He got out of the cab and looked at the very long driveway. He had vowed never to come back here, after the reception he had gotten last time. But he needed Kelly's help, and Kelly couldn't come to London at the moment so he had to go to her. He was doing this alone because John had other business to attend to with a patient who needed to be hospitalized. It was a fairly serious case, and he had said that as much as he would love to see his sister he just couldn't leave. He could handle the girls without John, he thought to himself. Or at least he hoped he could.
He took a deep breath and began walking towards St. Trinian's, keeping an eye out for the First Year girl he knew would be near the beginning of the driveway. Kelly had said it was safe for him, but he was fairly sure not all the girls had forgiven him for what he had planned on doing the last time he was here. He spotted her a few yards in. It was a different girl than last time, he thought. He cleared his throat and she lowered her binoculars. “What's your business here?” she asked.
“I need to speak with Miss Jones about a private matter involving her old post in the government. She's expecting me.”
“You're that Sherlock bloke, aren't you?” she asked after a moment.
“Yes,” he said.
“We did a number on you last time you were here. Are you going to try and send Flash Harry to jail again?”
He shook his head. “As much as I disapprove of what he does, Miss Fritton and I have come to an understanding about him. But the matter I need to speak with Miss Jones about is most urgent.”
She hesitated a moment, then got on her radio. “Hey, are we supposed to allow Sherlock Holmes to get into the school?” she asked.
It beeped. “Yeah. Miss Fritton would punish us if we hurt him. He's her friend now,” another girl said in reply. Sherlock smiled slightly. It was good to know Annabelle considered him a friend. “Let him through.”
“Got it,” the girl in the tree said. Then she looked back at Sherlock. “Go ahead and go. No one's going to touch you.”
He inclined her head towards her. “Thank you,” he said. He began to walk down the driveway.
“Hey, wait a minute!” the girl said, scrambling down from the tree. He stopped, slightly wary. She ran over to him. “An escort will keep them from bothering you. As long as I come right back no one's going to try and get the better of us.”
“Very well,” he said with a nod. He began to walk, and she tried her best to keep up. After a moment he slowed his pace. “What's your name?”
“Katarina,” she said, looking at him. “I'm a First Year here. I'm kind of the class runt.”
He looked down at her. Yes, she did seem a little short and scrawny, he supposed. “I was scrawny when I was your age,” he said. “I used to get picked on for it.”
“You seem like the type of bloke no one would mess with,” she said.
“I am now. I wasn't then. I was in at least three fights a week,” he said. “My brother finally decided to teach me how to fight back, and then the fights stopped. It's one thing to pick on a runt who can't fight back. It's quite another to fight one who can break your nose.”
She grinned at him. “I like the idea of being able to do that to some git who isn't expecting it.”
“Boxing would be a good start. There are female boxers. Or if you have more strength in your legs, you should try kickboxing.”
“Maybe I'll look into it.” She looked up at one of the trees and gave a thumbs up in that direction. He glanced that way and saw a few leaves being pulled away. “Some of the First Years don't listen to the twins. They're leaving next year, and their number two can't handle the first years who don't obey.”
“Do you obey?” he asked.
“I do, with the stuff that makes sense. I'm not really as much of a hellion as some of the other girls here are. I think when I get older I'd like to be a geek. I like computers a lot. I can hack into just about any database.”
Sherlock was only slightly surprised, more by her age than by the fact that she could do it. “Why aren't you part of that clique now?”
“They don't want First Years. We're security,” she said with a shrug. “That's all they think we're good for.”
He remembered that Molly was a mentor to one of the other students here, a girl who didn't quite fit in. He thought about it for a moment more. This must be the same girl. “I am very skilled at computers and hacking into things. When I see fit I'm able to hack into things like phones to send mass text messages to people whose numbers I do not have.”
“That's pretty cool,” she said, giving him a grin. “You're a bloke after my own heart.”
He found himself grinning at her. On a person by person basis, he had the feeling he'd learn that, while wild, the girls here were not bad people. “Would you like to learn how to do it?”
“I'd love to!” she said her eyes wide.
“Very well. For getting me to the school safely, I'll show you before I leave.”
“That's awesome,” she said, giving a thumbs up to her other side as they walked. “No one here takes an interest in me.”
“Perhaps they should,” he said. To tell the truth, he could always stand to learn from people more knowledgeable. He had been trying to solve complicated cases when he was eight; he knew age was not a limitation for knowledge. “Why are you here?”
“My parents found out what I was doing. They panicked even though there was no chance I'd get caught, and they said I was a bad seed so they sent me here first chance they got,” she said with a shrug. “Didn't want me to be a bad influence on my brother and sister, they said.”
He knew what it felt like to have your family want to distance themselves. He had known from an early age that he was only Mycroft's half-brother, and while his mother had loved him neither Mycroft nor the man he considered his father had allowed themselves to get close. It had been a great relief when Mycroft's father had died, and Mycroft had decided to try and salvage some sort of relationship with him before he killed himself doing drugs. His childhood through early adulthood had been full of isolation, so he could relate to her well. “It doesn't always get better, or even easier, but when you are grown you can pick your own family. Miss Fritton and Miss Jones were able to do that here. Perhaps you will get to do the same.”
“I hope so,” she said. “Do you have your own family you picked out for yourself?”
“I do,” he said with a nod. “Miss Fritton's stepbrother is my flatmate. He considers me family. And then there's Molly Hooper and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson. I consider them close enough to be family. I also have a brother, but he and I do not have the nicest of relationships all the time.”
“Older brothers are supposed to protect their younger brothers,” she said matter-of-factly.
“He does, but I usually resent it,” he said with a grin. “He works for the government so his way of protecting me involves a lot of surveillance and some outright threats. And bribes. He tried to bribe John to spy on me when we first began to live together.” She frowned slightly in confusion. “Mr. Watson.”
“Oh,” Katarina said with a grin as she gave another thumbs up to an unseen girl. “Mr. Watson seems really nice. He didn't do it, did he?”
“No, he did not. I actually told him at the time that he should have, though, and then we could have split the money.”
“I would have done it, but only if you told me to,” she said. “It would be nice to have a bit of pocket change.”
“I can imagine. I used to feel the same way when I was at school.”
“You were sent away, too?”
He nodded. “My father didn't want me around. He sent me away every year he could, to any school that would take me. I wore out my welcome after a year at most schools.”
“Were you a bad student?” she asked.
“No, but I always made everyone very uncomfortable, and I got into fights. My father would have to pay extra for them to keep me, but by the end of the year it would get to be too much and I was asked not to return.”
“If you were a girl you would have fit in well here,” she said with a nod.
“I suppose I would have.”
“What do you do now?” she asked. “I mean, I know you're a copper of some sort, but not really.”
“I'm a consulting detective,” he said. She had to be too young to have paid attention when he jumped off the roof at St. Bart's, when there was a huge scandal associated with him. It was actually nice to have a conversation about what he did without that taint. “Basically I assist Scotland Yard with very challenging cases. Mr. Watson is my assistant. He writes a blog about our cases. It is still quite popular.”
“Maybe one day I'll read it,” she said. “What kind of cases do you solve?”
“Usually homicides. Sometimes other cases, but most of the most challenging cases involve murder.”
“What's the most interesting case you've had?” she asked.
“Probably the one that involved a government testing facility. Or possibly the one that involved Chinese assassins. There have been quite a few.”
“I'd love to hear more,” she said.
He looked down the driveway. They had a ways to go, so he could afford to tell her in detail. He talked about Henry Knight and Baskerville, and she asked questions. By the time they got to St. Trinian's he had just finished, and he saw Kelly was waiting for him at the doors. “If you are still around when I have concluded my business with Miss Jones, I can tell you more about what I do,” he said. “And I still need to show you how to hack into phones as thanks.”
“Sure thing,” Katarina said with a grin. She turned to Kelly. “I got him here in one piece.”
“So I see,” Kelly said with a smile. “It's almost time for supper. I'll have the twins send someone else to the front. This shouldn't take very long, and then Mr. Holmes can do what he promised and talk to you some more.”
She nodded, then waved at Sherlock. “Bye, Sherlock!”
He nodded towards her and then she dashed into the school. Kelly's gaze followed her. “I see you made a friend,” she said when she turned back to Sherlock.
“I believe I did,” he said with a slight grin. “She is a very interesting girl.”
“She'd probably do well to have a friend while she's here,” Kelly said as she went inside the school. He followed her in. “She's really quite smart. It would be good for her to channel it into something productive. And you can also have her teach you a bit about computer hacking, if there's anything you don't know.”
“The thought had crossed my mind.” He followed her to Annabelle's office. “If she could develop her deductive reasoning skills I think she might make a competent consulting detective when she's older.”
“I'm sure if anyone here can do it it's you,” Kelly said with a slight chuckle. “And it would be good for her, I think. She really doesn't belong here. We worried about her, but if you mentor her, maybe we won't need to worry as much.”
“So long as no one tries to attack me I could make more visits here,” he said slowly.
“You're safe here,” she said as they got to Annabelle's office. Kelly opened the door. “Annabelle's out at the moment so we have the office to ourselves in case it needs to be kept confidential.” Sherlock came in and she shut the door behind them. “Do you need my MI-6 connections for this case?”
He nodded, and she gestured to the chairs in front of Annabelle's desk. There was a tea service on her desk, and as he sat down in one of the chairs Kelly went to it and served them both a cup of tea. She handed Sherlock his before taking her own and sitting across from him. “Mycroft has said there is someone in MI-6 who might be rogue. He thought I as an outsider could figure out if that's the case, but I cannot get anyone to acknowledge MI-6 exists, much less give me the information I need. Are your contacts there still good?”
She nodded. “While I have more or less resigned I still have my security clearance. My superiors thought it would be good to let me keep it in case my particular skill set is needed, as I told them I will do occasional work.”
“Good.” Sherlock settled into his chair. “Let me go over the particulars and you can fill me in on what you know and what I should be looking for.” And with that, they got to work.