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A case of identities (1/5)

BBC Sherlock

Rating: 12 (implicit slash)

Spoilers: For "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'.

Note: set in the same universe as the Harry/Molly fics.


 

Sherlock Holmes always complains that I just blog about the cases of his that involve a lot of running around, and that I never give details of his analytical processes. With this one, however, there’s loads of analysis, and absolutely no running around or violence. Unfortunately, even though I’ve changed some of the names, I still don’t think it’s appropriate to publish it at the moment. So it’s sitting here on file as a reminder for me, in case it ever is feasible to do so.

It was a Tuesday morning in November, and I was looking out of the window, trying to work out how many layers I needed on before going to the supermarket, when I spotted the woman. Middle-aged, smartly dressed, and standing across the street, looking apprehensively at the door of 221B. I turned to Sherlock, who was engaged in carefully sharpening our meat cleaver – with steely intent, you might say. (Sorry! I will cut that line if this is ever published).

“I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are calling again,” I said. “So for goodness sake, put that away. And if you do insist she comes in, can you keep it brief, please? Some of us don’t appreciate theology as a combat sport.”

Sherlock came and stood by the window. “Right age and sex, wrong social class for a door to door evangelist. And besides, missionaries normally go around in pairs, so if one has a spiritual crisis, the other one can kill them before it spreads. She’s a client. The hesitation is because the case involves an embarrassing personal matter, presumably sexual. But she’s not angry, she’s confused or sad.”

“Were you expecting someone?” I asked. “Because if so, the meat cleaver is probably not a good move.” I knew it didn’t have many traces of human remains on it, because I’d carefully sterilized it myself last night, but I was still irrationally worried that someone might look at it and guess that Sherlock had recently been hacking off a corpse’s hands. (It’s not what it sounds like, honestly!)

Then a sudden thought occurred, and I looked at the figure outside more closely, just to check it really was a harmless middle-aged woman and not an assassin.

“You haven’t been putting our address on your website again, have you?” I asked. I thought I’d broken him of that after the goat faeces incident (don’t ask!) But perhaps he’d decided once again that we weren’t currently a sufficient target for London’s criminals.

“No,” Sherlock replied, “which makes it particularly interesting. If she really can’t make up her mind, you need to go down and invite her in. Ah, no, she’s coming.”

Ninety seconds to make the flat look presentable for a client. I removed the meat cleaver and the skull to the kitchen, and told Sherlock to hide the articles on the sex life of bats that he is prone to leave lying around. Then I set off downstairs for the door, before I had Mrs Hudson complaining that she was our landlady, not our receptionist.

Up close, the woman was largish, about my height and rather overweight, but pleasant looking: bright brown eyes, long tawny hair, and I suspected, a nice smile, when she wasn’t so nervous. I greeted her with what I hoped was a soothing expression, introduced myself, and then took her upstairs and offered her coffee. (I know my role when there’s a client around). But I made sure that I had the kitchen door almost, but not quite closed, so she couldn’t see anything disturbing, but I could hear what was going on, in case I was needed for the purposes of either reassurance or violence. (Sherlock had recently shown me a website which recommended receiving female clients with ‘easy courtesy’, and I lived in dread that he might attempt this).

“Thank you for seeing me without an appointment, Mr Holmes,” the woman said. “I didn’t feel it was something I could phone or e-mail about, but I was told if I came to see you, you might be able to help.”

“If you could start by telling me your name, that would be helpful,” said Sherlock. “Your real name, please. It wastes time if I have to work it out.”

I didn’t need to see him to know that he was giving her one of his peculiarly detailed but abstracted stares, and I hoped he wasn’t alarming her too much.

“Martha Caithness,” she said. (Well actually, she didn’t say that, but that’s what I’m calling her for the purposes of this post).

“And you’re off to work at the moment? How long do you have to spare?”

“I’m not due in till 2 pm. I work at King’s College London.”

My ears pricked up – that’s Harry’s college. (Harry’s my sister, not my brother). But neither the name nor the face rang any bells. It’s a big university, after all.

“Yes, but you’re not at the Chancery Lane library, are you?” said Sherlock easily. “Is it the Franklin-Wilkins building, or Guy’s or St Thomas’, or have you got to go right out to the Maudsley?”

“I’m at the Waterloo campus. But how did you know I’m a librarian?” Ms Caithness replied, sounding slightly rueful. “Do I look like one?”

“Other than the shoes, no. But the plastic bag lurking within your main bag, and which presumably holds your packed lunch - no, food for your evening break at about 6 pm - is advertising the PsycInfo database. Too smartly dressed to be a student or a demonstrator, and neither a student nor a lecturer is likely to say they ‘work at’ KCL. It’s a rather trivial deduction.”

Fortunately the coffee was ready by then, because it’s at this point that clients often start to worry about Sherlock. I brought the mugs in, plus a plate of biscuits, then pulled over a spare chair and sat down opposite Ms Caithness, making a surreptitious check that we had a box of tissues handy as well. (That’s one of my other roles in client interviews, administering TLC as required).

“Can you tell us about your problem?” said Sherlock, steepling his fingers.

“I, I need you to find someone for me,” Ms Caithness said. “Someone who’s gone missing.”

“Who’s that?” Sherlock said. His voice was gentle. Sometimes, he can be very good with clients, and this seemed to be one of his good days.

“My, my, er, ...we’ve just become engaged.” She was so nervous I could barely hear her.

“Can you tell me her name, please?”

There was a shocked silence and then she burst out: “You know? Did Dr Watson tell you about me?”

I spluttered into my coffee, and then realised who she was talking about.

“Harry, Harriet Watson, you mean?” said Sherlock. I’m sorry, it’s very confusing there being two Dr Watsons. John here’s the useful kind of doctor, a GP. Harry told me something, but only in the most general terms. You’ve come out relatively recently?”

“Just over a year ago. People have been very understanding...mostly. And I really thought with Angela that it was the start of something new, exciting.”

I expected tears at that point, but librarians are obviously tougher than they look.

“You fiancée’s name is Angela?” said Sherlock.

“Angela Hosma. She’s Indonesian, a waitress. She-“

“Before you tell me about her,” Sherlock broke in, “can you tell me a bit about yourself? It helps get a feel for the case.”

“I’m afraid my life has been very dull. I still live in the house in Hadley Wood I was brought up in, and my father was brought up in as well. My father and my grandfather were both accountants, my mother was a music teacher, but I’m afraid I don’t have much talent for either figures or music. I studied English at Bedford College, and then trained in librarianship at UCL. I’ve worked as an academic librarian ever since. I’m an ‘information specialist’ now, what they used to call a subject librarian. I prefer to stick at that level. I don’t really enjoy the management side of things, and the senior staff don’t really get to meet the users at all.”

I’d expected to see Sherlock get impatient with her rambling, but instead he was listening with the greatest concentration.

“And your...personal life?” he said. “You are an only child, I take it?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever been married or in a long-term relationship, either before or after your coming out?”

“No,” she said, blushing, and she played nervously with the buttons of her jacket. “I never really hit it off with boys when I was younger. I suppose I understand why, now. I was just on my own for a very long time. Well, not actually on my own. It’s a big house, you see, so after my parents died, I took in lodgers. Students from King’s, and occasionally elsewhere. Not that I really need the money, I live very simply, but for a bit of company. And they take Izzy, that’s my dog, for a walk when I’m working, and it’s just nice having some young people around, makes me forget I’m a boring, middle-aged spinster.”

“So you’ve had quite a quiet life for many years? Or at least unchanging?”

“I’m afraid I’m living up to all your stereotypes of librarians, aren’t I?”

“I’m sure you get a lot of pleasure from your activities. Are you still able to row? No, it’s cycling you’re into, isn’t it?”

“I used to row, but that was years ago. But, yes, I’m still a keen cyclist, though a little out of condition now.”

I should have spotted that, I thought, though it’s harder when you’ve been brought up not to stare at a woman’s legs. But I could see now that the bulk of her thighs, beneath her slightly too tight skirt, was muscle rather than fat. I just hoped she didn’t ask-

“So how did you know that, Mr Holmes? Surely Harry didn’t give that much detail about me?”

Oh help, I thought. (Well, that’s the cleaned-up version). This was going to get embarrassing.

“Your tan is fading fast, but the pattern from wearing cycling gloves is still distinctive,” Sherlock said smoothly.

“You...you can really work out things like that?”

“That’s simple. But I presume you didn’t meet Ms Hosma while out cycling?”

“No, I don’t think my angel would go for that.”

“Your angel?” I said.

“That’s what I called her, my angel, because that was her username on the website. Angel103.”

I groaned inwardly. She’d met her on the internet. Of course she had. No wonder it had all gone horribly wrong.

 

Part 2

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
ginbitch
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
You keep doing this to me!!! This is absolutely wonderful! I loved seeing Sherlock pulling an ACD classic deduction scene and I love his comparative gentleness here - he seems to get on well with lesbians, an area of solidarity which isn't so often represented. In short, everything in this 'verse is perfect. I can't wait to read more. Oh, and memming this too!
marysutherland
Dec. 29th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Sherlock being gentle is partly ripped-off from the ACD story on which this is based. But TV canon only shows him so far with two clients, both obnoxious and male: Seb and the bloke in Minsk. Presumably he can't treat all his clients horribly, or he'd never get any private cases.
kalypso_v
Dec. 28th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
Sherlock had recently shown me a website which recommended receiving female clients with 'easy courtesy', and I lived in dread that he might attempt this

I am now living in hope that he will attempt this, and that you will relay the results.
marysutherland
Dec. 29th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I can imagine BBC Sherlock and 'easy courtesy' myself, which is interesting, because that's a straight quote on Holmes' manner from the original ACD story.
kalypso_v
Dec. 29th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Brett-Sherlock could do it very well, and this Sherlock isn't doing all that badly here or in part two... but I like the thought of him trying and getting it disastrously wrong. Not quite in the same manner as Father Dougal, but with the same sort of effect.
unovis
Dec. 28th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC)
I like Sherlock here being a bit smoother around the edges. Maturing?
Looking forward to more.
fengirl88
Dec. 30th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
enjoying this very much so far - and yes, I'd also love to see Sherlock's version of "easy courtesy"...
shezan
Jan. 10th, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
Sherlock had recently shown me a website which recommended receiving female clients with 'easy courtesy', and I lived in dread that he might attempt this

LOVE this!!!!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )