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Three Johns Walk Into a Detective’s Office

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John called, "Sherlock, a hand with the door, here? My hands are full of groceries."

There was a pause, then the sound of footsteps. John gave up trying to kick the door open (a stack of papers was getting in his way) and waited.

When Sherlock finally made his way over and uncovered enough of the floor to get the door open, John said, "I give up on you making a mess of a the living room, I swear. Just try to at least leave the hallway open."

Ignoring this reasonable request, Sherlock said, "John, you were supposed to be here five minutes ago. See, it's on my calendar."

John frowned. "What do you mean? It's not like we have an appointment."

Sherlock mused, "Now why would we have an appointment? How peculiar."

Seeing the distracted look on Sherlock's face, John bolted for the kitchen. Past experience told him that look signaled Sherlock might have stumbled on something he found interesting, which probably meant that John had maybe five minutes to get everything perishable into the fridge before events spiraled out of control. John shoved aside a jar of insects and a finger-shaped package to get the eggs in, and closed the door.

Not a moment too soon. There was a loud knock on the door.

John poked his head out of the kitchen to see that Sherlock had gotten to the door first. Standing in the hallway was a young, dark-haired man. Peering up hopefully, he said, "Mrs. Hudson said I was to come straight up because I didn't look like a hitman or something like that."

Sherlock stared in blank incomprehension. "And you are?"

"John Doe. We have a three o' clock appointment?"

"I'll take your word for it. You can come in," Sherlock said ungraciously. He kicked aside a few papers and a dead komodo dragon.

Smiling politely, John Doe stepped into the room. His foot brushed against a book lying on the ground, and he commented, "Did you know there are only five hundred and sixty two copies of that book in existence? And you have on lying on the floor. An un-catalogued copy too."

"Excuse me, is this the right room?"

Another face appeared behind John Doe—a square jaw with a shaggy head of sandy brown hair.

"Amsterdam, John Amsterdam. Is there a reason why your landlady made me show identification before letting me up here, and wanted me to tell you that maybe the first one was a fake? Oh, and I'm here for my three o' clock."

"Then come in," Sherlock said, waving him inside.

From the bottom of the stairs, Mrs. Hudson called. "Oh dear, we have another one. One of them is probably a hitman in disguise—Sherlock, should I call the police?"

A voice protested, "No, it's not John, it's Johnny. Johnny Smith. And I'm not a hitman, I have an appointment." A scrawny clean-shaven blond poked his head up the stairs, waving frantically. "You remember me, don't you, Mr. Holmes? We talked on the phone."

"Three o' clock appointment?" John asked.

"Yes. You must be Mr. Watson. I've read your blog."

John turned to Sherlock, hands on his hips. "Sherlock, did you make an appointment with three people named John because you couldn't tell them apart?"

Sherlock said, "What, are they all named John? How coincidental."

"Mrs. Hudson, you can put down the phone. All of you, come inside."

XXX

After moving piles of junk off of three chairs, John Watson said, "I'm sorry about the inconvenience. We might need to ask you to come back later, Sherlock seems to have triple-booked."

Sherlock said, "Stop making a fuss about this, I'm sure I can take care of all of them quickly. Now that I've found my notes I think I remember which problems we were dealing with. We've got the detective dealing with the missing memory and enhanced brain power; the detective trying to break a spell by finding his true love; and the detective who sees disturbing visions. Can you blame me for getting them confused?"

John looked over Sherlock's shoulder at his notebook. "Sherlock, you had better not tell me that you find keeping people with the same name separate too much bother the way keeping track of the location of the sun relative to the earth was 'too much bother.' John is the most common name out there!" He looked over at Doe, Smith, and Amsterdam. "And why are all of you detectives with mysterious supernatural powers?"

The three John(ny)s looked miffed.

John added, "Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind. And I for one think that John is a great name."

The first John shot him a grin. "Thank you, I made it up myself."

"Well, you got here first, so why don't you begin."

"My name is John Doe, and I'm an amnesiac. I also have an enhanced memory, which doesn't make any sense, but-"

Sherlock cut him off, "Nonsense, it's very easy to diagnose. I'm fairly certain that your enhanced encyclopedic knowledge was a by-product of your near death experience. Hm, near death experience. If that could be replicated…go away, I need to take some notes."

John said with deep concern, "Sherlock, no experimenting with near death experiences!"

John number one exclaimed, "Wait a minute! I have more questions! When did I almost die? What is this mark on my chest? Why are people chasing after me?"

Sherlock said impatiently, "The scar is from a boating accident. I mean, look at that shape, what else could it be? That was probably when you almost died too. And following usual human behavioral patterns, I give it a seventy percent chance the nuts chasing you think you're the Messiah. The bad news is, people like you usually pick up a couple difference groups of nutcases, you'll want to be careful with them. Hire a bodyguard. Now give me a minute to find my notebook."

Eager to distract Sherlock from his plans to replicate dying (again) John turned to the next visitor. "I'm sure you have a problem to share as well, John number two."

The sandy haired John looked irked. "John number two?"

John winced. He couldn't believe he'd said that out loud—people would start to think Sherlock's manners were rubbing off on him. "Sorry, Mr.…Amsterdam…

"Yes, I'm trying to find someone. I have this picture here, taken off of a security camera." John number two leaned forward, holding out his picture.

Sherlock ignored the gesture. "I'm estimating…385 to 420 years old. Right century?"

John asked, "What are you talking about, that guy's shoes?"

"No, how old he is."

The sandy-haired man said coldly, "No point in asking how you knew that. That kind of knowledge is why I'm here. So let's get down to business. Have you also guessed what will reverse my condition?"

Sherlock blinked owlishly. "Native American curses are not admittedly my specially."

"I'm immortal until I find my true love."

Sherlock said, "That is terribly illogical."

"And immortality isn't?" John number one asked dryly.

John said, "To Sherlock, yes."

Sherlock pouted. "Why would you want to do that?"

"Find her? It would make me feel like I hadn't spent all of this time waiting for nothing."

"No, why wouldn't you want to be immortal? Everyone wants to be immortal. People pay lots of money to live longer even when odds of success are miniscule."

John number two said, "They should try it, see if they like it then."

Sherlock said, "If you plan to lose the immortality you're going to have to be careful. That mended rip in your shirt looks like a bullet hole, and not one you tried very hard to dodge judging from the angle of impact."

John number two smiled wanly. "Since you're so observant, any advice identifying whether someone is your true love?"

Sherlock said, "Love is 'a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties, or attraction based on sexual desire.' Truth is 'the state of being the case.' Putting the two together does not make sense."

John said, "I'm actually with Sherlock on this one. Look, you've been around for centuries, right? But you haven't met your true love yet?"

"Obviously not. Do I look dead to you?"

"But it doesn't make any sense to me for someone to cast a spell on you to find your true love when your true love hasn't been born yet. Maybe it's not that you haven't found your true love, it's just that you haven't fallen in love."

"Romantic, are you. May I ask how successful your own love life is? Because you don't look like a guy with a steady girlfriend."

John said, "Sure, laugh all you want. But after a few centuries I imagine you've had quite a few unsuccessful loves. And it was completely all their fault for not being your true love? Never occur to you that there was something wrong on your end? You want to fall in love, grow up. The only person who can decide whether your love is true or not or you. Deductive reasoning won't cut it, particularly if the reasoner is Sherlock."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Sherlock asked suspiciously.

"I was agreeing with you, Sherlock."

John number two said, "I'll settle for an address and work out the true love question myself."

Sherlock said, "Let me take a closer look at that photo. She's a trained doctor, judging by her skill in giving you chest compressions. Oh, and the course to true love never did run smooth—that's a very recent wedding band tan line."

John number two looked discouraged. "Might be worth a try anyway."

Sherlock said, "I have it narrowed down to three neighborhoods. Give me a call tomorrow and I can give you an address."

John said, "What do you plan to do with this address? We're not in the business of encouraging stalking, Sherlock."

John number two looked indignant. "I'm not a stalker."

Resolving to discuss this with Sherlock more later, John turned to other John number three. "I'm sure you have a problem too, John?"

"It's Johnny. Before you diagnose me, may I shake your hand?"

Looking curious, Sherlock offered his hand.

Johnny closed his eyes, and then released the hand. "Sherlock Holmes. Two days from now, watch out for the man in the black T-shirt with a bear on the front—he has a knife hidden in his left hand. You dodged but he gave you a scratch on the arm."

Sherlock said to John (Johnny), "It's obvious you've got psychometry, mixture of precognition and postcognition. Only the extreme stupidity of the people around you could have prevented them from diagnosing you shortly after you awoke from your coma. Next?"

"I think we're out of Johns," John said. "And didn't you tell Shawn Spencer that psychic abilities didn't exist?"

"That was there, this is here. Stop abusing the fourth wall, John."

"The wall?"

John number three cleared his throat. "Actually, I was here because I have a few questions congressional candidate Greg Stillson."

"I don't follow American politics."

With quiet intensity, John(ny) said, "Then give them a try. I have some very disturbing suspicions and I could use a second expert opinion."

Being called an expert was occasionally a way to get Sherlock's interest. "I'll do some research—and if it's interesting I'll take the case."

John number two looked annoyed, John number one almost amused.

"I see our cases have been regulated to the back burner," John Doe said with a smile.

John Amsterdam said, "Just give me the neighborhoods, I'll do the leg work myself."

John showed them to the door. "Before you leave, is there anything that you don't want me to post on my blog?"

The two Johns exchanged looks. "Everything, if you don't mind," John Doe said.

John sighed. "I thought as much. No one would believe me, anyway."