Chapter 1: Chapter One
She walked along the road, avoiding the puddles and trying to not break her heels or her ankles on the uneven cobblestones. The falling darkness didn't bother her, there was very little that she was afraid of, except for ending up alone, and even then, it more the knowledge that she would have to deal with letters from her father for the rest of her life, each asking when she was going to settle down and come home that bothered her.
Settle down maybe. Come home? Never.
The mist was rolling in, and she pulled her mink stole around her closer, her hand fingering the ivory handled pistol hidden inside it. Just because she wasn't afraid didn't mean she was foolish. Her eyes shifted, noting the numbers on the buildings she was passing. The road was deserted except for her, most people by now were at home or in the speakeasy, drinking "tea".
At last she saw the number, and she walked up the stairs and into the building. Her heels clattered as she climbed the stairs, her green eyes flicking around her warily. A short hallway, a frosted door. She paused, the light behind her.
S. Cooper, Phd, Phd, PI.
The man seated at the desk rolled his eyes towards the door again. "You might as well come in, I heard you coming up the stairs." He said crossly. "You've already disrupted me, you might as well do it properly."
Dames. Always the same. Indecisive. One moment they wanted to be your secretary, the next they wanted to be your wife. He shuddered in horror and sent a glance at his associate. He had solved that issue well enough, Hofstader was annoying and whiny but he kept notes suitably well and almost made tea correctly, perhaps soon he'd graduate to making cocoa. Hofstader was currently staring at the silhouette in the doorway with awe.
The blue eyes rolled again. "Hofstader, you're drooling like a neanderthal."
The gaping mouth snapped shut, and the door opened. The woman walked into the room, her chin held high, her blonde hair coiled on top of her head but falling down slightly.
Both men stared at her blankly.
Green eyes wavered between the two men, sitting behind matching desks, before making a decision. She stepped towards the desk with the more impressive chalkboard behind it, and smiled. "My name is Penelope. I lost something."
The blue eyes in front of her didn't blink. "I'm not in the business of finding things."
"Yes we are." Hofstader interrupted, standing up, holding out his hand. "I'm Dr. Leonard Hofstader, I'm an experimental physicist, and part time investigator."
The other man sighed. "You are an associate investigator and part time experimental physicist, and not very good at either."
The woman shook the hand offered and turned her eyes back to his. He stood, reluctantly. "Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Phd, PI."
He was tall, taller than most men, and thin like he didn't eat.
"And what kind of doctor are you?" She enquired.
"I'm a theoretical physicist. I solve the mysteries of the universe."
"Then why are you a Private Eye?"
He blinked at her. "Because I like to solve problems." He could hear the seconds ticking past, time wasted, he was so close to a breakthrough and it four minutes it would be time to go home, it was roast beef night...
She looked back over at Hofstader. "Do you have a gun?"
"No." He looked surprised. "I'm a physicist."
"I'm an actress, and I have a gun." She turned back to the tall man with the blue eyes. "Do YOU have a gun?"
"Of course." He said simply. "I'm from Texas. We get guns as christening gifts."
At last, she smiled. "Call me Penny. I'm from Omaha."
"Oh damn." He sighed, sitting back down with a graceful thump and a shake of his head. His roast beef would be cold. "What did you loose?"
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
The short man with glasses was smiling at her. "Forgive Sheldon, he's not a people person."
"People are idiots." The other shot back.
Penny raised her eyebrows. Watching these two argue was kind of fun. She froze. "I need a drink." She muttered suddenly. What she really needed, was a life, and an acting job. It'd been a while since the last one.
They both blinked at her.
"A drink? You'll have to be more specific than that. Oh, dear lord, you're not going to faint are you?" The tall one backed away in horror.
She wrinkled her nose at him. "Why would I faint? I don't faint. What's he talking about?" She glanced at the other one.
He winced, "Don't ask... Oh no.." His head sunk as the tall one launched into a diatribe on personal hygiene and the occurrence of flu and epidemics and the plague.
Penny listened with a puzzled look on her face. "Alrighty then." She gave them both a strange glance. Her friend had said this guy was the best, so... "Listen, I don't have a big job for you, I just broke up with this john, and he's refusing to give me some stuff that is mine, and I just want it back." She shrugged.
"My roast..." Moaned the tall one, in utter dismay.
"I have an idea." the short one declared. "Let's discuss this over dinner. That way you," he waved at Penny, "Can give us the details, and you," he glared at the tall man, "can eat your roast!"
"There's not enough for all of us." The other gasped.
"Oh please, there's enough for four of us."
"I AM hungry." Penny said. These two were crazy. Like looneytunes.
"I don't need a wife."The tall man glared at her. "Let's get that clear."
"Good." Penny smiled. "I don't want a husband."
"Really?" The short one seemed disappointed.
"Really." She replied firmly. "I just had this terrible breakup, and..."
The tall one stood up and grabbed his coat. "Fine, you may come. Let's go. But no crying."
The other scrambled for his coat and held open the door for her, and tried to talk to her all the way down the stairs and out into the mist, but she didn't really understand what he was saying, something about bowel movements? And then the tall one, who was actually really cute, in a twitchy, skinny, way, cut him off about the inappropriateness of his discussion topics when discussing dinner invitations, and she'd already accepted anyways, though he didn't know why she should, and they'd better hurry, and Penny quit listening altogether and instead focused on keeping up and paying attention to where they were going, in case she had to run away, her momma had always said don't trust people who don't speak plain English.
She hurried along, her nose wrinkling once in awhile. He was from Texas? He didn't sound like he was from Texas. Maybe he was from North Texas? She'd never met anyone from North Texas.
Suddenly they were going up the stairs of an older house, and she noted the number.
2311 Los Robles.
"You two live together?" She questioned.
They both answered. The tall one sighed again. "Yes we live in the same house, but no, we do not live 'together'." He made quotations with his fingers, shaking his head. "This is a boarding house run by Mrs. Gunderson. She lives on the first floor and provides meals which are mostly adequate, and she keeps a very clean kitchen."
"We live on the second floor." The short one declared.
"Oh?" Penny questioned again.
"Two rooms, a hallway, a shared living room and kitchenette, and a bathroom." The tall one recited with a drawl, and finally she heard a bit of Texas.
"It's a big second floor." The short one nodded.
"Oh please," the tall one snarled, "If I could afford it I'd have rented your room too and had the whole place to myself."
Penny grinned, and walked into the living area. There were some desks, and a sofa, an armchair. She went to sit down and suddenly there was a squawk.
"You can't sit there!"
Penny froze. "Why not?"
"Because that's where I sit." He exclaimed.
She blinked. "Ok. So where can I sit?"
"Anywhere you want, just not there." He gave her a strange look. "Or in my bedroom. People can't be in my bedroom." He added as an afterthought.
"Arn't you people?" She smiled at him as she shifted over a spot on the sofa.
He paused, and then glared at her. "OTHER people." He specified. "See what you've done Leonard?"
"Sheldon, I'm sure Penny was just teasing." Leonard sighed. "And dinner is here, so lets eat."
"It's probably already cold." Sheldon mourned. He took off his long overcoat and hung it on the coat hanger, and then his suit coat as well.
It was a strange suit, a mustard coloured plaid. He appeared to be wearing a long sleeved blue shirt underneath it, and as he rolled up the sleeves to help himself to the dinner waiting on the counter, she noticed he was wearing a yellow long sleeved shirt underneath that one.
Penny blinked. The man was obviously colour blind.
When the other hung up his over coat as well, she noticed that his suit was a plain brown, although there seemed to be something off about it. It looked like a smoking jacket, only made of something not quite so nice, and neither of them appeared to smoke.
She shrugged. She was an actress, she met all kinds. And she was definitely not too proud to turn down a free meal, and it did smell good. She stood up and removed her own over coat, and the stole, and hung them up, because the place was immaculate, and she didn't think tossing them on the couch would go over very well.
She turned around, and found both men in pause, staring at her. "What?"
"That's a really pretty dress." Leonard said sweetly.
Sheldon made a face. "You should hang the stole on TOP of your overcoat, or you'll crush the fur."
She raised an eyebrow. "It's not real fur, and it's got a gun in it."
"Well in that case, grab a plate." Sheldon shrugged and crossed to his seat with his plate, pausing only to turn on the radio.
He made no comment when she sat back down, beside him, with her plate, he was fully absorbed in the radio play that was broadcasting.
They ate in silence, except for Leonard's brief repeated attempts at conversation. When the show was over, their plates and cutlery on the tray set to be taken downstairs, Sheldon finally turned to her.
"So what did you loose?"
"Oh." She sat up straighter. "Don't you need a pencil and paper?" Her eyes darted between them. "Arn't you going to take notes?"
"I have an eidetic memory." Sheldon replied.
"What's that mean?" She frowned.
"It means I never forget anything."
Penny shrugged. "Well listen, I'm an actress, right? So I come to town, I get this awesome gig, only it's not really so awesome, because it doesn't pay very well, but the director is really cute, and we hit it off. He asks me to move in with him, and I know thats not quite the thing, single girl like myself, living with a man, but I really loved him. But it turns out, that he wasn't really that great, I got a few more acting jobs, and I bought some things, stocks, jewelry, shoes.." She paused, looking to see if they were paying attention. "Anyways, it turns out, this director, he's got a wife back in Wisconsin and she came to town."
"I KNOW!" Penny exclaimed. "So I left, right? Only I didn't realize, that I forgot some stuff, and when I went back, he was gone, and everything with him."
"Maybe he went back to Wisconsin." Sheldon said dryly.
"No." Penny shook her head. "His wife was there looking for him too. He's split."
"You don't think it was the mob?" Leonard asked in horror.
Penny gave him a look. "Why would it be the mob? If it was the mob, he'd be dead somewhere, and my stuff would still be in the flat."
"You still haven't said what we are going to be looking for." Sheldon reminded her.
"My stocks. My jewels. My shoes."
"He took your shoes?"
Penny shrugged. "He always liked my shoes. I have GREAT taste in shoes."
They all stared at her feet.
Sheldon raised an eyebrow. "Better taste in shoes than in men." He looked again. "How much did you pay for those?"
She told him. He looked shocked. "That's a lot to pay for just one colour!"
"But they're cute!"
"Great, well, we'll start tomorrow." Leonard smiled brightly.
Sheldon frowned. "I haven't said I'd take the job yet."
"We're taking the job Sheldon."
"In chapter two, paragraph three, clause four, of the associate employment agreement, it clearly states that I have final choice over which jobs we have, because I have two doctorates, the private investigator licence, and the guns. Not to mention I'm smarter than you."
"Fine." Leonard gritted his teeth. "Are we taking the job?"
"Of course, first thing in the morning, after I have my cup of tea, my bowl of oatmeal, and my eight o clock bathroom visit."
"You have more than one gun?" Penny interrupted, not particularly eager to hear about the bathroom visit, but she did like guns... Big guns...
"I'm from Texas." He repeated.
"Then why do you need Leonard?" She asked.
"Because I don't drive. Leonard drives."
"Are you always going to talk to me like I'm three years old?"
"Until you prove you are more intelligent than a three year old yes."
She stared off into space, thinking about the last few months. "Fair enough."
"Good." He stared at her. "You're showing more sense than Leonard already. I'm going to bed now, goodnight."
Penny stood up and went to get her coat.
"Wait Sheldon, shouldn't we escort Miss Penny to her home?" Leonard looked anxious.
"Don't worry about it." Penny buttoned her coat and wrapped her mink around her neck.
"No wait, I insist." Leonard reached for his coat. "Sheldon, didn't your mother teach you how to treat ladies properly?"
Sheldon looked back from the hallway. "Of course. But Penny isn't a lady, no offence, she's an actress, and my mother also said they're the spawn of the devil." He paused, and looked oddly happy. "On second thought, I believe I will accompany you home Penny, if nothing else, it will give my mother something new to pray about."
"It's really not necessary." Penny repeated herself. "I live right next door, I'm in Mrs. Vartebedlan's attic flat."
"Still." Sheldon grabbed his coat and pulled it on. "Why deprive my mother something to pray about?"
Penny raised an eyebrow. "Will she be praying for your soul or mine?"
Sheldon paused, and his smile grew bigger, till it kind of freaked her out. "Both. Oh happy day!"
AN: just to clarify, parts referring to Leonard by his last name are from Sheldon's POV, the other bits are from an observational POV. :)
The next morning, he dressed carefully, choosing a blue shirt, and then a green shirt, and a black and white suit, which he though looked quite dapper, indeed, Doppler, to be precise. His shoes were two toned, brown and black, and he chose his weapon carefully, a colt 45, because it would fit in the pocket of his overcoat. Who knows where he might end up today? He carefully added another handkerchief to the many carefully folded in his pocket already, who knew what germs he might have encounter.
When they had delivered the actress to her new digs next door, and she had discovered they planned to arrive the next morning at eight-thirty, she had handed them the address of her old abode, the address of the theatre in which her Director-ex had done business, and the names of his local haunts, and issued a strict order to not wake her before eleven AM, or she would cheerfully punch them both in the throat.
Hofstader had put it off as an idle threat, but he wasn't so sure. She WAS from Omaha. They would do some investigating before picking her up. Perhaps they would have the case settled by then, and then he could back to that fascinating problem of reconciling string theory to black holes. He was so near a breakthrough, he just knew it.
He entered the living room and pulled on his over coat, and his hat, it was drizzling, and a wet head meant consumption for sure, and he couldn't die yet, he was far too intelligent to die in such a common way. Not only that, but he had not yet created the dogapus.
"Are you sure we shouldn't go get Penny?" Hofstader sighed glumly.
Sighing, he glanced up at the ceiling before sending a withering glance at his short comrade. "You have fallen for her haven't you? I assure you, you have no chance with her."
"Oh yeah? And what makes you so sure of that?" Hofstader's chin was jutting out alarmingly.
"Did you not notice her shoes? Three inch heels, Hofstader, she towers over you."
"She could change her shoes."
He snorted. "Yes, and the world could spin the other way. But it doesn't, and she won't."
"You're jealous. You want her for yourself."
Oh dear, the whining was beginning. He pushed the hat down on his head more firmly and opened the door. "Don't be ridiculous Hofstader, what on earth would I do with her?"
The former residence was, indeed empty. They had even found the wife, camped out on the stairs, figuratively spitting nails she was so mad. Adeptly they had avoided her and made their search, asked a few questions of the neighbours and then let themselves out.
The neighbours were entirely useless, and knew nothing, other than the man was great hulking brute, and the woman (AKA Penny) had been known to use rodeo terminology in the most vulgar of ways at early hours of the morning.
"Yee-haw?" Leonard winced, "Really?"
"It's a common term used when one is riding a bucking beast and has a grip good enough to not fall off." Sheldon clarified.
"I know what it means." Leonard sighed.
Sheldon shook his head. "Yet another mark against you."
"That I know what it means?"
"She obviously prefers beasts to nice men, which counts you out."
"You think I'm nice?"
"No, but you can't be called a beast under any circumstances. I could squish you like a bug, and you outweigh me by twenty pounds."
"That's not true, Miss Winkle called me a magnificent beast." Leonard reminded him.
Sheldon shuddered. "Was she drunk and not wearing her spectacles?"
"Maybe. Well, yeah, but so what?"
Sheldon's eyes crossed and he pressed his fingers to his forehead resignedly. "Discussion is closed. If you wish, next we see our client, you may ask her if she thinks you beast material. I now require a drink."
"It's the prohibition." Leonard hissed. "And you don't drink."
"I said I needed a drink, not that I needed to drink it." Sheldon replied crossly. "That is the establishment which the director used to frequent, I believe we must enter and purchase libation in order to ask questions ascertaining the possible whereabouts of our clients shoes."
"Don't you mean her stocks and jewels?"
"That was implied, was it not?"
"And why can't you just speak plain English?"
"I speak impeccable English." Sheldon paused. "If I require a language I don't speak well, I use Wolowitz, you know that."
"Speaking of Wolowitz, tonight is card night with him and Raj." Leonard said as the entered the club.
"Do you think we should bring Penny?"
Sheldon sat a stool and stared at the man tending the bar which was not a bar but which used to be a bar and would probably be a bar again in the future, and in the meantime sold it's liquor in coffee mugs. The man raised an eyebrow and Sheldon laid his palm down on the counter, a folded dollar beneath it. "Hit me."
There was a nod, and a mug landed in front of him...
At eleven o'clock, Penny opened the door. "Were you going to knock forever?" She asked.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Sheldon replied.
Leonard shook his head. "He always does that. Three of three."
"Sounds like the way I drink shots." She appraised them before letting them in. "Did you find them?"
"Find which?" Sheldon was staring around him in horror. "A cacophony of clutter? Yes, right here!" He started picking up papers and stacking them obsessively.
"We got a few leads." Leonard nodded vaguely, his eyes intent on her. "Would you say I'm beastly?"
"Don't be silly," she waved at him in annoyance. "You're a doll. Now what is HE doing?"
"Organizing!" Leonard sighed.
"You beast." She threw a pillow at Sheldon, hitting him square in the back.
He turned around and pulled out his gun. "Excuse me?"
She grabbed hers off the sideboard and pointed it at him.
"Oh no. No, no, no, this isn't good." Leonard moaned.
But Sheldon wasn't looking at him, or at her, though he noted from his peripheral vision that she obviously knew how to handle a weapon. If it weren't for her obvious lack of organizational skills, he might have replaced Hofstader with her, she'd probably be more useful.
Leonard felt something hit the back of his neck, and then everything went black. Dimly he heard two shots ring out, and some swearing.
"Dammit woman!" Sheldon swore. "What are you aiming at ME for!"
"I wasn't aiming at you!"
"The hole in the wall three inches to the left of my head begs to differ ma'am!"
"If I'd wanted to hit you, it would be three inches to the right, and directly in the centre of your forehead!"
There was a snort. "Is he awake yet?"
Leonard felt a cool cloth on his forehead and he opened his eyes, staring up at Penny rapturously. "What happened?"
"A thug got you in the back of the head you dolt." Sheldon muttered. "How many times have I told you to CLOSE THE DOOR."
"It's not proper.." Leonard protested. "She's a lady.."
"I think he's concussed." Penny looked worried.
Sheldon shook his head. "He always talks like that. He's developed intentions on you."
"Oh dear. Is it contagious?" Penny backed away.
"Who did you shoot?" Leonard asked, sitting up holding his head.
"Nobody." Sheldon replied calmly. "I imagine he'll be replacing his pants soon though. That still doesn't explain why you shot at ME." He glared at Penny.
"I thought you were aiming at me!"
"If I was aiming at you, you'd be dead, and I wouldn't get paid, and what would the benefit of THAT be?"
She stared at him trying to think of something cutting to say... "You're still a beast."
"Oh blast, this is your fault Hofstader."
"What did I do?" Leornard squeaked.
"Nothing, you fell down on the job, now, you didn't answer me, are you ill?" Penny frowned at him.
"I'm fine." Leonard mumbled. "Someone catch me up."
"Yee-haw." Sheldon muttered darkly, glaring at him.
"Sheldon, I'm sure she didn't mean..."
"Oh." Penny smiled at Sheldon widely. "Do you ride too?"
He was sitting in his spot, straight like a soldier, the lamp beside him casting a dim glow on the thin book in his hands. Every once in a while, his hand would raise from his knee, and a long thin finger would carefully flip the page. The place was silent other than this, and frankly Penny would have been bored to tears if she hadn't been reading a review in the local newspaper of a play which was comparing it's current lead actress rather unfavourably with the last one to play the role. Since Penny herself, was the last one to play the role, she was rather pleased, and kept reading the statements in question to herself in her head, trying them out in different voices, to see which had the most pleasing effect.
She had chosen the chair today, as she felt that should another 'minion' as Sheldon put it, decide to try his luck, it would be best to be facing the door. After they had finished their discussion on who had shot at whom and why they hadn't really been aiming at them, in rather loud voices, and then explained the shots to the landlady, Leonard had announced that she would need to find somewhere else to hide out for a few days, until the bottom of the matter was reached.
"I hope you're not suggesting she stay with US." Sheldon had protested. In vain, it turned out. Leonard was at this moment fetching the cot that was kept in the closet of their office for the nights when Sheldon didn't bother to stop working long enough to come home to sleep.
Sheldon was ignoring her. Her suggestion that it would give his mother even MORE to pray about had been met with a decisive shudder. Apparently if or when news reached Mrs. Mary Cooper that her only unwed son was shacking up with a female, and an actress at that, only the devil himself would be able to stop her from moving in until Penny was gone.
Sheldon had doubts that the devil, should he exist, and he wasn't saying he did, he made sure to point out, would have any effect on his mother at all.
Leonard had said that she really wasn't that bad, and if anything, the devil would distract her for a little while while she returned him to the path of righteousness, before continuing on to save her son.
There had been rare agreement when the two when Sheldon had nodded and said if anyone could save the devil it would be his mother.
All of which had left Penny feeling very jumpy, and resolving to attend church on Sunday. If there was a service after eleven am, which there probably wasn't, but the intention was there right?
She looked up from her musings suddenly. "So, um, watcha reading?"
Another page turned. "It's called a comic book."
"Oh. Who's the guy in the tights?"
"A new character. Superman. I'm not sure if he'll catch on. He's an alien."
Penny looked at him blankly and decided to gloss over that bit. "So what does he do?"
"He saves the world, one criminal at a time."
"Oh, like you!" She smiled at him.
He didn't look up. "No. I'm a physicist. I catch criminals when they annoy me, or I get paid enough. This man is a journalist by the name of Clark Kent."
"I think I might have met him, he's a restaurant reviewer right?"
"That's Kent Clark."
There was silence for a few more minutes, before she tried again.
"So why's he wearing tights?"
Sheldon finally looked up. "I myself was baffled as to why any man would wear tights, but I have come to the conclusion that because he wears his costume under his daily clothing, so as to change in a moments notice, that it must be made of thin material. It must also be flexible enough to allow for his super feats, and I suspect aerodynamics were also taken into account, thus he wears tights."
"And red underwear."
He looked at her curiously. "Yes. I have yet to understand why he wears them on top of his tights."
"Oh that's easy." Penny shrugged, "It helps hold the tights up, otherwise they slide down and are SO uncomfortable." She rolled her eyes for emphases.
"Huh." He blinked. "Interesting. I hadn't thought of that. Thank you."
"You're welcome." Penny smiled.
There was a complicated knocking on the door and then Leonard came in, holding the folded cot against his side.
Sheldon frowned at him. "Why did you knock?"
"I didn't want to get shot."
"Why would you get shot?"
"Because you're supposed to be protecting Penny from intruders and shooting anyone who enters!" Leonard exclaimed heroically.
"But what if it was my mother!" Sheldon exclaimed in horror.
Penny nodded. He did have a point.
Leonard's shoulders drooped in defeat. "Fine, we'll just let them walk right in and shoot us."
"Don't be ridiculous." Sheldon sighed. "I'm sure they'd try to tie us up first ."
Leonard decided to change the subject, and turned to Penny. "So, what have you two been talking about?" He smiled at her, a little too brightly.
"Underwear." Sheldon replied instantly. "Apparently it helps to hold up tights, which explains why Superman wears them on the outside."
Penny tapped the arm of the sofa beside him to get his attention. "Do you think he wears another pair, underneath, as well?"
Wide eyed, Sheldon replied, "Wouldn't that be uncomfortable?"
He watched Hofstader bustle around the kitchenette, trying to look busy, the man couldn't seem to stop staring at the girl every few seconds with a look on his face like she was the holy grail. He shifted his gaze slightly and looked at her himself.
Blonde hair, slightly curly, it was attractive he supposed, though he rather liked it better the other night when it looked messy. Green eyes, most likely the result of a parent from a line of blue eyes and a parent from a line of brown and hazel, not extremely common, but not rare.
Certainly not special. Unless she was had just shot at you, he remembered her eyes as being rather spectacular at that time.
She was certainly pretty, and her figure was all that and more especially in that green suit dress that she had on the other night, today she was wearing a pale pink number, it was rather boring. Long legs, in tan stockings, very proper, and brown shoes. The only thing noteworthy about the shoes was the four inch heels. Definitely not proper shoes.
The juxtaposition made his pulse twitch and he frowned and stared Leonard again.
"Interesting." He said clearly.
"What?" Penny said instantly, looking up from the paper.
"A question I had overlooked till now." He mused. "Did you know the person who clubbed Hofstader?"
"No." She shook her head. "But I do get a lot of weirdos following me around sometimes, it's part of being an actress." She smiled.
"No it isn't." He shook his head. "Stalkers, yes, but not muscle bound men intent on inflicting injury."
"Thank goodness we were there!" Leonard exclaimed.
"Don't be daft. If we hadn't been there, you'd not have got your brains addled. I do believe you have imprinted yourself on Penny like a baby duck does."
"Oh he thinks I'm his mother?" Penny smiled at Hofstader instantly.
Oh lord, she's going to play with him like he's a living doll, he thought, rolling his eyes. "Yes, but you should be warned, he has mother issues, and since you look nothing like his mother, I can only assume he means to have coitus with you."
"Come again?"She was looking at him again, and he smiled slightly.
"Coitus. Intercourse. Fornication. Sex." He said bluntly, watching as she blushed. "Interesting."
"What now?" Hofstader sounded cranky. Well, that was alright, Hofstader had no right getting his hopes up anyways, the girl was obviously out of his league.
"She's blushing, which indicates she is not as comfortable in the role she has cast for herself as she ascertains."
Hofstader frowned. "Role?"
"It doesn't matter." He stood up and walked to the door. "It's five pm, we must leave now for dinner." He turned to Penny who was staring at him. "We eat soup at the Diner on 3rd every Wednesday night, and then retire to the Wolowitz household for a rousing game of whist. Get your coat on."
"You want me to come with you?" She looked puzzled.
"Well I'm certainly not leaving you HERE." He stared at her. "You'd probably snoop, and people.."
"People can't be in your room, I got it." Penny was grabbing her coat from Hofstader and shrugging into it. "So where am I sleeping tonight then?"
"The cot, in the living room. You should be safe there."
"From what?" Hofstader sounded annoyed. Poor man, he really didn't get it, did he?
"From You. Or thugs, she's armed, you're not. Makes no difference."
"What about you!" Hofstader was definitely cranky now.
"Thugs won't bother me, I'm also armed, and a very light sleeper." He checked his watch. "Time to go."
Penny, it turned out, was very good at cards. She beat Raj immediately, since he couldn't call his cards with her in the room, and Wolowitz fell as soon as she took off her coat, the blouse underneath was modest enough but his imagination apparently, couldn't be controlled, and he lost his hand very soon after.
Which left Leonard, Penny and Sheldon.
Another round, and Leonard was out.
"You're cheating." Sheldon declared.
"Am not." Penny replied, calmly laying down a card. "My father always said that when it comes to cards I've got a horsehoe..." She paused. "Never mind."
"There is no such thing as luck." Sheldon frowned at the cards in his hand.
"Then I guess I must be smarter than a three year old then." Penny said sweetly.
"More devious perhaps." He replied, choosing a card.
She trumped him, he was out. They stared at each other.
"I'm not a liar, and I don't cheat."
"You're an actress, by that very definition, you do both."
"So do you."
He shrugged and stood up, reaching for his hat. "I'm incapable of lying, I twitch."
Penny tsk'd. "You must have gotten into a lot of trouble as a kid then."
He sighed. "You have no idea. If only I'd been able to deny that the explosives belonged to me."
Leonard was silent most of the way home. He didn't mind being beat, by Sheldon, or by Penny, but there seemed to be some kind of vibe between them. Like they knew something, and he didn't. They fought without getting mad, they were in agreement the next minute, and yet so far as he could tell, Sheldon knew no more about Penny than he himself did.
And Sheldon was so bad with people it was a bit perplexing.
The flat was just as they'd left it, and Penny immediately opened the cot and spread a blanket on it, preparing to go to sleep.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather have my bed?" He offered again, but she shook her head and insisted she would be fine.
Sheldon had gone straight to his room and shut the door, stating it was past his bedtime.
It wasn't until he came out of the bathroom that Leonard saw the package on the kitchen counter.
"Sheldon?" He yelled. "Did you order something?"
Sheldon stalked out of his room in housecoat and slippers, plaid pyjamas showing and a frown on his face. "I'm trying to SLEEP Leonard."
Leonard pointed, and Sheldon went very still.
"Penny?" Sheldon asked. "Did you order something?"
"No." She mumbled from the cot, already half asleep.
Sheldon opened the package, sighed. Grabbed the scissors out of a drawer and snipped something. "Amateurs." He muttered, before going to the window, opening it, and chucking the whole package out of it.
"What was it!" Leonard stared, aghast.
"A poorly made bomb." Sheldon shook his head. "People have no imagination these days!"
Leonard went pale. "A bomb? You thew a BOMB out the window?"
"Well I deactivated it first. Perhaps I should have kept it and searched for fingerprints but.."
There was a small boom from outside. "I wasn't sure if there wasn't a back up trigger nor how much time I had to find it." He finished, calmly heading back to his room.
Penny was blinking at them from her cot. "You threw a bomb out the window?"
"Yes." Sheldon paused at his door, looking back at her.
She yawned. "Good skills Sherlock."
"Cooper." He reminded her, then shut the door.
Leonard turned and went to his room silently. A bomb. Sure. What was next? The end of the world? Assassinated in their sleep? Poisoned in their coffee?
In the living room, Penny let out a soft snore.
When Penny woke up the next morning, she had the feeling she was being watched. Turning her head slightly to the left, she saw Sheldon sitting in his spot, in his robe, holding a cup of tea, and studying her.
"Ah, good, you're awake." He said, raising the cup to his lips and taking a sip. "Perhaps now would be a good time to discuss the fact that someone is trying to kill you."
"Well, nobody has ever tried to bomb ME before." He exclaimed, giving her a look. "Food poisoning yes, drowning certainly, and numerous people have tried to run over me with their automobiles, and you tried to shoot me the other day, but nobody has ever BOMBED me."
"What about Leonard?" She squinted. It was very odd having a calm discussion about modes of death while still in bed, but then, her bed was in his living room.
"Leonard would never try to kill me with a bomb. He would push me out a window."
"I would, too." Leonard sighed, coming into the room rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
"Good morning Leonard." Sheldon replied calmly. "Leonard, did you plant a bomb in order to attempt to save Penny?"
Leonard looked utterly confused. "What?"
Sheldon nodded. "That's what I thought. Therefore, someone is trying to kill you."
"Kill me." Penny repeated. "Coffee?"
"Cream?" Leonard called from the kitchenette.
"Please." Penny sat up, holding the blanket around her shoulders, and tried to wake up. "Why would somebody try to kill me? I just want my stuff."
"When did you break up with your john?" Sheldon scrutinized her.
"When his wife showed up."
"When was that?"
"I don't know, four days ago? Five?"
"You moved awful fast."
"Well yeah, they were yelling at each other, and it's not like I had a bunch of stuff anyways, the flat next door is furnished."
"Ah." Sheldon nodded. "Could you have taken anything that belonged to your ex?"
Penny stared at him, thinking. "A shirt maybe? A couple dollars," she rubbed her hand over her face, "I wasn't really thinking I was just grabbing things, I grabbed a book off the nightstand, and a pen." She shook her head and took her coffee from Leonard's outstretched hand.
"I hardly think a shirt is worth bombing someone over." Sheldon muttered. "Where is the book?"
Penny waved vaguely at the small case she had brought with her when they made her leave her apartment.
"You brought it here?" Leonard asked.
"Well, you know, you guys don't look like you stay up real late, and sometimes I can't sleep, I might as well have something to read." She defended herself.
Sheldon stood up placing his tea on the table in front of him and crossed the room, picking up the case and opening it. He scanned it quickly and then started pulling out items of clothing and tossing them on the couch.
"Hey!" Penny protested.
Sheldon rolled his eyes. "I'll fold them when I put them back, I assure you, they'll be better for it."
He found the book, and flipped through it, then tossed it too on the couch, till the case was empty. He carefully ran his hands over the lining, over every seem, double checking some parts, until suddenly he paused, and his fingers slipped through a hidden seam, and he pulled a piece of paper out and held it up carefully between his fingers.
Penny and Leonard watched speechless, as he carefully unfolded it and held it up to the light.
"Drat." He said. "We're going to need Wolowitz."
He lifted a garment and folded it carefully, laying it down in the case just so, then moving on to the next. Most were of a silky material that slid along his fingers in a rather pleasing fashion, but he couldn't imagine them as being practical. Others were sturdy, made of cotton or another material, heavier, dresses and blouses. He hesitated at the dresses, they should really be hanging, or they would wrinkle. He carried them through to his room and hung them carefully on the left side of the wardrobe, then went back for the coats, to hang them as well.
He shouldn't care, really, but it was something to do while he waited for Wolowitz. They had placed the call, and had been assured he was coming right over, after he dropped his mother off at bridge, and his mother had been heard in the background screaming about needing to stop at the butchers. He would also, no doubt, then stop to get Koothrapali, and thus would probably take three quarters of an hour to make the 2 mile journey.
The girl had taken a handful of clothing off to the bathroom, and a little packet of something he supposed must be bath salts, because the whole flat smelled slightly of lavender now, and Hofstader was sitting in his chair with a dazed look on his face and a smile.
He shook his head in disdain, imagine, being reduced to a grinning idiot merely because an attractive female was bathing in their bathroom, he thought full of superiority, before realizing that what he was now folding was generally not handled by men at all. Quickly he placed it in her case, noting that he had in fact, handled several pairs. "Why," He muttered, "Do they make womenfolk's underthings so much softer than men's? I will have to talk to my tailor. I fear I have been gravely mislead as the the fabrics available."
"You touched her underwear?" Hofstader suddenly squinted at him.
"You would have seen it if you were not in a daze. Did you know silk comes in forest green? I had no idea."
"Forest Green?" Leonard blinked again. "Really?"
The case was shut with a click and replaced by the couch, the cot folded and placed behind the couch, and the blanket folded and placed on top of it.
Still no Wolowitz. He crossed to his portable blackboard and began to study it. Might as well get some real work done while waiting.
He was dimly aware that the girl had finished in the bathroom when the scent of lavender became stronger and he heard a cup fall to the floor, classic Hofstader, a real butter fingers. The numbers were not bending to his will, and he blocked everything out, going over the problem again, checking the measurements, the formulas, the significant digits, the units. "Ah." He said suddenly, making a small correction, and suddenly the equation was true.
He stepped back, hastily copying the equation to another set of paper and sticking it in his desk, just in case the board was erased.
He slowly became aware of his surroundings again, and discovered that at some point Wolowitz and Kootrapali had indeed arrived, and were now inspecting the paper found in the case.
"Well?" He demanded. "What does it say?"
"It's in chinese." Wolowitz replied.
"Yes, I know, that's why you are here. I am not fluent in this style of the language, which I judge to be a northern dialect."
Wolowitz sighed, and glared at him. "It says, meet at the secret spot at seven pm on Saturday."
"Really?" Penny asked, impressed.
"No." Wolowitz shook his head slightly. "It says 'China grows, One nose,' and something about chicken noodle soup'."
"Chicken noodle soup?"
"Yeah I know, but that's what it says."
"I'm going to have to find a better translator."
The fog crawled along the street in tendrils, wrapping itself around the people who walked in near darkness, the street lamps glowing yellow but not filtering through to the cobblestones beneath their feet.
"Cold." Leonard muttered into his coat collar.
"I told you to stay at home." Sheldon sneered, taking in the street in front of them.
"Are you sure this is it?" Penny whispered, huddling close to Sheldon, her coat wrapped tightly around her.
"The China Rose." Wolowitz hissed, "This has to be it."
"You said that last time." Raj muttered, taking another nip from his flask.
"Well, there are only six places in town that could fit, and we've already checked the other five." Howard muttered back.
Sheldon glared at all of them. "You three wait here with the car. Penny and I will go in."
"Why does Penny get to go?" Leonard whined.
"Because we're undercover." Sheldon replied with a snap. "And she's the only other person with a gun. Furthermore, I don't trust her."
Penny rolled her eyes. "So what's my 'part' honey? Am I your secretary, your girl, your long suffering wife?"
"I don't really care." He replied, taking her arm and pulling her into the mist towards the establishment.
Penny smirked and tightened her gloved hand around the arm that was pulling her forward, adding an extra sway to her hips and straightening out her back. Girlfriend it was.
"How does he DO that?" Howard hissed.
Leonard shrugged glumly. "He doesn't even notice."
"Cute couple." Raj announced. "I wonder if they will kill each other one day."
"I think you've had enough sauce." Leonard replied. "But I'd be willing to bet on it."
They pushed through the door and then paused, adjusting to the light. Penny was clinging to his arm in a way that strongly suggested she'd been in his bed last night, peering up at him through artificially darkened eyelashes.
He gave her a look that implied she was laying it on a little thick and then made his way to an empty booth. "We'll sit here."
"Sure babe, whatever you say." She sighed sweetly, turning her back to him and shrugging off her coat into his waiting hands.
When she turned around to face him, her eyebrow was raised, and her lips were pulled together in a sassy pout. She held his gaze as she slid into the booth, then patted the seat next to her.
He shrugged off his own coat and laid them both across the opposite seat than sat beside her, looking around the room, but speaking to her out of the corner of his mouth. "Not much to that dress, is there? Or did you just forget to put it on."
She fluffed her hair and leaned towards him with a smile, "The less clothing I'm wearing, the less likely anyone will look at my face and possibly recognize me." She hissed into his ear, and pinching him viciously under the table.
It hurt like hell but his face remained impassive, his blue eyes cold. "Sweetheart, I can guarantee you nobody is looking at your face." His own eyes flickered briefly over her.
She leaned in again, "so what do we do now?"
"We order dinner, and see what comes with it."
"A side order of intrigue?" She guessed.
"Indigestion more likely." He sighed. The waiter came over to their table and he ordered for them both, then leaned back with his arm along the back of the booth, just above her shoulders, and a bored look on his face.
She noticed several men on the other side of the room leering at her and leaned into his side, her face turned up at his. "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you happy to see me?"
"How original." He muttered out of the side of his mouth. She pinched him again, and he gave her a look of annoyance.
"They're staring at me." She whispered.
His lips smirked, and he tilted his head towards her, his lips brushing over her ear, his fingers sliding over her jaw... "You shoulda thought of that when you put on that dress. Don't be a ninny." His voice was cold.
"You're made of ice." She hissed with a smile.
"And you're more venom than sugar, doll, that's why you're here, remember." He placed a finger on the tip of her nose.
There was a cough, and they both looked up to see a rather large man in a grey suit glaring down at them. "Did you bring it?"
"You'll have to be more specific than that." Sheldon replied in a bored tone.
"Don't get smart." The man growled.
"I am smart. I have an IQ unmeasurable by standard tests." Sheldon shook his head. "Your message was intercepted, that's why I'm here, you'll need to repeat the message." He said suddenly, his arm sliding around Penny's shoulders, his hand caressing her arm. "My girl's case was stolen last week, some vagabond." He muttered.
"I want the shoes. You have forty eight hours. Now get out, you've been here long enough."
Sheldon shrugged and stood up, he was as tall as the man in front of them but much thinner. He reached for their coats and helped a silent Penny into hers before sliding his own on. "Tell the cook to cancel our order, I'm sure he'll understand." His hand slid down over Penny's lower back and over her butt. "These women take so much," he paused and leered down at her, "energy."
The man smirked, and Sheldon pushed Penny out of the restaurant and down the sidewalk, pulling her into the first alley and covering her mouth his his hand.
They stood in the dark, waiting. Listening.
Penny was glaring at him over his hand, but he had his face tilted, his eyes searching for something.
"Are you sure that was him?"
The voice was clear, and coming from down the alley a bit below them, a door had opened, two men stepped out.
"It was her, and he gave the signal." The other voice replied.
Sheldon pressed closer to her, the voices were drawing nearer.
"Do you trust him?"
"Nope, but I'd like to get a handful of her." The voice laughed harshly.
Penny's fingernails dug into Sheldon's wrist and she yanked his hand away, but Sheldon pressed his mouth to hers and she forgot what she was going to say to the jerks when they passed.
His lips were surprisingly soft, and he cradled her head in both his hands, his body pressing her to the wall, his hat shielding their faces from the sight of the two men when the passed by, laughing and whistling.
He kissed her until their voices and footsteps had faded, and then he abruptly let her go, and stepped away. "The sign must have been when I touched your nose. Interesting." He wandered out into the street. "Aren't you coming Penny?" He turned and glanced back at her.
She gaped at him than sighed. "I should shoot you."
"You already did." He reminded her. "But you missed."
"I didn't miss, I wasn't aiming at you." She reminded him.
He ignored her and climbed into the car, where the other three were sitting, waiting.
"So how did it go?" Leonard asked, staring the motor.
Sheldon looked thoughtful. "Well." He said simply.
"That's it, no details?" Howard protested.
Penny studied her gloves.
Sheldon's face was blank. "Penny is better at kissing then acting, and her rear is quite pleasing, and a very large man wants her shoes." He glanced back. "Did I leave anything out?"
She glared at him. "Just the gun in your pocket."
"Oh yes." There was a ghost of a smile on his face. "Have I shown you my new Enfield revolver Wolowitz? It just arrived the other day."
He sat at the desk, staring at the chess board in front of him. Playing against himself was tedious, but none of the others were good enough to adequately challenge him. Finally choosing a piece, and moving it, he then swivelled the board around so that he was facing it from the other side, and set himself to work, defeating himself.
The others were behind him, sitting on the couch, Leonard was making tea. Penny was in the bathroom changing into something more suitable for friendly conversation. Hopefully it covered more skin that her sleuthing outfit had. He had a feeling that with her, you could never tell.
Another piece moved, another swivel of the board. What had they learned tonight? The people who were trying to kill Penny were not the people after her shoes, or else they would both be dead already. They would have been served arsenic laced chow mien and that would have been the end of it. Sheldon Cooper, Phd, phd, PI, done in by a pretty blonde and a plate of chow mien. He snorted at the idea.
Swivelled the board again. So who was trying to kill Penny? He tapped his chin thoughtfully. Probably the only other person who knew about her shoes. Her ex, the director. But what would he gain? Unless he didn't have the shoes that he needed... Maybe the shoes Penny wanted, were not the shoes that everyone was after. And why shoes? Why not the stocks, or the jewels?
Ah damn. Checkmate. He pushed the board away irritably.
"Loose to yourself again?" Wolowitz mocked from the couch.
He spun his chair around to face them and fixed them all with a glare. "You're in my spot."
Wolowitz's eyes rolled and he shifted over a spot. "Happy now?"
"No." Penny said from the bathroom door. "Now you're in MY spot."
"You have a spot? Why does she have a spot?" Wolowitz was pouting as he moved over again, shoving Raj off the couch. Penny walked over and sat down in her spot, wiggling a bit, putting her feet up on the coffee table.
He watched them all with his arms crossed, his eyes narrowed. "Penny." He began. "Tell us again about your shoes."
"They're red." She was frowning. "Black heel, about three inches high, those little buttons up the side, size seven."
"Why do you want them?"
"Because they were specially made for me by a VERY famous cobbler in Europe."
He tapped his index fingers together and pressed the point to his lips, his eyebrows raised. "Did the very famous cobbler make you any other shoes?"
"The black ones, with the hollow heel."
Hofstader dropped a cup in the kitchen and it shattered, earning him a glare.
"I have a pair of those." Wolowitz said to Penny. "I keep emergency cab fare in there."
"Of course you do Wolowitz," He sighed. "Penny, WHERE are the other shoes?"
Penny blinked at him innocently. "Next door."
He pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes. Of course they were. Somewhere in the swirling cortex of entropy one house over, was a single pair of black shoes, with a hollow heel. Made by a very famous cobbler in europe, and probably full of something illegal, which was owed to the very large man at the China Rose, and needed by the doubtlessly swarmy director ex-boyfriend of his client, who herself probably thought they held her spare cab money.
Who had hired him to find a pair of red shoes, with a black three inch heel, some paper stocks, and some jewels which may or may not be worth anything.
His fingers trailed down his nose and his thumb plucked at his upper lip repeatedly. What to do?
His ears picked up the sound of the bell downstairs ringing, and then steps on the stairs. His tongue ran over his teeth in irritation. He recognised that tread. Soon he would hear the imperious knock and the loathsome tones of Officer Kripke.
"Hofstader, is my tea done yet? I shall be needing it." He sighed, rolling his eyes towards the door.
As if on cue, the knocking began.
"Come in Kripke." He called out. "I assure you, it's not locked."
The door swung open and Kripke walked in full of self importance. "Cwooper. Stickin yer nose in where ya don't belong have you?"
"Hardly." He replied. "To what do I owe the displeasure of your company."
Kripke was leering at Penny. "Spotted you at the China Rose, pretty girl."
Ah, that explains it. He shook his head. "Yes Kripke, we were at the China Rose. What of it?"
Kripke shook his head. "Police business, I can't tell you that Cwooper."
"Then why are you here?"
"Heawrd you had a girlfriend, came to tell her you're bad news." Kripke smirked.
Great. Now she'd NEVER leave. "Now you have, so go." He sighed, motioning to the door.
Kripke turned to look at him. "Looking for some shoes Cwooper?"
"Just red ones. Now get out." His response was curt.
Kripke left, and Wolowitz held out the breath he'd been holding the entire time, and Raj, predictably, jumped up and ran to the bathroom. Hofstader handed him his cup of tea and went to sit down in the chair, saying "Anyone else feel like we're missing vital information?"
If his eyes had rolled up any farther, he was certain he would have been able to see his own brain. He sipped his tea, and then put it down. "Honestly Hofstader, after three years, you still can't make tea!"
Sheldon stood up and faced the group, his hands clasped behind his back. "As I see it, we have two options." He walked to his portable blackboard and erased something then picked up a piece of chalk. "Option A: AKA The Original Proposition: We find the director-ex, preferably before he kills us, recover the shoes, the stocks and the jewels, and thus stay out of Kripke's reach, but risk displeasing the large man," He paused. "Or Option B: AKA The Survival Alteration: We find the black shoes the large man wants, use them to bait the ex, "recover" the red shoes, the stocks, the jewels, then hand over black shoes AND director over to either the large man or Kripke, it doesn't really matter."
He waited, while they all frowned, and murmered.
"My ex is trying to kill me?" Penny said in a ticked tone. "How dare he."
"Why do we always get dragged into this." Howard asked, while Raj nodded.
Leonard sighed. "I suppose there is a slightly higher chance of living longer if we satisfy all the parties involved."
"We'll have to put it to vote." Sheldon decreed.
There was a collective sigh, interrupted only by an odd thump against the door. Sheldon crossed, and opened it, and watched as the body of Officer Kripke fell into the room.
"Oh damn, that will never come out." Sheldon frowned at the blood smear on the door. He sighed. "Well I guess that settles it then. Plan B."
"What do we do about..." Penny pointed.
"We could hide him in the closet." Howard suggested. Raj whispered something in his ear and he nodded. "True, once rigor mortis has worn off, he'll start to smell."
Sheldon leaned over him, checked his pulse, and then stepped back. "He's already in rigor, I believe he was propped against our door, and likely it was his weight pulling him down that made the noise." He smirked. "Perhaps we should just drop him out the window?"
He waited a second and then snickered. "Bazinga."
Penny's laugh was slightly hysterical.
"I just phoned the cops, they're on their way." Leonard replied with a shake of his head.
"Well, at least we know one thing." Sheldon shrugged.
"And what would that be?" Howard winced.
Sheldon looked surprised. "That Penny didn't do it. She was with us the whole time."
Penny looked at Leonard. "If I shot him NOW, could we say he showed up dead with Kripke?"
He bathed twice a day, because the streets of Pasadena were dirty. He would have preferred a shower, but this apartment did not come fitted with one (so far as he had been able to see, none did), and while he would no doubt benefit from the reputed therapeutic properties, the mere cost of such a thing was more than three years rent, not to mention the need to completely re-plumb the bathroom for the model he desired, and the inability to take it with him should he ever leave. All in all, he had been lucky to find a place with not only the tub, sink and toilet all in one room, but the tub was fully connected as well, just turn the tap and there was water... Back in Texas you only saw that in the mansions, though he supposed the recent bathing advancements had progressed there as well. His mother, of course, was inclined to avoid the mere mention of showers, holding to the beliefs of her childhood, that they were for men, and women were far to delicate to sustain them.
He wondered what Penny would think of that? Probably she would agree with his sister, that it was all balderdash and women weren't too delicate to do anything. He agreed, privately, because by the time he'd made it out of his mothers womb with his sister still gripping his ankle painfully, he'd known women being delicate was a pack of pretty lies. By the time he was two he'd had proof in a bloody nose and two black eyes resulting from his experimental decapitation of her favourite doll.
Women, were not delicate. They were conniving, and dangerous, and smelled good, which was why he avoided them as much as possible. They seemed hell bent on getting him married, marrying him, or making his bathroom smell lingeringly of lavender and sunshine, which was even worse, because he could get used to that.
He frowned and slumped farther into the tub. It was new, in the new style, "fitted" they called it. He wished it was a little deeper. His bony knees stuck out like dock supports at low tide, unless he hung his feet over the other end, which looked even more ridiculous than it felt. "Fitted" tubs, it seemed, were not made for tall men, much like most sofas and certainly most beds, the ones on trains in particular.
He did like trains. He'd even gone to the New York World's fair to see the new British LMS Streamliner, a silver and blue masterpiece of steam locomotion, class sister number 6220, the very sight of it had filled him with awe and something akin to desire. He'd touched it, even walked through, it was everything a train should be. Modern technology was wonderful...
His neck developed a cramp and he frowned again. Except in tubs. Modern technology was severely lacking in the bathing department. With a sigh, he sat up and reached for the soap, working up a lather in his hands before scrubbing his scalp.
Oh, dirty Pasadena. At least his hair was kept short, Penny must have a terrible time with the washing of hers, the long blonde strands would be difficult to rinse without aid, he remembered being forced to help his sister when he was younger, a pleasant memory actually, as he rather enjoyed dumping large buckets of water on her head, though his mother had continually scolded him that it was meant to be poured gently and not just up-ended.
He wouldn't mind up-ending a bucket of water over Penny's head. She'd probably squeal and then beat the daylights out of him, but he was a fast runner, and she would have to get dressed first, and...
He coughed. Dear lord, how had he got to picturing Penny naked in the tub?
The visit from Commissioner Gablehouser must have upset him more than he originally thought. Curious, because he could have sworn it hadn't upset him at all. How Gablehouser had managed to rise through the ranks to become Commissioner, he didn't know, the man had all the intelligence of a knat, and as usual he had tried to pin the death on him, but in the face of so many witnesses to his whereabouts all afternoon, indeed, all day, Gablehouser had turned his attention to flirting with Penny over the sheet covered corpse of Kripke, while the camera flashes popped all around them. She had excused herself feigning emotional distress, though when he found her in his room later, sprawled on his bed reading his new comic book, she had appeared cheerful enough.
Yet another example of the deviousness of women.
To be fair, if feigning emotional distress had got him out of Gablehousers company, he'd have done it too, pity he hadn't thought of it years ago.
AH, there was the reason for his unusual thoughts. She had been in his room! People didn't go in his room. He'd pointed it out to her, again, and she had replied that since most of her clothing was hanging in his closet, she had to be expected to be his room at some point, unless he was going to choose her clothing for her each day, and her expression had strongly indicated that answering that it had indeed been his plan would result in him with a black eye, at the very least. He had twitched compulsively for a full thirty seconds, he was sure of it, before responding that she could have gone to Leonard's room. She had rolled her eyes and enquired why she would do that, when going to his room was guaranteed to turn him into little twitchy bits of physicist? Her voice had implied that this was both an amusing and desirable outcome.
The best response he'd been able to come up with, was that at six foot two inches tall, nothing about him, was little.
It was at this point that Leonard had interrupted by knocking on the door and sticking his head in to inform them that the corpse and crowd had both been removed, and the living room was now safe again, having been thoroughly disinfected by himself, with a smile that was supposed to be winning directed at Penny. It appeared that Penny's false distress had motivated Leonard to clean, a happy accident all around, as it meant that Sheldon could now go directly to his bath, and his schedule would be then back on course.
Which brought him back to now.
The death of a cop was no small thing, even if it was Kripke. This case had been escalated to a degree he was not entirely comfortable with. Not only had the killer, presumed to be the director-ex, killed an officer of the law, he had left him leaning up against their door, as a sort of warning.
Unless it was the large man who had done, or ordered the death as incentive for them to co-operate. This meant that both the large man, and the director-ex, knew where they lived.
He frowned again. People did seem to have an easy time finding out where he lived. Numerous food bearing grad students located him every year, and in the past, the odd crook had as well, but he had always been able to get the upper hand, despite Leonard's bumbling. He now had to account for Penny as well. She was tolerable with a gun, which would be an asset, and would be underestimated, by all except the director-ex, an excellent strategy. He would discuss this with her, privately, as Leonard would protest and make annoying noises, and Howard and Raj had departed with the police. So then the next immediate problem was how to get Leonard out of the way, without putting him in danger, as if irretrievable harm came to Leonard, he would need to find a new room mate, and that would be an inconvenience at this point in time. It's hard to get renters when your last was brutally murdered.
It would have to be internal distress. He would have to get Penny to offer Leonard some ice cream off her spoon. Roughly half an hour after that, Leonard would be indisposed, and he would be free to plot contingency plans with Penny.
At last he smiled, and got out of the bath, towelling himself briskly before putting on his pyjamas and robe, and brushing down his hair, reassuring himself that it was the prospect of forcing dairy on Leonard that had put a smile on his face, and not the private planning session with Penny which would occur after.
It was easily done. Leonard was so engrossed in Penny's smile, he barely noticed what he was eating off the spoon. Within half an hour, he had taken up residence in the bathroom, and Sheldon had pulled out another blackboard, and offered Penny a piece of chalk, and began scribbling on the flat surface, while Penny sniffed the chalk with a small smile, thinking of the first morning of school, she had been young and in pigtails, the smell of the chalk... Before she figured out there was more to it than spelling and adding simple numbers.
"Are you paying attention?" He asked, barely glancing over his shoulder at her. "Your life may depend on your acting skills. Furthermore, MY life might depend on it, though if worst comes to worst I shall simply abandon you and take the first train for the east coast, the the first boat to Germany. I'm certain I could get my teaching job back."
She blinked and focused. "Why would you want to go back to Germany?"
"Well, it's extremely far away from my mother, for one thing." He squinted at the board and tilted his head. "This will never do."
"Because this plan requires you to pretend to be someone's girlfriend and not a client, and you've already said you won't sleep in Leonard's room, and I assure you, you won't be sleeping in mine."
"Couldn't we just put my cot in one of the rooms?" She didn't really care about Kripke's death cooties, but she didn't like the idea of being alone in the living room anymore. They hadn't heard the body being pulled up the stairs, or being leaned against the door, and Sheldon had extremely sensitive hearing, she probably wouldn't wake up at all if someone came in that quietly. "Or in the bathroom maybe?"
Sheldon raised his eyebrows thoughtfully but then noticed the ice cream bowl and sighed. "I'm afraid the bathroom will be uninhabitable to all but Leonard for quite some time."
"Well then, I'll sleep in your bed, and you can sleep in Leonard's, and he can sleep in the bathroom." Penny smiled brightly. "Problem solved."
"How does that solve our problem! You'll be in my room! You might wreck my comic books!"
"Well, you could always join me?" Penny batted her eyelashes at him, grabbing his arm and pulling him after her, as he frantically wiped off the board, he could hear the sink running in the bathroom, Leonard would be out soon.
He shook her off, just as the door opened.
"What's going on guys?" Leonard asked innocently.
"Oh, just convincing Sheldon to come to bed with me." Penny purred. "In his bed."
"You were not!" Sheldon said loudly, his left eye twitching like crazy. "You WILL not sleep in my bed!"
"Who said anything about sleeping?" Penny winked, enjoying both the flabbergasted look on Leonard's face and near apoplectic look on Sheldon's, as well as the considerable amount of twitching going on.
Leonard pressed his hand to his forehead and went back to the bathroom, mumbling about fever.
The two remaining in the room narrowed their eyes at each other in a stare off.
"I would let you sleep in my bed." Penny pouted, trying one of her best tricks.
His eyes lit up. "That's brilliant. Yes of course." he dashed into his room and came out within a minutes, a suitcase with him. "I'll stay at your place, and clean it, and find the shoes. I can't believe I didn't think of it before. Good Bye!" He waved, walking out the front door.
Penny stared after him wide eyed. "But... but..." She paused. It could use a thorough cleaning. She'd get to sleep behind two locked doors. She didn't really want to share a bed with him anyways, she was pretty sure he was one of those guys who slept like a steel beam and were just a comfy, she'd just been teasing him, because that was really enjoyable, and he'd brought it on himself with the girlfriend crack.
Shrugging, she locked the door and went to go explore his room.
He went up the stairs slowly, deep in thought. There was a high probability that her flat had already been looted, the black shoes found and gone, and he would not be able to tell, because of the mess it already was.
He had been itching to tidy it since he had first seen it though, how could anyone live in a three block radius of such a mess and breath calmly? Chaos breeds chaos, it was no wonder dead people were being leaned up against his door. Once it was tidied, it would all die down. The shoes would be located, handed over, the large man would be caught with the shoes by the police, and hopefully in the resulting brouhaha, the red shoes would turn up. It was even entirely possible that she had the red shoes in her possession after all, and had just not been able to find them.
Wincing, he paused at the door. That would be wishful thinking, for certain. He opened the door and stepped inside. Clutter and mess stared back at him. With a sigh that was more anticipatory than dismayed, he set to work...
She crawled into his bed with a sigh. It wasn't that the cot had been uncomfortable, really, she could sleep anywhere, but it was impossible to deny that his bed was extremely comfortable. It smelled of soap, and something like a new book, and a little bit of chalk, just like it's owner. That said owner thought she would be sleeping on the cot in his room, and not in his bed, did not bother her in the least. If anything, it made it even more enjoyable.
He sniffed the air around him appreciatively. At last, every surface gleamed, every paper was stacked, organized, and placed in it's proper cubby on the roll top desk. Personal letters, most started but not finished, and addressed to her mother, her brother, and a few short ones to her father, were put into the portable writing desk she had, and carefully set away. The letter had held nothing of importance, to him or anyone else, which why they hadn't been mailed he reckoned. He'd even been able to deduce her level of frustration during the writing process by how far each crumpled piece had been thrown. He had found several pairs of shoes, which were all now lined up the wardrobe in the bedroom, the small kitchenette had been cleaned, scrubbed, scoured and altogether disinfected. The furniture, which had been let with the flat, was not new but was in good condition, the bath held the older style claw foot tub, and his eyes positively gleamed at the thought of having a bath knees submerged... As soon as the place was spotless, the whole place, with fresh sheets on the bed (he'd found them in the wardrobe, folded neatly, it appeared she wasn't really a slob, just disorganized) he'd done so. He'd been unable to completely rid the space of the pervading smell of femaleness, but he had organized her bath salts by strength of smell, with the strongest by the window (and farthest from the tub). His bath, the third of the day, but after the cleaning he felt he needed and deserved it, had allowed him more time for reflection. He had not found the shoes. He had found many pairs of shoes, even black shoes, but not black shoes, specially made, with a compartment in the heel. The probability that her place had been raided already was now almost a certainty, and he regretted not having placed a watcher on her place sooner. How had he missed that? What a rookie mistake. And yet, it was not inconceivable that he had not discovered all of Penny's hiding places, perhaps hope remained. And if not, there was a nice clean sheeted bed waiting for him, far away from Leonard's indigestion and Penny's feminine whiles, and he fully intended to have the best sleep of his life, having just conquered the mess from hell.
It was sometime after midnight that he heard the door creak open, saw the shadow making it's way towards him, heard the menacing whisper, demanding the whereabouts of the black shoes.
Chapter 16: The Next Night
"So what did you do?" Howard asked, entranced with the tale.
"What anybody would do in a situation like that." Sheldon scoffed. "I shot the gun out of his hand and then tied him up with Penny's scarves, and then I lit a pipe."
"A pipe?" Penny blinked. "You don't smoke!"
"It wasn't for smoking." Sheldon sighed irritably. "I've found flaming embers useful in the past, usually the mere threat of contact with certain regions is enough to provoke confessions." He stood up and paced over to his blackboard, and began writing on it, a physics equation.
"What are you doing?" Leonard asked.
"Getting back to work." Sheldon replied, "I've lost too much time on this case already. You'll find the expense bill for my services on your writing box Penny, it's perfectly safe to return home now."
There was a stunned silence, filled only by the rhythmic scratching of the chalk on the board, digits appearing across the surface fluidly.
"Explain." Leonard demanded. The others leaned forward in anticipation.
Sheldon sighed again and placed his chalk down on the ledge and then turned back to them, his hands folded behind his back, in his lecturing pose.
"The man I tied up, turned out to be the Director-ex, who was, I assure you, quite startled to find a six foot two inch male with a gun in hand instead of a quivering actress in the bed, how you managed to convince him you are delicate I will never know Penny but he was QUITE deluded by you. In exchange for the location of the red shoes, jewelery etc, I agreed to handle the black shoes business, and once I had recovered said belongings from a bus locker downtown I returned and let him go with the advisement to leave town. Of course," He paused and smirked, "I had already informed the police, I suspect they caught him at the train station. The black shoes I located after an hours search, at the back door to the household, apparently the last time they were worn it was raining. I walked right past them because they looked more brown than black. An undercover cop then picked them up, delivered them to the large man, and he was subsequently arrested along with his whole gang. Quite a coup actually. Not bad for a night's work." He gazed at them expectantly.
"My shoes?" Penny whined.
"At least you've got the red ones back." he countered.
She nodded and shrugged. "Well, I guess this is goodbye then."
"Don't be silly." Leonard smiled at her. "We're still neighbours." His expression was hopeful as he watched her stand and collect her case from beside the sofa.
"Hmm." Sheldon muttered distractedly as she walked past him to the door. "Actually Penny, the man really was impressively deceived by you, I may have a few small jobs for you once in a while, on a consulting basis."
Penny paused, with her hand on the door, and looked back over her shoulder at him, already writing on his board again. "I might enjoy that." She agreed. "When do you need me?"
"Ten thirty tomorrow at the office I think, there's this little case.." His voice was vague, his mind lost to the realm of string theory.
She nodded and left, with a smile on her face.
A few minutes later, Raj and Howard left as well, discussing the case and how they always missed out on all the fun stuff, and Leonard tidied up and said goodnight, his mind already focused on what to wear tomorrow, with Penny at the office, and whether Miss Winkle, the girl he'd been seeing casually would be jealous, leaving Sheldon alone, writing furiously, his mind working at top speed. It was some hours later that he finally crossed to his room and settled into bed, closing his eyes as he pulled the blankets over him, catching a faint whiff of lavender and sunshine. To tired to do anything about it, he wiggled around trying to get comfortable, his mattress now moulded to a shape not his own. His last thought before sleep overcame him was simple and pure.
"Damn her, she's slept in my bed!"