Warnings: No warnings apply, unless you hate crackfic.
The Hen Night
Bonnie returned from the bar carrying four bottles of fruit juice, two in each hand. Stopping at the table where her friends were sitting, she peered down at the bottles thoughtfully. Janine grinned up at her.
“Go on, Bonnie, work it out,” she said encouragingly.
“Oh God,” Cath said with a resigned tone. “We’ll be here all night.”
“No, no, I’ve got this,” Bonnie assured them. “Umm, apple and passion fruit for Mary and Cath ...”
“Apple and mango ...” Cath told her.
Bonnie squinted at the two bottles in her left hand. “Oh yeah, apple and mango.”
“And they’re for Mary and Janine,” Cath continued. “The orange and passion fruit are for you and me.”
“Right,” said Bonnie. “Okay, so ...” She stared down at her hands again.
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Deciding to take action before she died of dehydration, Janine took the two bottles from Bonnie’s left hand and put one down in front of Mary, keeping the other one for herself.
Bonnie looked at the two bottles she was still holding, frowned for a second but then finally seemed to work it out and sat down while handing one to Cath. The other girls gave her an affectionate cheer and she beamed happily at them before turning to Cath. “Did you get them?” she asked.
“Certainly did,” her friend smiled. Looking round the fairly empty pub to make sure she wasn’t being watched, and keeping her back to the bar, she reached into the large bag on her lap and drew out the object she had pinched earlier that day from the research lab in which she worked. She placed the wooden rack holding four test tubes onto the table. Each of the tubes had a rubber stopper in the top and was about a third full of a clear liquid. Grinning, Cath gave one tube to each of the others. Mary and Janine stared at her, puzzled.
“I promise you they’re brand new,” Cath assured them. “Never been used, and nor have the stoppers. I ‘liberated’ them from the lab’s store.”
“What’s the liquid?” Mary asked, peering into her tube suspiciously.
“Vodka,” Cath told her. “You top up the test tube with juice ...” she unstoppered her own tube and added as much of her fruit juice as would fit, “... and then neck it down. Add more juice as required, or ...” she opened her bag wider and showed the girls the top of a large bottle, “... add more vodka!”
“We’re going to do this at every bar,” Bonnie explained eagerly while she and the other two unstoppered their test tubes and filled them with juice. “Just buy fruit juice at the bar, so it’s a cheap round, and add our own vodka whenever we want!”
“If you could say that just a little louder, Bonnie,” Janine said with exasperation. “I don’t think the barman who just went down to the cellar quite heard you.”
“Ooh, sorry,” Bonnie cringed.
“Why are we drinking out of test tubes?” Mary asked curiously. “Why can’t we just get normal glasses?”
“It’s a hen night,” Cath told her. “If you can’t drink out of unusual glasses on your hen night, when can you?”
“That makes no sense whatsoever,” Janine told her, “and I absolutely don’t care!” She raised her test tube. “To Mary and the wedding!”
“To the hen night!” said Mary, raising her own tube.
“To the pub crawl!” said Cath.
“To the hen crawl!” declared Bonnie.
The others cracked up laughing, then they all clinked their test tubes together.
“So John’s staying at Sherlock’s tonight, is he?” Janine asked loudly after the girls had clinked their newly-filled test tubes together.
“Yeah,” Mary yelled over the loud and rather catchy dubstep music coming from the bar’s speakers. “They’re doing a pub crawl taking in every street where they’ve found a corpse while they’ve been doing their detective stuff. John showed me the route so that we don’t accidentally bump into each other, and the last pub isn’t far from Baker Street. I can’t imagine that Sherlock’s going to get all that drunk but John’ll probably be hammered by the end of it, so he can drag himself back to the flat and sleep in his old room ... or quite possibly on the stairs if he can’t manage to get up them!”
“And we have a slumber party at the end of our pub crawl!” Bonnie said gleefully. “Ooh, I know! Can we play the Rizla Game once we’re at your place? I’ve never done it before but I’ve heard about it and it sounds brilliant!”
The other three exchanged a series of covert glances. Bonnie was adorable and they all loved her dearly, but she could be a little slow on the uptake at times. It would probably take half an hour to explain the rules to her and, let’s face it, she would struggle to understand them sober, let alone drunk. If they were going to play games at all, it would be easier to play something like Spin the Bottle, or Truth or Dare – fewer complicated rules for her to take in.
“We’ll see,” Mary told her.
Bonnie beamed as if she had been given a solid promise. Mary hoped that by the end of the night her friend would be too drunk to remember.
“Oh, no,” Mary said hastily, putting her hand over the top of her test tube before Cath could add any vodka to it. “You know I don’t drink much.”
“It’s your hen night!” Cath protested. “Live a little!”
“Seriously, no thanks,” Mary told her. “I might have another shot later, but to be honest I’ve been feeling a bit sick over the last couple of days. It was probably the Indian we had on Wednesday – John tried a new takeaway place, and I think there might have been something dodgy in the lamb bhuna. I really don’t want any more reasons to throw up, thanks!”
Cath grinned at her and topped up Janine’s test tube while Mary poured juice into her own. Her recent nausea was a good enough excuse, but in truth she never allowed herself to get out of control. Too many people around the world were hunting her or wanted her dead, and she didn’t want to be unable to defend herself if any of them should turn up unexpectedly.
Bonnie drained her test tube, grinned widely, then delicately wiped her lip. She already seemed to be feeling the booze a little. Janine looked down into her own tube with a disappointed expression, but after a moment she shrugged, tossed down the contents and held out her tube to Cath again.
“Just put vodka in three of them, all right?” Cath told Bonnie, handing her the bag hiding the rack of test tubes and the vodka. “Mary and I are going for a pee, we’ll be back in a minute.”
She squinted round the bar, finally spotting Janine chatting up a dishy-looking bloke nearby. Pointing vaguely in her direction so that Bonnie would know where she was, she turned and tottered after Mary, following her towards the toilets.
Bonnie peered down at the rack of tubes. Put vodka in just three of them. That should be easy enough ... except she could see only two tubes ... no, there were five tubes ... no ... hang on, why did the number keep changing? Perhaps she ought to have put her contact lenses back in after having a shower after work, because her eyes were doing some very funny things right now. But – put vodka in only three of them. She lifted the bottle and unscrewed the lid. How hard could it be?
“Cheers!” Cath said.
“Cheers!” Janine and Bonnie replied, clinking their test tubes against hers.
Janine was holding her mobile in her other hand, updating her contacts with the phone number of the man from the previous bar. She looked up as Mary returned to the table after another trip to the loo.
“Tell me again why you’re getting married in Somerset,” she asked after Mary had sat down. “I know you probably told me before but I’m damned if I can remember.” She propped her head on her hand and tried to focus on her friend.
“We went on holiday to Bridgwater last year,” Mary told her, “a couple of months before Sherlock came back. Neither of us had been to Somerset before but we both loved the area – it’s such a pretty county – and after John proposed we went back to the same hotel for a weekend and while we were driving around the area we found the church in Sutton Mallet not far from Bridgwater. The church was lovely and there was the perfect reception place nearby. The vicar was really nice and he was willing to marry us, so we booked it there and then.”
“So you weren’t born in Somerset, then?” Cath asked her.
“No,” Mary replied, carefully keeping her voice steady. “My life started in Chiswick.”
“Well, it’s lovely down there,” Cath said. “The wedding rehearsal was loads of fun. I can’t wait to get down there again for the real wedding!”
“Pretty,” Bonnie said vaguely.
“Who is?” Janine asked.
“No, the church and the reception place – they’re pretty,” Bonnie told her.
“Yes, they are,” Mary agreed.
“How come Sherlock didn’t come?” Janine asked. “After everything you’ve told us about how he’s micro-managing the wedding, I thought he’d have been there bossing everyone around.”
“He’s not good with people,” Mary said. “He’s really quite shy in social gatherings. To be honest, I’m amazed that he’s coming to the wedding at all.” She looked pensively into space. “I think he’s still trying to make it up to John for what he did.”
The girls fell silent for a few moments, then Mary pulled herself together. “Plus he used the excuse that he was busy composing. He’s writing a waltz for John and me, as our first dance at the reception. He’s going to play it himself on his violin. I’m really looking forward to it, even though John swears he’s a useless dancer, has never waltzed in his life, and reckons he’ll probably trample my feet to bits.”
“Ooh, a violinist,” Janine said thoughtfully, then grinned and held up both hands, wiggling her fingers at her friends. “Dextrous digits,” she added with a wicked smirk. “Now I’m really looking forward to meeting him.”
“Oh, no ...” Mary sat up straighter and leaned closer to her. “Janine, seriously – I need to tell you a few things about Sherlock Holmes ...”
The girls drained their latest drinks, grimaced and then put the test tubes back into the rack. Frowning at the nearby speaker from which loud music was playing, and wondering if it was a sign that she was getting old, Mary turned and looked all round the bar. Janine pointed to a location behind her.
“Over there,” she told her.
“What?” Mary asked, leaning closer.
“Toilets,” Janine said, her voice almost buried under the music. “Any second now, you’re going to ...”
“Hang on,” Mary said, putting a hand on her arm. “Tell me after – I need the loo.” She stood up and wobbled a little as she turned to look for the door to the ladies’ toilets. The floor of this pub mustn’t be level, she mused to herself.
“Mmm, on schedule,” Janine said.
Mary turned back to her. “Eh?”
“Nothing – go!” Janine told her, and ignored Mary stumbling across the room in favour of looking at her mobile and adding another phone number to her contacts list, finishing the update with a fancy flourish.
“How many times?” Cath asked Mary a couple of minutes later when she returned and slumped onto her stool.
“Sorry?” Mary asked.
“Your visits,” Cath said. “I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve been to the loo this evening. I’m thinking of starting to keep a record of every time you go and pee. So, estimate how many times you’ve already ...”
“Stop talking now,” Mary interrupted, giving her a wink to show that she wasn’t being rude. She lifted the test tube that Bonnie had refilled and knocked it back, pulling a face as she swallowed. It was probably because she was feeling a little unwell, but it wasn’t the first time tonight that her drink had tasted funny.
“Ooh, hold on.” Cath stopped abruptly at the door to the latest bar which they had found, grunting when Bonnie bumped roughly into her back. While Janine took hold of Bonnie’s arms and straightened her up, Cath turned around and made shooing gestures to everyone. “Back up, back up!”
“What’s going on?” Mary asked, squinting towards the entrance while she and the others moved back onto the pavement again.
“John and Sherlock are in there,” Cath told her.
“They can’t be!” Mary protested. “It’s not on the list.”
“Well that was definitely John,” Cath said, “and I assume that the tall guy with him, with the curly hair and the big coat, is Sherlock.”
“Huh,” Mary said. “Sherlock must have remembered where they found another body. Oh well, let’s go. Can’t be bumping into my beloved tonight!”
They started to walk down the street in search of their next venue, but then Janine turned and looked back towards the door they had just left.
“Hang on,” she said. “Isn’t that a gay bar?”
Bonnie had topped up the tubes again while Mary and Janine went to the toilets and Cath had tottered over to the bar to buy some crisps. Bonnie was feeling a little woozy but by concentrating hard, she had definitely managed to put vodka into only three of the tubes, then had added juice to all four. Proudly she picked up two of the tubes ... peered at the two still in the rack ... looked at the two she was holding and ...
Well, this shouldn’t be hard to work out. She sniffed at the two in her hands but they didn’t smell differently to each other. Carefully putting them back into the rack she picked up the other two tubes and sniffed at them. Okay, the one on the left maybe smelled a bit fruitier than the right-hand one, so the one on the left was probably the one with only juice in it. The one on the left probably had the juice. The one on the left ...
“Fer cryin’ out loud, Bonn, are ye tryin’ to get high on the fumes alone?!” Janine asked as she plonked herself down at the table and picked up one of the tubes from the rack. Her Irish accent seemed to be getting stronger as the night wore on. Bonnie thought it was rather lovely. She liked Janine’s accent very much. Janine was very pretty. She had a lovely accent. She was pretty. Cath was pretty, too. So was Mary. Cath had a nice accent. And Mary ...
“Give us my juice, Bonnie,” Mary said, slumping into the seat beside her and grinning inanely. “I’m gasping.”
Bonnie handed over one of the test tubes. “Cheers,” she said.
Mary knocked it back in one.
Mary was plastered. In the smoking area outside the pub – where they’d gone so that Cath could have a cigarette – she was loudly and drunkenly gesticulating and sounding off to a female customer over the very loud music.
“I know ash!” Mary told the woman, then paused momentarily and frowned a little. Something about that sentence wasn’t quite right, but nevertheless she felt it very important to make her point. She repeatedly poked the woman’s upper chest with a finger to emphasise her statement.
“Don’t – Tell – Me – I – Don’t!” she said pedantically, finishing the sentence by putting her hand on the woman’s shoulder and pushing her.
The woman swung a punch at her face. Mary swayed back – definitely through skill and judgement and by no means at all simply by luck – and avoided it. Nearby, the other girls jumped to their feet as the woman stumbled forward and almost fell onto a nearby table. Janine grabbed Mary from behind and pulled her away while she flailed wildly towards the woman who was being helped up by one of her mates.
“All right, all right, enough!” Janine told Mary, dragging her a few feet away while supporting most of her weight. She propped her onto her feet. “Stand up straight,” she told her sternly, then pointed her towards the exit. Mary turned and pointed a finger back towards the woman as she finally remembered what she had been trying to tell her.
“Ash-ash-ins,” she slurred in her direction, then turned towards the exit before turning back to make her point one last time. “I know assassins.”
All was silent. Mary cracked one eye open and blearily peered through the bars in front of her without moving her head, eventually realising that she was lying on the stairs near the bottom of her own staircase. She was on her side looking through the bannisters, and a grunt from behind her made it clear that Janine was lying beside her. Carefully craning her head upwards, she could just about make out Cath and Bonnie sprawled side by side several steps above them. She closed her eyes again, but then realised that she had something else important to announce.
“I have an international reputation,” she slurred.
There was no immediate response from any of her friends. She opened her eyes a little and looked over her shoulder towards Janine. “Do you have an international reputation?” she asked fuzzily before settling her head down again and closing her eyes.
“No, none of us has an international reputation,” Janine told her.
“No,” Mary agreed. She paused for a moment, then turned her head towards Janine a little but didn’t open her eyes.
“And I can’t even tell you what for,” she continued, “or I’d have to kill you all.”
She thought for a second.
“Ssss... Central Intelligence ... something or other,” she added. She settled her head back down on the stair and grunted quietly.
The doorbell rang.
Mary and Janine sat up, trying to stand but too tightly wedged together. Mary fell off the step and thumped on her backside onto the next step down. Blinking and trying to clear her blurry vision, she reached up and took hold of the post at the bottom of the bannisters before hauling herself to her feet. She stumbled along the hall, then fumbled at the door a couple of times before finally managing to open it.
Her next door neighbour Kate Whitney was standing outside and what the hell was she holding in her hands?
Despite her wooziness, Mary’s training instantly kicked in and she was already tensing her muscles ready to attack and disarm her when Kate relaxed and lowered the cricket bat she was holding in both hands.
“Oh, thank God,” she said in a relieved voice. “What are you doing back? I thought you were going to be out late.”
Mary stared blankly at her.
“I heard your door slam,” Kate continued, “and I was worried you might be being burgled. Bernard’s down the pub, and Isaac ... well ... he’s out too, but I thought I ought to investigate.”
Mary slumped against the wall and beamed at her.
“Ah, Whitters,” she slurred. “What time is it?”
Kate looked at her wristwatch, then raised her eyes to Mary’s bloodshot gaze.
“You’ll never believe how short a time you’ve been out,” she told her.
Well, this is an utter outrage! Will you look at all the plagiarism which is going on in this story?! This author is stealing lines left, right and centre from the episode transcript! How dare she? You just wait until the transcript writer finds out about ...
Yeah. Okay. As you were.
You can decide for yourself which of the girls is Cath and which is Bonnie ...
Nearly three years ago I rewrote a story which I had originally done for another fandom, adjusting it so that it applied to Sherlock and John instead of two characters from the TV show Primeval. At the time I mused in my Author’s Note about whether I could sue myself for plagiarism, but one of the commentators reckoned that I was demonstrating the ultimate in recycling.
This time I should probably be given an award for such prodigious recycling.
But anyway, for anyone worrying about alcohol poisoning, I didn’t envisage the girls having vodka shots with every test tube of fruit juice, or they’d have been unconscious by the fourth bar. I saw them only having a couple of shots in each bar and drinking the juice on its own for the rest of the time. They might even have only bought two bottles of juice at some of the bars and shared them. I wasn’t suggesting for a moment that the girls were all rampant alcoholics. Drink responsibly, kids.
Oh, and if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t been following news about the series after the season 3 broadcast, the ‘near-miss’ in between bar #6 and bar #7 – and specifically Janine’s realisation that it’s a gay bar – is because the producers and cast later revealed that there’s a deleted scene from the stag night in which John and Sherlock suddenly realised that they were in a gay bar.
And before you tell me, yes I know that in England you can’t just go to a church a couple of hundred miles from where you live and ask if they’ll marry you. If I understand correctly, you have to live in the neighbourhood for a while and spend time attending services at the church – at least, you do at the more traditional churches – before the vicar will even consider letting you marry there. Or, at the very least, you have to have personal connections to the area, for instance maybe you grew up there or your parents still live there. Just which of John or Mary has connections to Somerset was never made clear
or maybe Steve Thompson didn’t bother doing his research, which is not like him at all (insert Sherlockian eye roll here).
But Sutton Mallet (the town which appears on the wedding invitations) is a real town in Somerset, in the south west of England. It’s about 150 miles from London and, on a good day, would take over 2½ hours to drive to. On a Saturday in mid-May, even though tourist season hasn’t really started yet, you’d be mad not to allow at least 3½ hours to get there by road. Quite what Sherlock and Mrs Hudson are doing at Baker Street on the morning of the wedding is beyond me. Even if they go by train it’ll take nearly 3 hours from Paddington to Bridgwater, which is the nearest mainline station, and then they’ll have to get a minicab to the wedding venue. To be on the safe side, they would need to be on the road, or in a taxi to Paddington, at about 7.30 that morning, and it would take only one traffic accident blocking the motorway or the A303, or a signal failure on the railway line and the best man and John’s surrogate mum are not going to make it in time. Why the hell didn’t they go down the night before and stay in the hotel where presumably the majority of the guests are going to stay after the reception?
For that matter, just where was Sherlock heading when he left the reception? Was he really going to go to Bridgwater to get a train back to London ... without even taking his violin with him??
And having done a whole heap of googling to check and double-check all of that, I need to stop being such a nerrrrrrrd!
(And finally, just in case you didn't already know: the person who wrote the transcript of "The Sign of Three" – as well as of all the other episodes of Sherlock – is, of course, me. All the transcripts of the episodes, the episode commentaries and the DVD extras can be found here.)