As soon as I walk into the casino, I’m bombarded by millions of stimuli—a buzzing, piercing, blinding cacophony of sounds, smells, and kinetics. The place is utterly repulsive—an indoor pyrotechnics money-trap for the desperate, disillusioned, and the mathematically inept.
Tension is pulling the muscles at the back of my neck and to make matters worst, Jingle Bell Rock (Lord help me) has begun playing through the speakers just above my head. The security guard points towards the coat check area and I walk over there, annoyed. I concede that I will have to leave the Belstaff there since I cannot even make a charming smile (or charming pout) appear on my face to influence the hostess out of making me check my coat in.
I glance at the hostess’s name tag: Rebecca. I could easily tell ‘Becky’ that I know about her stealing tips from her colleagues and that I also know she’s been sneaking out to smoke periodically but I cannot afford to alienate the staff here. See, no matter how I feel about this despicable place, the casino and I are not exactly strangers.
Gambling served a purpose in my college days (cocaine days). For someone like me—not only intelligent, but also a memory artist—the casino was an easy, convenient way to obtain money to purchase drugs. All I had to do was spend an efficient forty minutes in the early afternoon at the blackjack table, win the amount I needed, and walk out faster than if I’d made a trip to the cash machine.
I know Lestrade once secretly hypothesized that I had to be somehow using sex to sustain my drug habit. A somewhat simple (imbecilic) assumption… prostitution, really? Why would I use my body with a mind like mine? It was almost laughable how easy it was to trap people into betting. (How much cash did Sebastian lose that first semester? No wonder he was leery of my ‘tricks’ when we saw each other again a few years ago.)
I hand over my Belstaff to Rebecca the smoking-tip-stealer. She says thank you ‘Mr Holmes’ (She has recognized me, hard not to, I’ve been in the news a lot these past few years) and hands over a token. I wave at the security camera (in case they still report back to Mycroft), and make my way forward despite my repulsion for the place. I really want to leave, but I resist the urge to exit.
More apt, I let my urge to follow John Watson win.
I saw John enter through the front door a little over twenty-five minutes ago, and I was hoping he’d come to his senses and walk right back out once he set foot in this cesspool of human stupidity.
But apparently John is being a little stupid himself… He’s been in here for a while now. It’s annoying. But I know something is bothering him. There’s something odd going on with John. I’m not sure if he’s hiding something or if he’s in pain. I need to find him before he loses too much money (which will do nothing to resolve whatever is going on with him).
I am slightly puzzled as to why he is acting off-kilter, and frankly, I am also a bit worried (and not only because the task of comforting him might be left up to me…) For all intents and purposes, John Watson should be happy. He has healed and recovered months ago from the tragedy that led to the death of Mary Morstan. I’ve observed him smiling spontaneously and walking upright with a gait that suggests contentment and lightheartedness. He has assisted me on cases, has laughed during danger, and has nagged me to eat and sleep. He’s watched YouTube videos of cats, and he has also watched a well diversified mix of porn videos. Plus, he has finally put the house in Kensington up for sale and is moving back into 221B. With me.
I’ve missed you, John.
But I’m forced to acknowledge that an unknown variable has come and halted the forward momentum and John has regressed. John is suddenly very quiet and preoccupied. He avoids eye contact and is fidgety, nervous, around me.
I can’t figure out what I might’ve done (well, there is something I did; the meth, three weeks ago—for a case—but I’m absolutely certain John doesn’t know that. It’s something else).
I’m on a quest to gather more data as to what has caused John to regress. I’ve narrowed it down to two hypotheses, though I am leaning towards the second one.
My first hypothesis is that he has somehow developed a gambling problem. However, I have not seen any obvious evidence of such a thing happening. There has been no increase in the frequency in which he uses his bank card to withdraw money, and he has not borrowed any. I’d be immensely surprised if he were stealing from someone.
Though, that being said, I can’t rule out an online addiction. He does like his football an awful lot (Sherlock, I swear to God, if you fucking dare change the channel during this game, I will royally mess up the experiment that you have brewing on your counter…) It hadn’t even been an important game, so perhaps he had such a strong interest because he had invested in the outcome? I doubt it. He feels that way about every football game on telly, it seems. But still, I can’t rule out the gambling. He is, after all in a casino, in the middle of the afternoon on a work day.
My second hypothesis, and the more likely cause of his set back, is that he has met someone new (let’s call her X for now) and he’s feeling guilty around me because he is second-guessing his decision to move back in. But, again, I don’t have concrete evidence of this. Internally, it’s more of an intuition. Mycroft would call this emotional reasoning instead of logical reasoning. But I digress…
Where is John?
I scan the main floor of the casino. It is littered with rows of slot machines and I know John has more sense than to try his luck with the coin-operated games. There’s absolutely no logic to them, no statistical analysis that can be used to hypothesize when the next big payout will occur. Why people think the large jackpot is just around the corner because it hasn’t paid out in a while is totally beyond me. I walk by a balding office worker who has been pulling on the machine’s arm for at least two hours straight. He has lost more money today that he has ever gained this year. I think a lab rat would’ve figured out by now that it’s just not worth it, and would’ve given up on pushing down the lever.
John will undoubtedly be at the blackjack tables, where the odds of winning are more elevated if the participants are of average intelligence.
I forge forward, looking straight ahead so the psychedelic pattern of the carpet doesn’t give me a seizure. I (unfortunately) catch a faint urine odour and can discern an elderly couple tucked away in the corner. They have been sitting side by side for the past six hours, trying to win their money back from their ‘favourite’ machines, hoping their luck is about to change.
Maybe my parent’s line dancing is not so embarrassing after all, I think. The Mycroft in my head rolls his eyes and says ‘The line dancing will always remain ignominious, Sherlock.’ I concede him the point. It’s much easier to do when it’s imaginary Mycroft.
I turn the corner and finally I find John sitting on a high stool at the roulette table (the game with the absolute worst odds of winning if you are betting on the numbers straight-up). He has a small pile of light green chips (worth two pounds each) and I estimate he has already lost over one hundred pounds in the twenty minutes I waited for him to come to his senses. I should’ve intervened sooner. Idiot.
John is clearly in worse shape than I imagined. Maybe hypothesis one is valid after all. I have no choice but to step in before he loses more chips. John won’t be pleased to see me. He’ll be humiliated and angry at me even though I technically didn’t do anything wrong (this time).
I tell myself it doesn’t matter.
I approach and say, “John”.
Much to my surprise, John’s face lights up and he gives me one of his potent smiles that makes my stomach swirl. I stare at him, I can’t help it, he’s caught me off-guard. I really thought he’d be upset that I followed him here.
“Sherlock!” he says, like he hasn’t seen me in ages (it hasn’t been ages; merely two days, six hours, and eleven minutes). “You still follow me,” he adds with a note of wonderment in his voice.
I resist smiling back. “Apparently, I need to in order to save you from the incredibly idiotic decisions you make.”
He chuckles. I wish he would stop doing that. I was prepared for a confrontation, not crinkles around the eyes and awe in his voice. I need to re-calibrate my expectations with his mood so I don’t let anything slip.
“It’s just a bit of entertainment!” exclaims John, happily. This tells me that I can probably rule out a gambling problem. He would definitely be on the defensive if that were the case. There would be shame and guilt in his tone. And he would be angry to be caught in the act.
But still, I have to get him out of here soon. “John, don’t be stupid, you do not feel entertained when you lose money, trust me.”
He shrugs, amused. “Maybe. But I’ve gone this far, I might as well try to win some of it back, right?”
He looks at me. “Here, your birthday is on the sixth, isn’t?”
I watch in horror as John reaches out to place his remaining pile of chips straight up on that particular number. As if my birthday as any more chance of winning than the other thirty-six numbers on the wheel.
I grab his wrist. “No, let me.”
“Okay,” he says, and drops the chips (seventy pounds worth) in my palm.
I have a bit of a non-statistical strategy coming together in my mind. I look at the last four winning numbers shown on the roulette display board adjacent to the table. I work out a pattern based not on probability but on biomechanics.
The croupier spins the wheel with the same force every time. It’s a monotonous job, and unconsciously muscle memory takes over the spinning motion his hand makes. I can predict with fair accuracy in which quadrant of the wheel the ball will fall in. I quickly place nine of John’s chips on the nine numbers in that particular section of the wheel.
The croupier waves a bored hand over the table. “No more bets,” he says in a monotone voice.
John watches the ball spin, and I watch John. I can tell he has not been drinking and that he hasn’t skipped work. He already had the afternoon off. Yes, he has his eye on someone. He has also shaved just before coming here. It’s a very close shave. His cheek is practically shiny from being so smooth. Oh, and he’s wearing the cologne. The one I like. Definitely dressed for a date.
My eyes return to the roulette game. There are four other participants playing and they are all holding their breath (and pretending not to) as the ball begins to lose inertia. As inferred, the ball skips and stops in the general section I had predicted. John wins thirty-five times his bet. He looks at me with utter amazement, like I’ve pulled a rabbit out of a hat (which, incidentally, I can do—it’s a very simple trick).
John beams like a photon of light when the croupier counts a large pile of chips and pushes it towards him.
“Keep going?” he asks me.
I would rather leave the premises immediately, but I think it’s important that John gets his money back or else he might delay moving back in for a few months if he is short on funds.
“Fine,” I say.
“Well, tell me where to put my bloody chips down, you brilliant wizard.”
I sigh and pretend this is a huge imposition on my time when in fact I’m a bit (a lot) pleased that I’ve impressed John Watson.
I look at the wheel. Again, I estimate which section the ball should land on based on previous spins. I tell John to place the chips on the following numbers 33, 1, 20, 14, 31, 9, which are all neighbours on the roulette wheel. We go through the whole ordeal of spinning and waiting (but I don’t really mind—this gives me time to observe John and gather more data). Once again, the ball lands in the right section (number 14) and John wins again.
In fact, in the space of five spins, John has won all of his money back and made over three hundred pounds.
John is happy and is now chatting with the woman next to him (a Canadian tourist who keeps apologizing for bumping his elbow every times she reaches over John to place her chips on the table). How about apologizing for shoving your chest in his face? I think, annoyed.
The Canadian tourist casts a quick glance at his left hand. Of course, she sees no ring, and says, “Aren’t you lucky tonight!”
Internally, I groan at the atrocious pick-up line. John frowns at me. I might’ve groaned out loud.
But I’m absolutely certain that John is not interested. If he is indeed wishing to get involved with someone (hypothesis 2), it won’t be with a tourist.
That being said, I might be wrong for when I observe John’s micro-facial expressions closely, I note that his eyes are shiny, his smile is slanted adorably, and his head is tilted just so (exactly like when he is flirting). If the next thing John says to the tourist is funny and charming, then maybe he is looking for a one-night stand after all. I ignore the feeling of small needles jabbing at my heart.
But surprisingly, what comes out of John’s mouth is not a flirty response to the Canadian’s pick-up line. In fact his response to her is all about me (I wasn’t too lucky before Sherlock showed up. It’s all Sherlock’s doing! Have you ever heard of him over in Canada? He’s a genius. This man right here is amazing. Utterly mind-blowing the stuff he can deduce. There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s even cracked the roulette code. I just put the chips where he tells me to. Seriously, have you not heard of him?)
But how can he possibly be interested in her if he won’t stop focusing on me? This just goes to show that I know a grand total of nothing about the foggy world of flirting.
John wins again. The floor manager comes over to our table, gives me a suspicious look, and substitutes the croupier.
I say, “Let’s go.” I can’t be bothered to study the biomechanics of the newly substituted dealer, and besides, it’s not a good idea to get John addicted to the feel-good chemicals associated with winning. I don’t particularly want to rescue him once a month from this establishment.
He cashes out, and tries to give me his winnings. I wave it aside and he rolls his eyes at me. (Which I secretly don’t mind at all.)
“C’mon Sherlock, you did all the work.”
“It’s yours. You can use it to pay a moving truck. That way I won’t have to help.”
He chuckles. “Yeah, right. As if you were going to help,” he says. He opens his wallet and places the thick pile of bills inside. I notice that the leather on the outside of his wallet has reshaped into a 3cm diameter circle. I conclude that has a condom in there. The odds of hypothesis 2 being correct have dramatically increased. He is looking for coitus tonight.
We both retrieve our jackets from the coat check (actually, John retrieves both our jackets while I pretend to take a call).
We exit the casino and there’s an instant relief from the cacophony. I’m obviously ready to return home and John is obviously not. John looks happy but still fidgety. I can only deduce that he is meeting someone he already knows. He is not depressed or regressing. A bit sad, yes. But I think he is just nervous about introducing me to this new person. Why? Are you scared she’s going to shoot me?
Well, contrary to popular belief, I do not care if John Watson begins a new relationship. He can call X as soon as I turn my back to call a cab. He’s probably meeting her for dinner. A nice restaurant. I recall he’s wearing a new black shirt; snug, unbuttoned, forming an attractive V. Black trousers, black belt, black dating shoes (an upgrade from the brown loafers from five years ago).
John looks good.
But, as always with John Watson, it’s not really what he’s wearing, is it?
He’s got a smile worthy of a five star rating.
He’ll have no problems achieving his goal tonight. Evolutionary speaking, I believe he is the perfect candidate for any female looking for a long-term relationship. Not only is he handsome, he is also regarded as a “catch” due to his medical profession. A good provider.
Hypothesis 2 becomes my working theory and I now switch my focus on who person X is. I immediately scroll through my mind the list of people he already knows, before adding new members to the list.
Could X be Molly Hooper? Not likely. Too many ties to what happened with John’s family. Plus, John wouldn’t want to be involved with an alcoholic. I cross her off the list. Sad, I like Molly.
Sarah Sawyer? Apart from the fact that she would probably rather relocate to Mars than attempt another romantic liaison with John, she is simply not his type. I remove Sarah off the list too.
What about Sally or Jeanine? No. I’ve never observed any signs of interest in either direction from either party. John wouldn’t want anything to do with the police and even less to do with a former acquaintance of Mary’s. And myself, I suppose.
Anthea? Nope. John would rather become a monk than become involved with anyone working in close proximity to my brother.
I put Mrs Hudson on the list on principle. I know imaginary Mycroft’s long nose would wrinkle in disapproval if I ruled out someone simply based on age. But, since I know for a fact that John considers her a mother, I can immediately cross her off the list again.
I make quick slashes through the name of every nurse at John’s work. They are all married with young children. John wouldn’t be interested in an affair, plus the reminder of a little one would be too painful at this point.
This leaves me with the two office workers at the surgery: Diana (or is it Danika?) and Stephanie. While Stephanie would certainly be interested, John finds her extremely annoying (Sherlock, she likes to hear herself talk, and all her opinions are based on fucking Facebook surveys. Sometimes I wish I could mute people just like you do.) I happily cross-off Stephanie’s name in John’s stead.
Diana/Danika remains. I just don’t have enough data either way to make a decision.
So, that’s basically it for friends and colleagues…
Immediately, imaginary Mycroft raises an eyebrow “That’s not quite true is it, dear brother?”
Reluctantly, I scribble James Sholto’s name on the list. I know it’s impossible but I just want to prove to Mycroft (to myself) that I. Don’t. Care. Anyway, Sholto highly unlikely. John is not gay and he hasn’t talked to Sholto ever since he found out what really happened with the recruits.
In fact, I decide I don’t really care about who exactly John is meeting tonight. I’m fine with knowing that he is okay, not depressed again, and that he merely has first date jitters after such a long hiatus.
I say goodbye to John and raise my hand when I see a taxi coming down the street.
“Wait!” says John. “Dinner?” he asks, his eyes full of hope. “It’s the least I can do.”
I am not remotely hungry. “It’s only four, John.”
Also, earlier, I had an idea regarding a blood analysis experiment and I’d like to go home and test it. And even though I’d like to stay with John, the tantalizing appeal of the Eureka moment beckons me. We’ll both be getting our high this evening, but from different sources.
“There’s something I’m working on,” I explain. My voice sounds genuinely sorry. That might be because I probably am. I do like to spend time with John.
“Oh, okay, then,” he says. He is dejected.
Was it rude of me? I thought he’d be relieved to get rid of me to pursue some simple pleasures now that he is ready.
But perhaps John would rather join me? He likes to watch me work. And, as I recall, the high of an epiphany is so much sweeter when John is around to witness it. Also, I might glean a bit more information as to who person X is (apparently, I do care minutely).
I invite him. “Do you want to join me? I’m working on a blood analysis.”
He looks down at his feet and purses his lips. It seems to be a most difficult decision for him. I don’t see why. Surely he knows I won’t be offended?
Finally, he answers me. “Okay.”
I am surprised that my company can still trump a sexual encounter. Doesn’t he know he’s decreasing his odds of success by following me? I suppose he can always have intercourse after he visits 221B. I rule out Diana/Danika from the front office because she is extremely punctual and wouldn’t appreciate John re-scheduling their date because he’s watching me work.
X is someone else. Could be anyone really; the woman he chatted with at the bus stop last week, the grocery lady who suggested a wine to go with the Alfredo sauce he purchased, or even the widow he met at the graveyard last week. Who knows?
Suddenly, my stomach growls a bit. I should probably eat. And if I’m going to eat, there’s no one else in this world I would enjoy doing it with more than John Watson. I have no food in the flat.
“Actually John, let’s go have dinner. You do owe me after all.”
John laughs. Actually, it’s more like a giggle. A small dimple appears on the side of his mouth. The sight of it is pleasing to me. Rewarding.
I smile back and John looks down at his feet again, still smiling. I’m not sure about this new habit of staring at his shoes, but I shouldn’t begrudge him too much as I notice I’m also staring at mine.