Scotty had a picture of a man whose name she didn’t know. It was a simple picture, a quick snap-shot taken on a cell-phone camera, good quality. She set the picture down and pick up the letter that accompanied it. She had joined a pen-pal program that connected civilians with soldiers overseas and this was the first letter she had received. Honestly, she wasn’t expecting much, since she had only sent her letter a few months ago. She figured that her letter had gotten lost or sent to someone who didn’t want to write back. It was no sweat off her back, but having a friend would be nice. She didn’t have friends, she wasn’t that kind of person. So if she was hoping for even a long-distance friend, she might be forgiven for a bit of foolish hope. Unfolding the paper, she read a handwritten letter. It was nice handwriting, but kind of chicken-scratchy. Like her dad’s handwriting. Her dad was a police detective. Or…had been a police detective. Before he got sick, before cancer took him away from Scotty way, way too early. That was another reason she wanted friends. So, with a letter in hand, she started to read, hoping for good news.
I wonder if your letter wasn’t intended for someone else, got lost, and reached me instead. Perhaps a crossover between our post and yours? Never mind, I enjoy getting letters, and with no family who cares enough to write (unless they need something from me), I was thrilled to get your mail. My unit isn’t formally part of the letter-exchange program, but I would like to keep getting letters from you. See, you wrote to “Any American Soldier”, and your letter got dropped on the desk of a British soldier instead.
I hope you don’t mind too much, please write back if you would like to, I don’t have much company and, like I said, no family to speak of. As much my fault as theirs, another story for another time. I understand it’s traditional to send a picture with a letter, so…here’s me. Don’t mind the ugly mug, I was born with it.
So anyway, my name. My name is John Watson. John H. Watson, actually. That’s the whole of it. I hate my middle name, so I’ll keep that to myself. It’s kind of…embarrassing? A thirty-something grown man ashamed of his own name. Funny thing, that. I’m thirty-three years old, male (obviously, but some people don’t get the idea), single, bisexual orientation but hetero in practice. The Army doesn’t like queers much, unfortunately, so I have to keep that bit quiet or get in trouble. I really hope you’re not one of those folks who condemn the likes of me, burn this letter if you are. I like to get it in the open so I don’t have to worry later.
By the picture I shared, you can probably tell I’m a soldier, you wouldn’t get this letter otherwise, but the specifics are a bit more interesting. I’m a medic with the Royal Army Medical Corps, currently assigned to a unit posted in Afghanistan on the base in Bagram, so there’s a blend of my countrymen and your Yank boys and ladies. I’ve seen plenty of women in uniform over here, more than I expected. Brave bunch, them, especially in this shit-hole. I’m stationed over here with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 5th Regiment, it’s not a boring job. The waiting is dreadful, though, and the food is appalling. If there’s one thing I miss from home, it’s a decent cuppa. Hell, I’d take a good cup of coffee, but that doesn’t seem to exist either! You’re from the States, but you wouldn’t happen to have access to good quality tea, would you? I could sure use a good cup over here, a bit of home in Hell.
Before I joined the Army, I lived in England, in a tiny village in Richmondshire, that’s in North Yorkshire, called Hudswell. Go see if you can find that on a map of England for me, will you? It’s less than a speck, but it was home for a long time. Not a happy home, but it was home. I left when I was sixteen, struck out for my own and headed south to London, where I hoped to make my fortunes doing something useful. Anything, really. That’s how I found the Army, and they paid for my education. I went to medical school, and…well, the rest is a bit of history.
My da’s long in his grave, he can stay there and rot, my mam’s Lord knows where doing Christ knows what, and that’s fine, and my sister…I think she’s in rehab? I’m not sure, she won’t talk to me anymore after I tried to get her help the last time she called me slobbering drunk. See, addictions run in my family and they took my da, they took my mam, and my sister’s on her way to the bottom of the bottle like the rest of them. Got out while the getting was good, I suppose. Coward that I am, I’m clear across the far side of the civilized world getting shot at by morons in turbans with stolen weapons.
Suppose I should close this up, I just heard the sirens. Just a wounded call, no real danger, that’s a thing, though, so…yeah. Please write back soon? I like company, even in a letter.
John H. Watson
Corporal (HM Royal Army)
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 5th Regiment
Royal Army Medical Corps
Scotty finished reading the letter and picked up the picture again. So, he did have a name! John Watson was a handsome man, he really was. Older than Scotty by a bit, but she didn’t care. He looked like a nice man, the kind of person she would probably get along with if they ever got to meet each other. She thought it was kind of funny that her letter had gotten lost, recovered, and sent to a Brit. She didn’t mind, though. It didn’t seem like he did either. Digging a sheet of clean paper out of her backpack, she started writing a letter to send back to him. She decided she should send him a picture in return and printed a picture from her Facebook profile, one that didn’t show the bruises, where she didn’t look scared.
Can I call you John? I don’t have many friends, or any friends, really. I thought my letter had gotten lost, but I guess not? You got my letter, so you know what I already wrote you, but…you should know one thing. It’s kind of important to me. You said you were…thirty-three? I’m fifteen. My name is Mariam Scott Raileigh Hudson. Dad used to call me Scotty, you can just call me that if you want to.
See, my dad was a police detective, worked in Homicide, but he died last year. Cancer took him. He was the only family I had that cared, and he’s gone. Mom died when I was ten, breast-cancer. I really, really want someone to talk to, even an older stranger will do. You can ignore a clingy teenager, I won’t be upset. Everyone else does, unless they’re yelling at me.
I’ll write back if you do? Please take care of yourself, don’t get shot.
I have to go, but I’ll write again. Take care, be careful.
P.0. Box 221
1150 23RD AVE
SEATTLE, WA 98122-4822
After writing the letter, she folded it up, stuck it in an envelope with the picture, and dropped it in the mailbox as she left the library. She hoped he would write back. When she got home, she hid the picture and gave her completed homework to her foster-father. That night, Scotty avoided any beatings or encounters, but it was only a matter of time before her turn came again.
After those first letters, Scotty and John wrote to each other several times a week, sending and receiving stacks of letters at a time, and she confided in him about her situation. He prompted her to get help, to find someone she could trust locally and get help from them, but she didn’t know who to trust. When she learned that he had Skype, she started calling him when she could do it safely, usually while she was out of the house and their timing synched up. On one of these phone-calls, he brought up an interesting point.
“You know, love. If you were in London, I could help you out. Too bad you’re in Seattle.”
“You know, John, that’s enough.” She looked around the little study-room she had taken over, “I’ve got a friend. And your secret is safe. My foster doesn’t know about you.”
“What if they did know about me?”
“It wouldn’t be good. Don’t think about it, please? I get into enough trouble without them knowing I have a friend overseas.” She tapped her nose, “Please.”
“You need help, Scotty. You can’t keep telling me these things and sending me pictures of what happens to you and expect me to sit here and do absolutely nothing!”
“I’m sorry.” She put her head down, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you angry!”
“It’s not you I’m angry with, Scotty! It’s those bastards you live with!” He was legitimately furious, and she was so glad to be the thousands of miles separating them. She seemed to be very good at making people angry, that was a normal state for her. John apologized for scaring her and said he was going to go take a run, he had to calm down.
“Write me soon, will you? And send more of that tea you found, if you can get it.”
“You liked that?”
“Best I’ve had since leaving home!”
“I’ll buy some more the next time I visit that shop, then! I’m glad you approved of, you Brits have the pickiest taste with tea.” She rested her chin on her hands, “I’ll talk to you later, John, okay? Be safe.”
“You too, Scotty.” He hung up first, and she packed up her laptop and decided to go home. If she was any later, Gore would come looking for her and that would be bad enough. When she got home, she retreated to her room right away after turning her homework over to Gore, who returned it an hour later without a word. Gore left her alone that night, for whatever reason. She suspected he was too busy fucking the girl he’d stumbled home with two days ago. Without changing her clothes, she pulled up the lock-boxes under her floor-boards, packed a few days’ worth of clothes, her letters and pictures from John, made sure she had her laptop, phone, and wallet, and waited until midnight.
The house got quiet, she checked Gore and Nick, and everyone else in the house currently, and escaped out her window. She walked down the street and kept going until she reached a hostel, where she paid for a one-night stay in a private room. Taking her key, she found her room and locked the door behind her, putting her stuff down and digging out a clean change of clothes before taking a shower in the communal bathroom, bagging the clothes she’d shown up in for throw-away. It felt amazing to take a shower in private, and she scrubbed down well. After changing into pajamas and brushing her teeth, Scotty left the private shower-stall and headed back to her room. The first thing she did was lock her door again and then she picked up her phone. It wasn’t the phone she usually carried, this was a special phone Gore didn’t have access to. She kept it charged up but powered off for safety, except for the occasional power-up to activate a GPS device inside. Powering up the phone, she opened her contacts and scrolled to a certain listing. Hoping it wasn’t too early where she was calling to, Scotty sat on the bed and waited while the call rang through. It didn’t take long, so she kind of wondered. It was Saturday already, where had she found him?
“This is Mycroft Holmes.” The same salutation as always, thank God that had never changed. He sounded kind of groggy, and she double-checked her time. It was 1:15 am in Seattle, so that meant it was 8:15 am in London. Had she actually woken him up? This was a late hour for him to be asleep.
“Uh. Uncle Mike?” She swallowed hard, “It’s…um, it’s Scotty Hudson.” There was a pause and she started ticking over the seconds in her head.
“Scotty?” A hint of suspicion in his voice. “Where are you? Are you somewhere safe?”
“Yeah. I’m…at a hostel. Uncle Mike, I need help.” She sniffled, curling up on her bed, “I…I need you. I need help.” This was a phone-call she probably should have made ages ago and just hadn’t had the guts.
“Are you in Seattle still?”
“Yeah. I’m, uh, I’m gonna try flying out of here later today, I just…I need somewhere to go. Can I…come stay with you for a while?”
“Scotty, I’m…I’m not in London at the moment.”
“Oh my god. Where are you?” That explained why he sounded so tired. She had woken him up! Great. “I’m sorry I woke you up!”
“No, this is exactly what we always told you to do, Scotty. If you were even in trouble, call me as soon as you could.” She could hear soft rustling, the sound of movement, “I’m in Vancouver on business at the moment, can you meet me here?”
“Yeah! Sure, that’s…that should be pretty easy!” She grabbed her laptop and started looking for routes from Seattle to Vancouver. It was two hours driving, four hours by bus or train, and forty-five minutes by air. She didn’t know anyone who could drive her to Vancouver and she didn’t feel comfortable hitch-hiking, so it was either rail, bus, or plane to get there.
“Um, I can be in Vancouver by…noon? That’s the latest I can get there, maybe a little after that. Where are you?”
“I’m at the Four Seasons. The last of my obligations should be concluded by 2:00 pm. After that, I’m due back in London.”
“I should have called you earlier, Uncle Mike, I know that, I’m so sorry.”
“You did exactly what we told you to do, don’t apologise. And don’t worry about your uncle. As soon as you’re safe, we’ll deal with him.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later, then?”
“I’ll add your ticket to my itinerary before you arrive.”
“That’s…great, actually. Oh, my god. Thank you so much.” Scotty hid her face in her knees, “I feel a little sick to my stomach, Uncle Mike.”
“Have you been seen to by a doctor?”
“Two days ago. I’ll…get an ROI for you.” She had a list of things to do before she left Seattle. Hanging up with Mycroft after saying goodbye, Scotty slept. Not well, but she slept.