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Baker Street Imp (6/7)

BBC Sherlock

Rating: PG (implied slash)

Summary: What has Sherlock deduced about Immy Parmar's missing father?

Part 5

 

"I don't think he is actually Mr Parmar, but we'll get to that in a moment," said Sherlock. "I want to lay this out systematically, so you understand my chain of reasoning. What do we know about Immy's father?"

"That he's of Indian origin, that he's married or was married to Annie, and that, judging by Immy, he's very bright. Oh, and that whatever happened to him happened so early on in Immy's life that she remembers nothing about him, he's just a complete blank. That's not a lot to go on."

"You need to analyse, John, now you've got the basic data. Annie Parmar is a sentimental woman - so she's not a widow, or someone whose husband has somehow gone missing, through illness, or drink, or prison."

"Because...because she'd have told Immy about her poor dead, or tragically lost, or wrongfully imprisoned father, made into him a hero," said John. Sherlock nodded. "OK, so then she's divorced."

"She's still wearing her wedding ring."

"She, she likes being married," said John at length. He pulled out the business card she'd given him, when he'd asked for her address. "Yes, she's 'Mrs Annie Parmar' here. So she could be divorced, but still pretending to herself and the world she's married."

Sherlock stood in front of him, and looked down, smiling. "If she was divorced, but liked being married, she'd be looking for a second husband. So was she coming onto you, John, sizing you up as a potential mate?"

John's only coherent thought, as his fist went out, was: Good job Immy can't see this.

***

"John...I know you're missing Immy, and you've had a hard week...but can you try not to hit me like that again?" Sherlock wheezed. He had slumped onto his chair, which John suspected – hoped – was for effect more than because he was actually in pain.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I, I, Mrs Parmar didn't, and I wouldn't, and...you just have no idea about ordinary human decency, do you?"

"No," said Sherlock, "and I miscalculated your range as well. In fact, I probably didn't even need to ask you. Mrs Parmar's daughter is away for ten days, and yet she's not had her hair styled for a fortnight or more, if I judge correctly. She's not husband hunting, because she's still got one. Or at least his money."

"Money? Oh, I've been dim, haven't I?" John replied, unclenching his fists, and then seeing Sherlock nod. "She works part-time as a secretary, but she has a nice middle-class lifestyle. And it's unlikely to be inherited money, or Clara would be rich too."

"So Immy's father is still supporting his wife and daughter quite substantially, even though he's not on the scene anymore."

"Right, I'm with you so far. What next?"

"Now we get to the most obvious question, John, if you'd use your mind rather than just your emotions. What is a rather conventional, not very bright middle-class woman doing marrying a brilliant Indian?"

***

"Love," John repeated doggedly, for the fifth, or possibly the sixth time. "It makes the world go round, or so I heard. It even means there's someone on this planet prepared to put up with you."

"Yes, but how did they meet? And don't you dare to say 'Fate'," Sherlock almost spat. "This is scientific detection, not Mills and Boon."

"Work?" said John. "Nine or ten years ago, Annie could have come to London as a secretary."

"She gives no sign of knowing London well, so I doubt she's worked here. Clara's family are from near Oxford, aren't they? Bicester, I think. I suspect Annie went to secretarial college in Oxford."

"That's plausible. And...oh, I see. They met when she was at secretarial college or working in the area, and he was at university, because that's why a bright lad of Indian background is most likely to be in Oxford. I guess Annie wouldn't be likely to fall for someone working at the local convenience store. But we don't know he's actually Indian, do we, he could be ethnic minority British?"

"We'll get to that in a moment," said Sherlock, steepling his fingers. "So we agree, he's studying at Oxford?"

"Probably," said John,  and got a haughty stare. "OK, yes."

"What's he studying?"

"Law?"

"Immy can memorise aeroplane numbers and Morse code, she loves card tricks, she can do adult Sudoko puzzles. That's not just a good education, that's unusual and innate mathematical and logical ability."

"So science, probably physical sciences. Or she could well be a medic's daughter, there are an awful lot of Indian medical students."

"Immy's not cut out for a doctor or an engineer, though, is she?"

"Probably not practically minded enough," John said. "But she doesn't have to be exactly like her father, Sherlock, heredity doesn't work like that."

"Admit it, she's an academic's child," said Sherlock. "And that would explain why Annie married him, wouldn't it?"

"I don't see-"

"Would she have married someone like Immy's father just because he might have a glittering future ahead? Or would he need to have a glittering present already?"

"I see," said John. "So he was a research student already, no, even that would be a bit uncertain. A postdoc, or maybe someone more senior. Or, of course, an SHO or a junior consultant."

"If he'd been much more senior, he either wouldn't have married her, or they'd have stayed together," Sherlock said, with absolute certainty. "His future was looking secure, he was wanting to settle down, he'd married someone presentable, they were about to have a child, or had just had a child...and then his life, his career changed."

"And?"

"And he left Oxford and went back to India."

"Sherlock, there are other explanations," John pointed out. This was his usefulness to Sherlock, in such conversations, after all, to state the patently obvious. "He may not have made it as a scientist or a medic. Or he may just have got fed up with it all, dropped out."

"Not made it, given up on it? This is Immy's father we're talking about, John. It's not just his brains she's inherited. Do you think the determination, the force in her comes from Annie Parmar and her family?"

Immy, despite her supposedly low threshold of boredom, would practice card tricks for hours to get them right. Immy could unbolt a door on a stranger's instructions, even if she couldn't reach the bolts. Sherlock was right, thought John. Immy's father would have got to the top, wouldn't he?

"OK, so he didn't drop out, and he almost certainly didn't stay in the UK. But there are lots of other places he could have gone, anywhere in the world."

"But Mrs Parmar didn't go with him, did she?" Sherlock said triumphantly. "If he'd gone to Yale or MIT, or Paris or Geneva or any of the other obvious places, she would have. But she wouldn't have been prepared to go off to the Third World, especially not with a baby, even more with a child on the way."

"You can live a very comfortable Westernised lifestyle somewhere like Delhi," John retorted.

"Yes, but Annie Parmar wouldn't realise that."

John could almost imagine it now, the way that Sherlock had described it. The eager young scientist, proud of his prestigious appointment back in his homeland. Maybe it had been the thought of Immy that had decided him, that he'd wanted her to be Indian as well as British, to belong where he belonged...

"So it must have been when Immy was a year or two old at most that he decided to go," he said. "They couldn't actually have gone out there, could they? Surely Immy would remember something of India, even if she'd only been a toddler?"

"I suspect that her father had decided to go even before she was born, was losing interest in Annie and England by then," Sherlock replied. "If he'd really been concentrating on Immy when she was born, he surely wouldn't have allowed her to be given that name. The initials are bad enough, but 'Imogen Marigold Parmar'? I ask you."

"What?" John was suddenly alert. What had Sherlock been up to this time?

"Immy's middle name is 'Marigold'. It's not just my parents who shouldn't be allowed near a birth certificate, is it?"

"How do you know Immy's full name?" John demanded.

Sherlock had realised now that he'd made a slip, but not yet how John knew it. "She told me," he said confidently, daring John to contradict him.

"She didn't," John replied quietly.

"How can you possibly know that, John?"

"Because I asked Immy what her full name was early in the week, in case I needed to write a prescription for her. And she said she wouldn't tell me her middle name, because it was so awful."

"Just because she wouldn't tell you, that doesn't mean she didn't tell me." Sherlock was turning on the charm now, but it didn't work on John reliably anymore, and he bet it hadn't worked on Immy.

"If she wouldn't tell her boring, horrible name to me, do you think she'd tell it to the coolest person she knows?"

"I'm the coolest person she knows, am I?" said Sherlock grinning. "Though, of course, nothing like as cool as a gecko."

"Sherlock," John said, trying not to lose it for the second time in the conversation, "Immy didn't tell her your middle name. It's not on her clothes and you haven't talked to her mother. And if you claim that Clara told you, I will phone up and check."

"I-"

"You've been investigating Immy, haven't you? You've been poking into her records,"  John snapped. And then sat in his chair, and folded his arms, and didn't get up. And tried to remember that this was Sherlock and sometimes he didn't just understand about what was OK to do and what wasn't. Sherlock looked at him, and he could see him filing the moment away as 'another of John's irrational prejudices', and trying to calculate exactly what to say to repair the damage.

But when Sherlock spoke, all he said was "Yes. I've seen a copy of her birth certificate". No excuses or apologies, except in his eyes. His eyes weren't quite as eloquent as Immy's - what adult's could be? – but it was enough.

"What have you found?" asked John quietly.

"It gave her father's name, and he was easy to trace with that. You can always locate a researcher via their publications."

"So all these deductions you've been telling me about who he is were so much bullshit," John said. "You knew what he was, and where he was, all along."

"When I got his details it just confirmed what I'd already deduced," said Sherlock, and then gave a half-grin. "Well, most of what I'd deduced. I didn't bother to mention the bits I got wrong."

"OK," said John, "So who is Dr Parmar, or Professor Parmar, or whatever he is?"

"A senior research scientist with ISRO."

"Which is?"

"The Indian Space Research Organisation."

"Immy's father's an astronaut?"

"Not quite, but pretty close."

"That's amazing," John said, and he couldn't help smiling. "When do we tell her?"

"We don't," said Sherlock, and there was a stillness about him now, as if nothing but thoughts mattered, everything else relegated to transport. "Dr Parmar went back to India when Immy was only a few months old. He hasn't, as far as we know, been in contact with her since. Even I can recognise that's inadequate parenting."

"Mrs Parmar might not be letting him contact Immy."

"Seven years? They're still married, so he'd have access rights, and Immy's living ten miles from where she was born. It's not the nineteenth century, John. Annie Parmar could intercept letters and e-mails, maybe even phone calls. She couldn't stop him getting on a flight and coming over. If he cared about Immy, he could find a way to meet her. Even you should be able to deduce the corollary."

He doesn't care, thought John. Poor, poor Immy.

"Immy's going to work it out," he said at last. "At some point she's bound to wonder about him, and she's going to want to know. Immy always wants to know things."

"And she'll come to the world's only consulting detective," said Sherlock, getting up to go and stare out of the window, his back to John. "I told her free consultations for the next ten years. I can provide her with any data she needs on her father. You have to help her work out what to do with that." He paused, and then added: "I imagine it would be quite difficult for her meeting him. Because...Annie Parmar wouldn't have fallen for someone, married someone, just because of his brains, if he wasn't presentable. He must have had something more."

Charm, thought John, charisma? The kind of brilliant, forceful personality that could sweep you away, against your better judgement? That was a dangerous combination, certainly, especially if allied to a carelessness about other people, about their feelings, emotions. He suddenly felt a tiny spark of sympathy for Mrs Parmar.

"So we just wait?" he said. "And do nothing, keep quiet?"

"We focus our minds on more immediately soluble problems, John. Such as why there is a recently retired Royal Marine sergeant heading for our door, and what problem of his is so urgent that he's coming to see me without an appointment."

Part 7

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kalypso_v
Jan. 27th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
"I want to lay this out systematically, so you understand my chain of reasoning."

Oh, Sherlock, you little cheat. But I see why she's an IMP now.
nathcoelho
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
very curious and interesting fic.
going to the next part
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )