“Why call me that?”
The mousy woman in front of him took a deep breath. It betrayed nervousness, but she met his eyes with a steady stare as she spoke.
“Because, if you were a criminal I wouldn’t have been brought here in a government car and you would be using nastier methods to make your request. Also, you and your brother share some, traits, Mr Holmes.”
Mycroft couldn’t stop the impressed smirk that twitched on his face.
“Is that a polite way of saying we are both arrogant and rude?”
“If you like.”
Mycroft examined the handle of his umbrella for a moment.
“You do have considerable outstanding student loans Doctor Hooper. My offer would surely be of assistance to you.”
In his peripheral vision he caught her stiffen. Was it possible he had misjudged this quiet pathologist?
“My grandmother told me never to accept money from men in Saville Row suits, nothing good ever comes of it.”
The steel tip of his umbrella echoed loudly as it tapped the concrete floor.
“And yet I’m offering a sizeable sum for such a little thing.”
Mycroft was stunned when her hand connected with his face. It wasn’t a particularly hard slap, but there was certainly enough of a sting in it to suggest the next one would be harder if he didn’t desist.
He quirked an eyebrow at her.
“Since you weren't accepting no for an answer I thought a slap might make my refusal clearer for you. I am not for sale.”
There was fear in her brown eyes, which was only to be expected given the circumstances. The emotion showed itself in the slight tremble of her lip, but it was underpinned by a defiance that impressed him and intrigued him more than he cared to admit at the moment. With a gentlemanly nod of his head he sidestepped the slap and moved on.
“Very well Doctor Hooper. My card should you reconsider your position, please call me.”
She took the card and tucked it into the pocket of her bulky coat. Mycroft raised an eyebrow as she handed him a card in return.
“My card. In case you want to ask about Sherlock’s wellbeing like a normal person.”
He memorised the number with a glance, but paid her the same courtesy she had shown him by placing the card in his waistcoat pocket.
“I’ll make my own way from here.”
She gave him a brief nod and turned to leave. After a few steps she stopped and looked back at the stationary figure leaning on his umbrella.
“I’m glad you’re looking out for him. Even if you go about it in an odd way.”
With that she left. Slowly he turned and left by the rear exit. The black town car was waiting for him and in a thoughtfully mood he slid into the back seat. Anthea was there typing furiously on her Blackberry. Without so much as an upward glance she asked;
“Usually arrangement for Doctor Hooper, sir?”
“No. She refused my offer. By slapping me.”
That did cause his assistant to raise her head briefly.
“Good for her.”
“Your brother’s finally making a better class of acquaintance, sir. Purchasing inside intel wasn’t going to work forever.”
“True. Find out what lab equipment St Barts is in need of, would you my dear?”
“Bribery by the backdoor sir?”
“Not at all; I am simply preventing Sherlock from causing me a headache with his complaints about sub-par equipment standards.”
Mycroft heard the smirk in her voice. In matched the one on his own face as he turned to gaze out of the tinted window. His hand rose to the cheek she’d slapped and he wondered if Sherlock had any idea at all of the lion’s heart beating in the chest of the morgue mouse.