de Chic, known only to locals and sold exclusively in New Orleans, sewed your sweatshirt over there.

“You also come from money. Lots of money. The one-carat diamond in your class ring reveals that not only were you born in April, but also that you were born into a substantial fortune. Not to mention the designer that sells the brassier you’re wearing, which, might I add, you don’t need—“

“Sherlock!”

“—Normally sells pieces at about six hundred U.S. dollars. Your phone’s wallpaper picture is of your pet sulcata tortoise, Sammy, who, judging by his size, you’ve had for nearly ten years now. Now, despite the fact that I am incredibly observant and one hundred percent correct about everything I’ve just said, I cannot deduce syllables from your appearance alone. Do you have a name?”

A broad, dazzling grin stretches itself across her face. She crosses her arms and tilts her head. The look in her eyes is fond and impressed at the same time. Sherlock’s brow furrows at her expression, slightly confused.

“My name,” she says, accent clear and sweet as iced tea, “is Jemima Louise Thompson, Mr. Holmes, and I have recently been informed that I am your niece.”

John sees Sherlock’s eyes widen by the smallest fraction of an inch. He has been thrown a curve ball, and his mind is whirring at a million miles a minute to make sense of it. The sounds of gears whizzing nearly fills the air around the flat. John sighs, bringing his hands up to cover his eyes.

So much for his quiet Sunday afternoon.