A fleet of black helicopters flies through a cloudless sky. Below them, a man in a bespoke suit stands alone at the edge of a field, holding an umbrella. He announces:
“Ten complete strangers, five men and five women, are on their way to this secret location. Nine of them have answered a newspaper advert requesting contestants for a fictional TV adventure game show. But one of them has been hired by us as an insider, a traitor, a saboteur. That person is the mole.
“In the coming days, they’ll have to work closely together on a series of challenges. They will have to trust each other totally, but remain aware that one person is their enemy. They don’t know any of this yet, but they’re about to discover the truth.
“Let the games commence.”
The helicopters touch down, and ten people emerge. They make their way in a raggedy line over to the man with the umbrella. Once they’ve all gathered in front of him, he addresses the group.
“Welcome. Finally, I can reveal exactly why you’re here. At the moment, you are just ten strangers, waiting to embark on a mystery journey. But for the duration of this game, you will be working as a team on a series of challenges. Each challenge, if successfully completed, will win money for the group. There is over a million pounds to be won.
“But, there is a complication. One amongst you will not be playing by the rules. One of you is an impostor. They have been specially selected, by us, to do everything in their power to sabotage your best efforts. That person is the mole.
“Your task is to establish the identity of the mole. At the end of each episode, the person who knows the least about the mole’s true identity will be eliminated, and they will be sent straight home. Eventually, only one of you will remain to unmask the mole. That person — and only that person — will win all of the money in the group’s kitty.
“But that’s all well in the future. First, introductions are in order. When I call your name, please step forward.
“Greg Lestrade.” A middle-aged man with silvering hair joins their host.
“Irene Adler.” A strikingly beautiful woman in a low-cut dress steps forward.
“Jim Moriarty.” A dark-haired man smirks at the other players as he turns to face them.
“John Watson.” A short man with a cane limps to the front.
“Martha Hudson.” The oldest member of the group joins the others.
“Mary Morstan.” A middle-aged woman with short blond hair comes forward.
“Molly Hooper.” A nervous-looking woman smiles bashfully at everyone.
“Philip Anderson.” A man with a face like a ferret takes his place with the others.
“Sally Donovan.” A woman — quite attractive aside from her scowl — steps up beside him.
“Sherlock Holmes.” A tall man with a mop of dark curls completes the group.
“And I am Mycroft Holmes, your host on this adventure.
“Now, for your first challenge. I have made reservations for you all at the Colindale Cottage Bed and Breakfast in Nether Wallop. For each player who checks in by 7:00 this evening, I will add £10,000 to the group’s kitty. However, each time a player asks for help from someone outside of the game, £10,000 will be deducted.
“Since you all arrived here by helicopter, none of you knows precisely where we are. Behind me, you can see two Lincoln MKZ sedans with retractable panoramic sunroofs. Their GPS systems have been deactivated. As per the rules you agreed upon, you are not permitted to have access to your phones or to any other electronic devices not specifically supplied by us for the duration of the game.
“Using your geographical knowledge, your wits, and your ingenuity, you will have to make your way to Nether Wallop. To determine who will travel in each car, I will ask each of you to draw a marble out of this bag. The colour of the marble will correspond to the colour of one of the vehicles.”
Mycroft presents them with a black velvet bag. One by one, the contestants select their marbles and hold them up to show the group. Sherlock, the last to choose, fumbles a bit before revealing a blue marble.
Mycroft shoots him a suspicious look. “The final marble should have been red. There are already five blue marbles, which is the maximum capacity of each car.”
“Well, that’s what happens when you hire idiots as production assistants,” Sherlock retorts. “You should teach your lackeys how to count.”
Sherlock then addresses Molly, who is holding a blue marble. “I’m sure you won’t mind riding in the red car, will you?”
Before Molly can reply, Sherlock turns to John. “I see we both have blue marbles. Come along. We need to get this show on the road.”
Soon, all of the players have taken their places in the sedans. Lestrade is driving the red car, with Mrs. Hudson beside him. Anderson, Donovan, and a rather forlorn-looking Molly are seated in the back.
Moriarty has taken the driver’s seat in the blue car. Next to him is Irene. Behind them, John sits between Mary and a triumphant-looking Sherlock.
Irene opens the glove box and pulls out a large, accordion-folded map. “Too bad we don’t have Mrs. Hudson in our car. Are any of you old enough to remember how to use one of these things?”
John reaches forward. “Give it to me. I’ll navigate.”
“Based on what?” Mary asks. “The map doesn’t appear to have an arrow labeled ‘You Are Here’…”
“Did no one else observe the sign at the edge of the car park?” Sherlock demands. “We’re at the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust. From here it should take us about three hours to get to Nether Wallop, depending on traffic. Let’s go.”
With a squeal of tyres, Moriarty launches the car into gear.
“Should we wait for the others?” Irene asks.
“If they can’t keep up, they’ve got no business playing this game,” Moriarty says with a sneer.
Meanwhile, in the red car, a lively debate is taking place. Donovan is urging Lestrade to just start driving, but he insists they should come up with a plan, first. Molly is suggesting they ask someone for directions, since losing £10,000 would be worth it if it means they’ll earn £50,000 by all arriving on time. Anderson counters that she must be the mole, if she wants them to lose money already.
Their argument is cut short by a pointed throat-clearing from Mrs. Hudson. “I’m sorry to interrupt you, dears, but the other car just left. Shouldn’t we follow them?”
Lestrade quickly starts the engine and peels out of the car park. “Which way did they go?”
“Left,” Mrs. Hudson says, at the same time that Anderson says, “Right.”
“Well, that’s helpful,” Lestrade says, turning left. They soon reach a T intersection and look in both directions. The other car is nowhere in sight.
An hour later, the blue Lincoln MKZ is racing along the M26 when it comes up behind a slow-moving lorry in the right lane, trying to pass an even slower-moving lorry in the left.
Suddenly, everything seems to be happening at once. Moriarty swerves maniacally around the lorry. Irene shrieks and clutches at the dashboard, which somehow activates the car’s retractable panoramic roof. Mary grabs John’s thigh, and he loses his grip on the map, which flies out of the open roof and disappears. Sherlock stares at them all balefully.
John grimaces. “Well, that was certainly a clusterfuck. What are we going to do without the map?”
“We don’t need the map,” Sherlock says. “I have an eidetic memory. Up ahead we take the M25 to the A3, then the A31 to the A331, which will take us to the M3. Then it’s the A303 to the A343 toward Salisbury. Once we hit Middle Wallop, we’ll turn left on the unmapped road to Nether Wallop. The village is small enough that our Bed and Breakfast should be easy to find.”
“Brilliant,” John says.
Mary bites her lip and looks out the window.
The blue Lincoln MKZ pulls up in front of the Colindale Cottage Bed and Breakfast at 6:27 PM. The five occupants check in with plenty of time to spare, then wait anxiously to see whether the other car will arrive in time.
At 6:54, the red Lincoln screeches to a stop in front of the B & B, and five flustered-looking people pour out of it. They rush to check in, making it just under the wire.
“What took you so long?” Moriarty asks.
“You didn’t wait for us, so we had to stop and ask for directions,” Anderson whines. “And then Mrs. Hudson insisted that we stop again, so that she could use the loo.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m a woman of a certain age. These things can’t be helped.”
Just then, Mycroft strolls in, glancing at his pocket watch. It shows precisely 7:00.
“Congratulations,” he tells the assembled contestants. “You have all arrived on time. Even with the £10,000 penalty for asking directions, you’ve still managed to add £90,000 to the group’s kitty.”
Mycroft then makes a big show of asking whether there are any rooms still available at the B & B. When the owner tells him they are all booked up, he turns back to the players, smiling ruefully.
“I’m sorry, but we seem to have one guest too many. I’m afraid one of you won’t be able to stay here tonight.
“It’s time for our first elimination. Each of you will answer twenty questions about the identity of the mole, and what he or she has been up to today. The contestant furthest from the truth will be sent home.”
Mycroft brings out a laptop, and hands it to Irene. “Please follow me,” he says, leading her from the room.
An awkward silence falls over the rest of the players. One by one, they are called out to take the quiz. John is the last to go. When he returns, Mycroft is with him, carrying the laptop.
“All of your answers are on this computer. If, when I enter your name, the screen comes up green, then you stay. If it comes up red, then you must go. Shall we begin?”
Mycroft opens the laptop, saying, “Irene,” as he types her name. A green thumbprint appears on the screen.
“Sally.” Another green thumbprint.
The tension mounts, as the remaining players look around at each other.
“Philip.” A red thumbprint appears, and there is a collective gasp in the room. Anderson looks dumbfounded.
“I’m sorry, Philip, but you have to go,” Mycroft says, escorting him from the room.
After ushering Anderson into a waiting car, Mycroft turns to the camera. “Will the remaining players find a way to trust each other and work together to add money to the group’s kitty? Or will the mole succeed in disrupting the game? Tune in next week to find out…”