The noise woke Josephine Watson before the pain registered in her brain. She opened her honey colored eyes and blinked back remnants of unshed tears, recognizing what was now an every morning routine. A quick look around informed her she was in her room, sprawled on the floor, sheets tangled with her limbs. She had fallen from bed again, like a schoolgirl.
Untangling the sheets and throwing them on the bed again, she stood up and made her way to the bathroom. She tried her best not to stare at the closed door in the hallway when she passed it just as she tried to ignore the faint pain on her knee. Inside the bathroom, she looked at her face in the mirror. Her hair was exactly what it should be; the sandy blonde strands reached her chin in a very bed headed way, and her bangs pointed everywhere. The rest of the image didn't look so normal, even though it wasn't anywhere different from what she saw everyday for the past year.
Josephine barely noticed the tiredness of her features before stepping in the shower, the running water finally washing away the remnants of the nightmare that got her on the ground once again.
Just as she was entering the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea, her phone vibrated on the kitchen table where she left it the night before. Cursing in a whisper, she picked it up.
“Hi, Harry. What is it?” She absolutely hated it when her brother called like that, the first thing in the morning. It was never good news.
“Mother wants you to come back home, Josephine.” She flinched. Her brother never used her name like that. Tapping her fingers carelessly on the kitchen table, she breathed in.
“I am at home, Harold. I have a home, I have a job, and I have better things to do than to listen to your ramblings in the morning, thank you very much.”
“Oi, Jojo! Don't be difficult… It's just that we've been reading your blog and-” Josephine grunted and cut him off.
“Don't go there, Harry, please. I'm fine. I like to blog my cases, that's all. And now I have to go to the hospital, if you don't mind.” She heard Harry breathe out on the other side, defeated.
“She's not coming back, Jojo. Please, you know, everybody knows she's dead, so just come back home. It's been a year!” He sounded exasperated, and Josephine knew he had nothing but best intentions. It was just that… She couldn't leave. She couldn't live somewhere else and not look at the punctured smiley face on the living room wall, or the burn stains on the kitchen table, or the deep blue scarf still on the hanger behind the door. This was their world, and she would never give it up, no matter how foolish this might sound to everybody else.
“As I said… I'm home already. Leave it, Harry, that's all I ask from you. Oh, and please tell mum I love her, okay? Stop worrying about me. I'm fine.” And with that, she cut it.
With her teacup in hand, she fell to the couch. She knew Harry meant well, but oh, she hated those weekly calls so much. 221B Baker Street was her home now, and she wouldn't leave it no matter how much Harry and her mother told her to. And what was with people telling her she wasn't coming back? They didn't know her like Josephine did, they didn't know how much of an actress she was sometimes… And this past year was exactly that, wasn't it? An act… For whatever reason she had to jump off the hospital rooftop into the cold pavement, she wasn't dead. Josephine was absolutely sure about it. It didn't matter in the least the fact that there was a body in her grave. It wasn't her.
“Josie? Are you listening?”
Josephine looked away from the microscope for the first time in two hours and met Milo's face. He stood there staring at her with a quizzical look on his face; the light red hair looked like it'd been messed up during a thinking process. He was nice enough though, Josephine thought. Milo Hooper was always helpful and friendly towards her, even if she knew he was also worried about her sanity just like everybody else. He didn't express it all the time though, which made her insanely relieved. She smiled kindly at him.
“Oh, I'm sorry. I was a bit distracted with this… thing.” She pointed her head in the direction of the microscope. “What was that?”
“I asked if you wanted a cup of coffee. I was just heading upstairs to have a cup myself…” She noticed he was looking down at his hands, which seemed agitated. He seemed agitated, she thought.
“I'd like that, if you don't mind… I'd go with you but I really want to finish this.” Milo nodded and walked around the lab counter, finally reaching the doors.
“That's okay; I'll be back in a few minutes. Black, two sugars, right?” He asked as he was leaving, and Josephine froze. She looked at him, and he covered his mouth with his hand. “Oh, Josie, I'm so sorry! It was-“
“That's fine, Milo. Black with two sugars is fine.” She smiled faintly, trying to reassure him. There was that look again, the one people kept throwing at her. His eyes were flooded with concern, sick worried that she would break down from the calm life she'd built around the fact that her best friend and flat mate was dead.
Milo left the lab and closed the door behind him, leaving Josephine to her work. She was almost finished with the tissue analysis when her phone vibrated on the lab counter. She recognized the number as Lestrade's and opened it, thinking that if there was a new case going on, it might be a good thing to keep her mind at.
“Hi, Greg.” She greeted him while mindlessly writing down her findings on the tissue at the microscope. Reaching a period, she started doodling.
“Hi, Josephine… I was wondering if you could come by in maybe 2 hours.” She noticed he was fidgety; he sounded like he was hiding something, probably something big. Something about his voice sounded off.
“Yes, sure. I could go now, if that's okay… I've just finished my last analysis for the day.” He breathed out, and then she was sure something big was going on. She turned off the microscope lamp and put the sheets of paper together on the counter, the phone stuck between her ear and shoulder.
“That would be great.” He sounded relieved, and Josephine rushed for the door, almost knocking Milo down on her way out.
“I'll be there in 5 minutes.” She ended the call and tucked the phone inside her jean's back pocket. “Oh, I'm sorry, Milo. I've got a call. See you tomorrow!”
The words left her mouth in a hurry as she ran across the hall, leaving a very confused Milo holding her cup of coffee behind. She could feel it in her bones, there was something really big going on, and it wasn't just a case. She tried her best not to let her hopes up, but Lestrade's tone made it go mad inside of her, bubbling with the perspective of progress.
One minute later, she was in front of the hospital calling for a cab. Another minute and she was inside one, giving the cabbie precise instructions for him to lead them to her destination.
For the next 3 minutes, she let herself get lost in thought.
She'd been working hard with Lestrade in complete secrecy for the last 7 months to clean up her best friend's image. The last thing she'd left before jumping off that rooftop was that absurd of a suicide letter, and Josephine never bought a word of it. Her best friend just wasn't a fraud, just as she wasn't a sociopath or whatever other crap she'd said to avoid people and intimacy. And that's what she'd been working so hard to prove. They'd been looking for evidence and testimony on her behalf, everything to gather enough information to publish a first page article or maybe even a book—if she was being really optimistic—proving that her best friend and the best consulting detective in the world had actually been a good person. Still was a good person, she thought to herself. She wasn't dead, Josephine was positive about it. However, she wasn't as positive about her ever returning. Well, if she ever succeeded in cleaning up her best friend's name, it would be almost good enough for her. It was her project and the reason she woke up every day from those terrible nightmares involving blood and cold pavements.
The cab finally reached its destination, pulling Josephine out of her reverie. She jumped out of it and threw the cabbie a few notes from her wallet not even bothering to count them. The anticipation rushed in her bloodstream as she climbed the few steps to her destination. Less than a minute later, she was facing Lestrade's empty table and wondering where he was with whatever news he'd had for her.
“Third door to the left.” Sally Donovan's voice sounded right behind her, and Josephine turned to meet her disapproving expression. It wasn't a secret that she never liked the girls and absolutely did not approve of their involvement on the cases. She actually tried to warn Josephine when she first started working with the consulting detective, but Josephine never listened to her. And never regretted it.
“Thank you.” She said, rushing once again to the hallway with the closed doors. Counting three, she couldn't bring herself to knock and just opened it, closing it right behind her as she entered the room.
There, she met Lestrade sitting on the desk, blocking her view from the other person seated on the chair behind him. He looked… Nervous. More than that, actually. He looked fidgety yet cautious, like he was somehow afraid of her or what she'd say about the subject at hand. He eyed the door one more time, probably making sure it was indeed closed. Josephine huffed.
“Well…? What is it, Greg? Who's there?” She tried to sneak a peek behind him to see who was seated there, but he immediately changed his position to block her out. With both hands on her hips, she stared at him defeated.
“First of all, I think we've managed to gather enough information for the article. Also, with the right encouragement, we can make that Kris Riley tabloid journalist write it and rectify all of the damage.” Lestrade spluttered, his hands tangled in his lap. Josephine frowned, still not convinced.
“Right. And where exactly did this new flood of information come from? We had nothing of importance two mere weeks ago.” She buried her fingers in her sandy blonde hair, pushing the strands behind her ear. This, whatever this was, wasn't right. She wanted to make it right and believable, for her. It had to be big so people wouldn't dare to doubt it. They'd have one single shot at this, and Josephine didn't mind spending another 10 years just to make it accurate.
She saw Lestrade open his mouth to reply, but another voice interrupted his motion.
“Leave it, Lestrade. I might as well explain it since I'm here.” Lestrade nodded, giving an uncertain step to the side to finally show the identity of the third person in the room.
The white lights in the room ceiling turned in circles in front of Josephine's eyes as porcelain white skin, shoulder length dark curls and icy blue eyes came to view. Shelley Holmes was seated behind the desk with the littlest smile playing on her rosy lips.