Sophie is seven years old when she decides to become a veterinarian.
Mr John always lets her play Doctor with Gladstone.
When she was really little he would bring out his Stethoscope and let her listen to Gladstone’s heartbeat. He would give her gauze strips to wrap around the dog’s tail and paws, helping her to tie the bow. Sophie wished he’d let her use plasters, but Mr John said they pulled on Gladstone’s fur, so she put the plasters on herself instead.
But now she’s a big girl and Mr John has shown her how to use the Stethoscope herself. How to warm it in her hand first. Where to press it against Gladstone’s side and chest. He shows her how to use the Otoscope and Ophthalmoscope. Sophie asks about broken bones and bites from other animals. Mr John shows her the proper way to clean and bandage Gladstone’s imaginary hurts.
Mr Sherlock leaves books on the coffee table, or with Mrs Hudson, or through the post slot for Sophie. Medical texts, Veterinary Science texts, Anatomy texts. Lots of pictures and drawings (Mr John calls them Diagrams). Sophie can’t get enough of them. It’s all brilliant and creepy at the same time!
She’s looking at one right now. Sitting in the vet’s surgery with Gladstone and Mr John. Gladstone is sick. Well, actually he’s Extremely Ill and it’s Mr Sherlock’s fault. He’s in the seat between Sophie and Mr John, his big head on Mr John’s lap. Sophie pets his tail and turns the page in her book. Then Gladstone whimpers and Sophie puts her book in her rucksack because it’s hard to read and snuggle with the sick dog. And snuggling with Gladstone is more important. “ So, Gladstone ate what?”
“ I’m not entirely sure, Sophie. That’s why we’re here.” Mr John is rubbing Gladstone behind his ear. He smiles at Sophie, just a bit. Then he looks worried again. And a bit angry. “ Hopefully nothing too hazardous.”
Mr John’s coat pocket vibrates again. It’s been doing that a lot since they left Baker Street.
Sophie watches Mr John pull the mobile from his pocket and frown at it. He very slowly types a reply and locks the screen and puts it back in his pocket. He’s pressing his lips into a tight line. Sophie carefully rubs Gladstone’s belly. The lady next to her has a black cat in a carrier, hissing and coughing. Sophie scoots away and puts her rucksack between her and the lady with the hacking cat.
Mr John’s mobile vibrates again.
He jerks it out of his pocket and unlocks the screen. Sophie chews on her lower lip as she watches. She wonders if she should tell Mr John that he’ll break the screen if he types that hard. She opens her mouth, but his mobile buzzes while it’s still in his hand, while he’s typing, and that makes Mr John really really brassed off. Sophie raises both eyebrows, shocked at the sight of Mr John silencing his mobile. She’s never known anyone to turn off ALL alerts. That’s like... turning your mobile OFF! Sophie frowns, but figures Mr John is old and knows lots of stuff so maybe he can still tell when someone is texting him even without an alert.
He shoves it in his pocket and gently pets Gladstone’s head, mumbling. “ That kitchen had better be completely sanitized by the time we get back or I’m going to kill him” Gladstone ruffs pitifully.
Sophie hasn’t seen Mr John and Mr Sherlock’s kitchen in a couple of weeks. It wasn’t very tidy then. She doesn’t want to ask how it looked this morning before leaving for the vet’s office. “ Are you and Mr Sherlock having a domestic?”
“ A bit, yes.”
“ Because Mr Sherlock left something Bad out and Gladstone ate it?”
“ Partly. “ Mr John sighs. “ But mostly because he’s texting me every ten bloody seconds whinging about my not being there to make his tea because I am busy fixing the problem he caused. As usual. ” He breathes heavily through his nose. Slides his hand under Gladstone’s collar to rub the dog’s thick neck.
“ Oh.” The front pocket of her baggy blue hoodie ( Da’s old uni name in white on the back, it’s her absolute favorite) begins singing the Batman theme.
Mr John chuckles. “ Haven’t heard that in a while. “
“ It’s Mr Sherlock.” Sophie frowns. “ It’s his ID alert.” She quickly sets her phone to vibrate.
“ Oh please play that for him when we get back to the flat.” Mr John grins at her. “ You didn’t set mine to the theme of Casualty, did you?”
“ No, that’s Mummy’s. She loves that show.” Sophie fumbles the mobile out of her hoodie. She unlocks the screen and reads the new text. “ It says to turn your mobile back on. Dimmock called with a case. ” She’s heard about Detective Inspector Dimmock and seen him once, at last year’s Christmas party at 221b. He was kissing Mummy under the mistletoe.
Mr John puckers his lips like he’s trying to drink through a straw and not doing a very good job of it. “ He can bugger off. No- wait! Don’t type that, Sophie! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. ”
“ ‘salright.” Sophie pulls a face and deletes the reply she was happily typing into her mobile. She’s heard worse on the telly, and from Mummy. She kinda remembers Da saying ‘ bugger all ’ a lot when he was grading student papers at night. The mobile buzzes in her hand. Mr Sherlock again. Sophie chews on her bottom lip before saying anything. “ He wants me to tell you to stop being a prat and meet him at the crime scene. Here’s the address. “ The lady next to her gives her a weird look. Sophie huddles closer to Gladstone and Mr John, holding the phone for Mr John to see.
“ Well, he can-” Mr John is a bit loud. He seems to realize this and talks quieter, leaning over Gladstone. Talking in her ear. “ Tell him to solve it himself. I’m busy saving our dog!” Sophie jerks her head up, suddenly much more afraid for the sick dog. Mr John shakes his head. “ No, I’m not saying that! Gladstone will be fine, sweetheart. I’m just... very angry with Sherlock right now. ” He pets her head, gently pulling her long ponytail. It reminds Sophie of how he soothes Gladstone.
“ Right.” Sophie nods and types in Mr John’s response. She sits for a moment, listening to all the little animal sounds and smelling the animal smells. Gladstone is very warm against her side, in her arms. “ And Mr Sherlock is angry because you aren’t with him?”
“ That’s the nice way to say it.” Mr John huffs, pulling a funny lopsided smile.
“ So if you didn’t have to bring Gladstone to the vet, then you and Mr Sherlock could’ve gone to the crime scene together?” Sophie tries to work it out in her head. Grown-up problems are hard to understand sometimes. They do very silly things and then don’t say how they really feel and everything gets all mucked up.
“ Basically, yes.”
“ Then I’ll learn all about being a veterinarian so I can fix Gladstone next time and you can stay with Mr Sherlock and stop having rows!” She grins brightly. She’s just solved the problem!
“ That really won’t... thank you, sweetheart, very much. ” Mr John has that look on his face like when Mr Sherlock opens the cab door for him or touches the back of his hand when they pass each other in the flat. Like he’s surprised, but happy about being surprised. “ But don’t feel bad if Sherlock and me still have our little domestics. It’s just a part of being... us , I suppose.” He laughs and tugs her ponytail.
Gladstone’s belly grumbles and he licks Sophie’s hand.
And Sophie’s mobile buzzes. She unlocks it and slowly reads through the text. “ Mr Sherlock says that I’m a clever, in-de-pen-dent girl and to leave me 20 quid for a cab ride home and come save him from Dimmock’s blatant idiocy.” Another buzz. “ He says ‘it’s so obvious, here look’.” Another buzz. A pic message this time. Sophie pulls her brows together. What could Mr Sherlock being sending a pic of from a crime scene?
Before it completely loads, Mr John snatches it from her hand. “ Christ, Sherlock!” He types much faster this time, holding the mobile close so Sophie can’t see it. “ Sophie, I’m going to delete the picture he sent and the text I am sending back because you absolutely do not need to see either one. Understand?” He seems even angrier than before. And Frustrated (Mummy says that a lot and it is Sophie’s favorite word now).
“ ‘Kay.” Sophie shrugs and pulls Gladstone completely into her lap so Mr John can use her mobile. She’s not curious about the picture or the text at all. She trusts Mr John. She trusts Mr Sherlock, as well, but Mrs Hudson has told her to always ask Mr John first before going along with Mr Sherlock’s plans. Something about a Lack of Parental Judgement.
Sophie is definitely certain that she needs to be a veterinarian now. So Mr Sherlock won’t have to send pictures of things that make Mr John angry because he has to delete them.
A nice looking girl in scrubs calls out a name. The lady with the hacking cat grabs the carrier and follows the girl in scrubs. Sophie remembers that the lady signed in just before Mr John did so they should be next. Oh! She’d gotten distracted and forgotten Mr John’s question. “ Superman .”
Mr John looks up from her mobile, confused. She’s not sure if he knows how to use it properly. It’s a bit newer than his own. “ What?”
“ Your ID alert, it’s the theme from Superman .” Sophie smiles and snuggles up with Gladstone. “ Me and Mummy watched the very first one over holidays. It’s even older than Mummy!” She still can’t believe they even had movies back then! “ And you’re nice and working at the surgery is kinda like Clark Kent working at the Daily Planet and after work you save people and catch the bad guys!”
Mr John is very quiet and for a moment Sophie wonders if she’s said something wrong. Certainly not the first time.
But Mr John finally smiles back and holds out her mobile. “ Thank you again, Sophie.” His eyes are kinda crinkly around the corners.
Sophie takes her mobile back. Mr John’s hand pets her head then slides down to pet Gladstone’s head.
Sophie’s mobile buzzes. She opens the text- no picture this time- and stares at the words, trying to make them make sense. Well, the message isn’t for her, so maybe Mr John will understand it better. “ It says... ‘ Such a dirty mouth John. Why won’t you talk that way in bed?’ ”
Sophie can’t really identify the noise Mr John makes.