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The Fucking Machine

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“Shan’t be forever,” said Sherlock Holmes under his breath as he carefully placed the violin case and the skull-shaped bundle in the locker. “Just until I get new digs. You’ll be safer here, both from repossession for sums owed and damage, collateral or otherwise.” He took a deep breath and bowed his head, his gloved hand still resting on the closed locker door.

When Sherlock dropped his hand and pivoted, his expression of icy disdain made his sharp features almost raptorial. He flipped up his coat collar and strode purposefully out of the train station.

Half hour later, Sherlock was bursting through double doors marked ‘St. Bartholomew’s Centre for Secondary Sex Studies – Research Lounge A – Authorised Personnel Only’ with a heralding cry.


Two men were playing cards at a table. A third was slumped on a sofa, watching telly. They might have easily been confused with long-term patients, what with their robes and slippers and just-killing-time attitudes.

But at Sherlock’s entrance, one of them turned a shade of beet-red and slammed his cards on the table.

“Goddammit, Holmes!”

“Still not minding the blood pressure, Gregson, I see. And Jones is still a cheat.”

Sherlock danced over to the table and produced a card from the folded lapel of Jones’s robe.

“Goddammit, Holmes,” said Jones softly. He looked at Gregson and shrugged. “Sorry, Gregson. You know, scorpion, frog, all that.”

Gregson turned purple and looked from Jones to Sherlock, then back to Jones.

“Yes, it’s our nature, isn’t it?” said Sherlock. “Alpha studs. But it’s all for science and therefore definitely not prostitution.” He sighed. “But Gregson can be forgiven for his imminent cardiovascular incident. After all, eight-and-a-half iron doesn’t sound quite appealing when there’s a nice nine-iron about, does it?” Sherlock made a golf-club-swinging gesture with his arms, then headed for the refrigerator in the corner of the room. “Is my Pellegrino still here?”

“I pissed in it, all of it,” said Gregson with a sneer.

“No doubt you pissed around it, but with your marksmanship, I doubt any would’ve hit the target.”

Jones and the man on the sofa snickered. Gregson fumed.

“Oh, no matter,” said Sherlock. “I’ll just take this Diet Coke.” He stood, a red-and-white can in hand and popped the top. Then he closed the refrigerator door with his foot and took a sip. He held up the can and grimaced at it. “Dear God, this is worse than smack.”

Gregson jumped to his feet. “Now see here, you tosser, that’s my Diet—!”

Sherlock gave Gregson an up-and-down appraising look. “It’s not working, Gregson. Do look up the definition of insanity.” Sherlock turned his attention to the man on the sofa. “Hopkins. How’s it hanging?”

Without taking his eyes from the telly, Hopkins shook his head ruefully. “Not as near to the ground as yours, Machine. Are you really back?”

“Yeah,” said Sherlock. He pirouetted with arms extended. “The answer to Omega prayer, the prize stallion, the Alpha of the Alphas—”

Gregson stepped towards him. “I am the Alpha of the Alphas, bitch.”

“Not when The Fucking Machine is the Farm’s corral,” Sherlock said coldly, then took another sip. “This stuff is definitely what's rotting your bollocks, Gregson.”

“You’re not back,” said Gregson, snarling. “You’ll never pass the physical exam and the lab test.”

Sherlock withdrew a folded white sheet of paper from his coat pocket. He shook it open with one hand while the other hand poured fizzy dark liquid down the sink.

“I just did, bitch.”

“Christ,” swore Jones. “I’m going to have to get a second job.”

Hopkins nodded and changed the channel.