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The True Value Of Things

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“Okay, you have to actually get out of the brownstone every once in a while,” Joan said, looking at Sherlock. “And I mean more than just for cases. This is New York City. There’s life in every section of this place.”

“Death too,” Sherlock said, not looking up from the book he was holding in his hands as he paced around the living room. “Our stock and trade is in the death that permeates this city.”

Joan rolled her eyes at him, looked around for something to use as a bookmark, and then when she found something walked in front of him, dropped it in between the pages he was looking at and closed the book with a snap. “Then forget about death today and consider celebrating life for a change. I swear, you’re all about doom and gloom all of a sudden.”

“My bees are the victim of some sort of infection. I’m trying to figure out a way to stop it before a certain bee I named after a certain partner vanishes with the rest of the dead hive,” he said, giving her a mild glare.

“You can take a few hours to go join me for this massive street fair in Tribeca that I was supposed to go to with a date that someone deduced the hell of and sent him running,” she said, matching his glare with equal force.”

They locked gazes for a few moments and then he looked away and sighed. She would win, of course. She usually did. He hated to admit it, but Joan had sway over him in a way few others did. He would do much to make her happy, and if going to mingle among the masses for a street fair for a time would make her happy, he would do so. He gently tossed the book on the sofa and then went to the coat rack. “Lead on, MacDuff.”

---

It wasn’t an altogether bad sort of street fair if he wanted to be honest with himself. Rather like the Sunday Up Market at Brick Lane, in its own way. Vendors hawking their wares, food being sold from street carts and food trucks, artists trying to make a living. They had passed by one in particular a few times that Joan had seemed most intrigued by, and on the fourth go round Sherlock stopped in his tracks, immobile as a stone.

“You want a portrait,” he said to her.

“No!” Joan said hastily. “I mean, it’s street art, it’s just...” She trailed off, glancing at the art that the artist had propped up on a small easel to display their skills. “It’s so beautiful.”

“Watercolours,” Sherlock murmured, moving closer to the easel. “Very lifelike. Quite exquisite.” He glanced over ad saw the artist, a young woman, was currently subject free. “Pose.”

“What?” Joan asked, surprised.

“We have tred most of this fair and you have walked by this particular booth four times. You want a portrait.” He gestured to the canopy covered booth. “Pose for a watercolour. I will cover the cost. It is my gift to you.”

Joan gave him a smile and ducked inside, speaking with the artist and her companion while Sherlock studied the art. There was something quite familiar about the style and technique that he could not put his finger on, but it was nagging at him. When Joan called him in to hear the price, he stepped inside. “You are not a professional,” he said.

“Sherlock!” Joan said, her eyes wide.

“It’s all right,” the woman said, shaking her head. “No, I’m not. I just do this for fun.”

Sherlock nodded. “And how long have you been doing this for fun?” he asked, crossing his arms.

The woman tilted her head. “About...five years now?”

“But you’ve been painting longer,” he said.

“Since I was very young,” she replied.

“I am so sorry,” Joan said, glaring at Sherlock before turning to the woman.

“It’s alright,” the woman said, giving her a smile. “It’s good to know more about an artist when you’re getting a commission.”

“Kimmy,” her companion said. “You’re running low on the blue you’d use for her shirt.”

Kimmy pursed her lips and then looked at her paints. “I think we can manage. I’ll pull something out of the hat.”

Then it clicked. The wunderkind watercolor genius that Irene...Jamie...had espoused about, who painted such beautiful pictures as a child, whose style she could never match no matter how hard she tried. Jamie had shown him some of her aborted attempts and this was the artist. “Kimberly,” he murmured. “You disappeared from the art world at fourteen. Your parents would not allow the release of your surname or the showing of your photograph. You did not attend your gallery showings. They tried to keep you as normal a child as possible while sharing your gift with the world.”

“And yet I still managed to feel the pressure of fame,” she said, her smile becoming a little more wry as she began to paint Joan. “Not from my parents, but everyone else. They wanted more, they wanted bigger, they wanted flashier, and I just wanted to enjoy my friends and my life as a teenager. So at fourteen, I retired and walked away from the art world. But I couldn’t give up painting entirely. I didn’t go to art school because that would be too conspicuous, but things like this...that’s enough.” Her smile became warmer as she looked at Sherlock. “You’re the first to ever figure it out.”

“I once knew an art forger who tried to copy your style. She never succeeded,” he said.

Kimberly chuckled. “That makes me feel better.” She turned her attention to the work she was doing. “You should get a portrait too…?”

“Sherlock Holmes,” he said. “I would be honoured.”

“And I would be honored to paint you, free of charge.” Her companion patted the seat next to her and he sat down, having a clear view of her working. “Come and watch me work.”

Sherlock sat, entranced. He had seen Jamie paint from time to time, though never her original work; that had been the lure to her “death” scene. But he had seen her do bits and pieces of her restorations and her forgeries, so he knew great skill when he saw it. Kimberly possessed every inch of skill that Jamie had. They way she moved her brush was like poetry, should he make the comparison, and it was beautiful to watch.

Soon she was done with Joan’s portrait and it was time for his sitting. At times he found it hard to sit still for such things but it was easy today, to stay perfectly skilled so such a skilled artisan could capture his likeness. It was almost with regret when she told him it was done. Joan had taken his spot to watch and she too looked just as impressed as he had. “It’s magnificent,” she said in awe.

He moved to view it and saw a picture that looked delicate yet vibrant at the same time, with his name at the bottom. She had even signed it, which he knew to most collectors would increase its worth tenfold, though he cared not about that. “I agree.”

“They need to dry, but they should be ready to pick up in a few hours,” Kimberly said. “I promise I won’t leave until you’ve gotten them.”

“Let me tip you,” Sherlock said, reaching for his well-hidden wallet.

“You don’t need to,” Kimberly said. “Free of charge, remember?”

“For something of as great value as this, I feel I must give you some portion of it’s worth.” He pulled two bills from his wallet and folded them over before slipping them in her tip jar. Then he gave her a warm grin and bowed at the waist. “We will return in a few hours.”

He left the booth then and Joan followed, a wide grin on her face as Sherlock put his wallet back in his coat. “You do realize you just tipped her $200,” she said.

He nodded. “I do,” he replied.

“You don’t throw around money like that.”

He stopped and looked at her for a moment. “One must pay for things of value, or else they lose their worth. They are worth much more than $200, but it is something more than I believe she would normally get.” He paused. “Now. I need to find an ATM and make a withdrawal. I believe my father can stand to lose some money to gift a young artist for some exquisite paintings.” He watched her shake her head and his grin widened. Yes, this had definitely been the best decision of the day, to celebrate life instead of investigate death, if only for a brief time. A most rewarding decision indeed...