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SNAFU (2/6)

BBC Sherlock

Rating for whole fic 15 (swearing, sex, angst, hints of BDSM)

Summary:  Dealing with an internet dating scam brings some unexpected side-effects for John

Notes; With special thanks to my betas Fengirl88 and Blooms84 who read a number of different versions of this story under a variety of titles. If it still doesn't work, the blame is all mine.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6



 

My sessions with Ella eventually finished, to our shared, if disguised, relief. But I did try to remember what she said about unfamiliar situations, because I knew that bit, at least, made sense. Though, of course, unfamiliar situations are par for the course when Sherlock's around. Like him suddenly enquiring a few months later: "Have you ever tried online dating?"

I didn't take it too personally. I knew Sherlock probably wasn't making an oblique comment about my currently disastrous love life. He is not naturally subtle, at least not about things like that. I also suspected that if his mind was connecting together me and online dating, it was probably with me in the role of human guinea-pig, rather than friend. At least, that was the more reassuring thought; Sherlock being altruistic has its own peculiar terrors.

"Why do you want to know?" I asked, in a voice that I hoped didn't sound too paranoid.

"I've got a case, a woman called Juanita Brown, who preys on men on internet dating sites."

"Unusual."

"Not really. There are a lot of vulnerable men out there looking for serious relationships. Willing to hand over worryingly large sums of money to a woman who tells them that she really cares for them."

"Sounds nasty. But is it illegal?"

"That's the tricky part. I'm convinced there's blackmail involved at some stage, but the victims aren't prepared to talk about that. Which is why a bit of undercover work is called for."

"You mean pretending to be looking for someone?"

"Yes. I, or rather you and I, are going to join one of the dating sites she's known to frequent."

"Why both of us?"

"Well, it's not so much both of us, more a sort of Holmes/Watson amalgam."

"In what precise way?" I should have known it was going to get weird.

"It's going to be your name and your social profile. Ex-army doctor, now working part-time, flat-sharing in central London, late 30s. That sounds respectable, not making huge amounts of money, but might be willing to hand it over, or find a way to get your hands on some more. Juanita doesn't target the high rollers or the poor, she's looking for the slightly desperate middle-aged and middle class."

"Thanks for that resounding assessment of me."

"She's not going to know you, of course, just your online persona. I'll give you the gist of what to write, then you put it in your own words."

"Don't you want to dictate the whole thing? I'm just your typist half the time anyhow, aren't I?"

"No, the e-mails need your prose style. Grammatical, but slightly tentative is what we're going for here. We want her to spot a victim, not someone whose writing oozes confidence."

"Or smug self-satisfaction?"

"Or indeed, that. She wants someone to exploit. I'm trusting, John, that you can make yourself sound exploitable."

Sometimes, I know just where I am with Sherlock. Frequently it's doing something so ridiculous that even his unaided lunacy isn't enough. So why not create a non-existent man to date a conwoman? It was all good practice for my writing.

***

Sherlock was right, of course, about what to say. My profile had only been up for a couple of days when Juanita Brown got into contact, though it was frustrating that Sherlock didn't allow me to follow up the three other women who'd emailed me. ("Two of them want to mother you, you wouldn't like that. The other one is really an elderly male, I'd guess a dentist").

"So is Juanita Brown really John Brown?" I asked. "Or possibly sitting somewhere in Nigeria or Russia rather than Poole?"

"No, she's roughly who she says she is, though a few years older than her profile. She doesn't do the whole scam over the net, the men she's interested in are too cautious. And I presume she doesn't ask for money in an e-mail, might be traced. She'll meet her victims, so we want to get onto that stage as soon as possible."

"Sounds good," I said. I carefully didn't add that I wanted this over quickly. Being 'John Watson' was a lot less enjoyable than I'd expected. In fact, it was starting to creep me out in ways that I couldn't quite explain.

"So our next move," Sherlock announced, "is to e-mail her my photo."

"Your photo? I thought it was me talking to her. Writing to her."

"For the e-mails you're fine, very good, indeed, but you're not going to do for the actual meeting. You wouldn't look right."

"Why not?"

"Too confident, not vulnerable enough."

"I'm not necessarily particularly confident on a date."

"On a real date, no, you might well come across as suitably awkward. But one of your endearing qualities, John, is how calm you get in any situation where there's the slightest chance of ending up in A and E. You couldn't convincingly be the bait in this trap."

Every now and then I do actually get a compliment from Sherlock, even if a bizarre one. It almost makes all of the insults bearable.

"So my plan," Sherlock went on, "is that I will attend the meetings, and hence Juanita needs to be sent my photo."

"And you can come across as a victim, can you?"

"Gazelle rather than shark look, don't you think I can manage it?"

"I'm sure you can," I replied. For a short time Sherlock is capable of becoming almost anyone, before invariably reverting to being the world's most irritating man. Then something occurred to me. "But what about the photo on my blog? If she's googled me, she might have found that."

"Your blog's not visible on the web."

"I updated it yesterday!" I paused and then asked: "Can you really do that? Make it so I can see it, but nobody else can?"

"Of course, but would you understand even if I did explain?"

"Probably not. OK, what do you want me to say, and where's the photo? If, that is, you haven't done something horrible to my e-mail as well."

"Your e-mail is fine, and I think you'd better choose the photo," Sherlock announced. "You've probably got a better idea of what appeals to women than I have. I'll show you the folders on my laptop."

"You have folders of photos of yourself on your computer?" I asked.

"I sometimes need them for reference purposes. See what you can find that makes me look emotionally fragile and liable to hand over large sums of money to anyone who's nice to me."

***

Any aesthetic pleasure I might have got from looking at pictures of Sherlock rapidly declined after the first thirty images or so. But it clearly wasn't vanity that made him keep all the pictures. There were some that showed him looking...you'd have  to say 'beautiful', because 'handsome' is inadequate, there's a reason you can find a surprising number of pictures of him on the net. But he looked awful in others, if not actually ill, made it all too plausible that he had been an addict at some point. And then there was the one with the side-parting, and the maroon sweatshirt...

"Were you trying to look a complete prat?" I asked, grinning at him.

"Obviously," Sherlock replied. "It took hours of experimentation to find a colour combination that wrong. The artist I was talking to started confessing about his fight on the golf-course within ten minutes of seeing me, he was so unnerved. But I look too naive even for Juanita in that one. See what else you can find."

I decided after a while that you couldn't capture Sherlock properly in a still photo; you needed a video to get the full effect of his mercurial personality. But then I remembered that part of the point was that Juanita shouldn't get a good sense of him.

"I think this one's the most suitable," I said at last, calling Sherlock over again. "No 159. Were you on something at the time?"

"Strong painkillers. I had several broken ribs, which accounts for some of the pathetic look."

"You don't look much like an ex-army doctor," I pointed out.

"Probably not, but I'm trusting Juanita won't register that. Do I look as if I might have come out of that hospital drama which always has a bizarre accident in the first five minutes?"

"You mean 'Casualty'? I suppose so, yeah. Probably still a bit glamorous to be Juanita's victim. And you definitely don't look 38." If Juanita saw a picture of me, she'd probably be counting her ill-gotten gains already. It wasn't a very comforting thought.

"I see myself, John Watson that is, as insecure, worried that he's not the same man after his injuries, because this, of course, is a photo from before he's invalided out."

"What injuries have I, you, he sustained? I've told Juanita about the shoulder and the leg-"

"Well John isn't going to mention the facial scarring up front, is he?"

"So I'm now an ex-soldier with a shoulder wound, a psychosomatic limp and a need for plastic surgery?"

"Yes, but on the other hand, you're also six inches taller, and you've got better hair. You win some, you lose some. So stop giggling, John, and I'll tell you what to say in the next e-mail."

***

I didn't think it anything like so funny the next evening, when I got Juanita's reply.

"I'm not answering this," I announced to Sherlock. "Even if Juanita looks like the photo she's sent. Particularly if she looks like that photo."

"I think she's Photoshopped a few pounds off, but yes, she is a good-looking woman. Weren't you expecting that?"

"Shame she's a manipulative sociopath, isn't it?" I replied. "You and she should have quite a nice date together."

"We haven't got to that stage, yet," Sherlock said, and stalked over to the table to glare at my screen. "So what it is it that you're not going to write?"

"She wants me to write something...intimate to her. She's suggesting something about any, any fantasies I have."

"Oh, that's good!" Sherlock said, grinning.

"It bloody isn't!"

"This is where the blackmail part comes in, almost certainly. So you need to send her something."

"No!" I yelled. "I can't, I can't write that kind of thing." This was getting well past Sherlock's normal weirdness.  Even if I could work out how to make something up, the thought of what Sherlock might be able to deduce about me was really not good. "You do it," I added.

"She'd spot the change in writing style, even if I could make my ideas about what I'd like to do with her seem convincing. I don't know what your problem is, John. I'm sure there are websites that describe these kind of things."

"No." I stared up into his pale grey eyes, willing him to back down. Just sometimes I can do it, make him see there are limits. But I knew I was on shaky ground this time, getting too wound up about the whole thing.

"Why not?" he demanded.

Because I've spent a lot of time and effort keeping my fantasies safely under lock and key where they belong. Because this strange imaginary relationship between you and me and Juanita is starting to mess with my mind in ways I do not like at all. Because-

"Because if I send that kind of e-mail, it's asking for the wrong person to see it," I said, which seemed the most sane objection I could give.

"I can arrange for secure communications, if that's really what's worrying you, John."

"But I'd still have the damn e-mail on file, and this is my computer, with Windows 666, the Number of the Beast on it. It's bound to spontaneously decide to forward any mucky e-mails I write to my entire address book, even if I've deleted the thing 15 times."

"It's amazing how paranoid you get about technology sometimes," Sherlock said, smiling. "But perhaps you're right. Perhaps John Watson isn't the kind of man who'd be able to explain the dirty things he wants to do with someone else. What can we do instead?"

I dropped my eyes as he started to think. Sometimes he can't bear people looking at him when he's trying to concentrate, says it distracts him. Sometimes I can't bear it. There's something inhuman about him then, when we all just become pieces on the board that he has to move around. He swirled around me at the table for a while, pacing back and forth. I looked at his back, his hands, his shirt, not his face. But I knew immediately when he'd thought of something, even before he bounded off to grab his laptop. What was he up to now?

He sat down opposite me, pulled my laptop towards him, stared at Juanita's message once more, then at me. Oh bloody hell, this was going to be something extra barking mad, wasn't it?

"As I said," he began, "John Watson can't talk about what he really wants. So it's fortunate that a picture's worth a thousand words."

"What are you going to do?" I replied, "And is there any way to persuade you not to?" My stomach was starting to knot.

"I'll send Juanita an indecent picture from your e-mail account. Don't worry, it'll be from my laptop, and I'll make sure it's securely deleted."

"What kind of indecent picture?" I croaked.

"One of John Watson, I mean me, naked," said Sherlock. "Again, it should probably be from before I came back from Afghanistan, because it'd be tedious to have to Photoshop on scars."

"You have nude photos of yourself?" I asked. I realised abruptly that I did not want to see them – it would just be weird seeing pictures like that of your flatmate. Still, this was Sherlock. Weird was normal for him. In fact...

"Don't tell me," I said, "you have folders of them on your laptop, don't you, all carefully organised by date?"

"Of course," said Sherlock, his hands racing over his laptop. "But there's three folders of the special photos, and they're not all nudes. The first are from when I was working as a model."

"You were a model?"

"Briefly. It was hardly glamorous, but I needed the money. It was for a thermal underwear catalogue, though, and I suspect Juanita may prefer me without a warm vest on."

I gave a slightly shaky laugh. "And the next lot?"

"Undercover work. The last dating scam I took down, a couple of years ago. But that was a much bigger operation, the woman who ran it had a string of young men trawling after the middle-aged that time."

"And you were one of them?"

"I was one of the best." He would be, of course. He knows how to make himself almost irresistible sometimes, it's scary to watch. "How do you think I know exactly what you ought to be saying in your e-mails? But the shots from that time are rather too professional, in all senses. So it's the final lot, the ones that are obviously home-made. Have a look, see what you think I should send."

Before I could say anything, his laptop was plonked in front of me, now running a slideshow of pictures of Sherlock. Sherlock naked. From behind, from in front, lying down...

I was far too slow to react, but at last I gasped out: "Should you have pictures like that on your computer?"

"Would you rather have them on yours?" he retorted.  I looked up, and there he was, bloody shark Sherlock grinning at me.

"I'm not gay!" I yelled, and slammed the lid of the laptop down.

"Your mind may not think so," said Sherlock smoothly, "but if you want to tell me your body's not interested, I'm going to take a lot of convincing."

"You fucking sod!" I could feel the rage surging through my system, but I knew it wasn't just rage.

"Well not yet, obviously, but I do have hopes."

Hitting Sherlock, or screaming at him, or ripping his clothes off were really not good moves. I settled for righteous indignation.

"Did you just invent Juanita Brown to play with my mind?" I demanded.

"No, she and her nasty tricks are real enough, and tomorrow we need to deal with her," Sherlock said. "Though I suppose I'm not that much better, exploiting a vulnerable man."

Sod it, I thought, Sherlock needed to be taught a lesson. Why the hell shouldn't I give him one?

"But you've picked the wrong victim, haven't you?" I said, smiling back at him, and even though my heart was still pounding, I knew what I was doing now. We were at the top of the rollercoaster and there was no going back, so I might as well enjoy the ride. "You said it yourself," I went on, " I'm quite calm when there's a decent chance of ending up in casualty." I reached out and grabbed Sherlock's wrist, and pulled him towards me.

 

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
fengirl88
Jul. 10th, 2011 10:18 am (UTC)
still shuddering at the Juanita Brown case, not to mention Sherlock with a side parting and maroon sweatshirt...
penguineggs
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:18 am (UTC)
Wasn't the side-parting/sweatshirt combo a reference to Starter for Ten? (WARNING; BC looking truly repellent behind the cut).
penguineggs
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:21 am (UTC)
"Truly repellent"
(By BC's standards, obviously)
marysutherland
Jul. 10th, 2011 12:55 pm (UTC)
Well spotted - it was indeed that film I was thinking of - though I've only seen short clips from it. You've got the starter there, so now bonus points to you (or anyone else) who recognises the source of an artist having a fight on a golf-course.
fengirl88
Jul. 10th, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
I did tumble to the SFT reference eventually, though not when I first read it. in my defence, I haven't seen the film either...
penguineggs
Jul. 10th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
My mind is going an Agatha Christie, possibly "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" but I can't see the connection.
penguineggs
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:17 am (UTC)
Ah, splendid! I was giggling all through brunch.
shouldboverthis
Jul. 10th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Got the Starter for Ten! He plays a pratt as well as looking like one. He does it disturbingly well.

Brilliant. This is rolling along. Poor dear John being used so cruelly. And trust Sherlock to have 100s of pictures of himself.

Edited at 2011-07-10 04:01 pm (UTC)
kalypso_v
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
How did I miss the first half of this? Never mind, I've caught up now, and this is wonderful stuff. Particularly "For a short time Sherlock is capable of becoming almost anyone, before invariably reverting to being the world's most irritating man."

I hope John's calm is sufficient for him to remember to ask why Sherlock has the home-made nude photos from the third folder. Enquiring minds want to know.
grassle
Jul. 16th, 2011 07:12 am (UTC)
Only just seen this. It's wonderful. Can't wait for more. Yes, BC wasn't so easy on the eye in 'Starter for Ten.'
I really like all the offhand references to Sherlock's past cases.

(Wasn't there a golf course scene in 'Amazing Grace'?)
marysutherland
Jul. 17th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying this and the case-fic refs. ACD may have had some faults in his writing, but the casual refs to cases for which the world is not yet ready are always wonderful.

The artist and golf course, BTW is an extremely obscure reference to Dorothy L. Sayers' 'Five Red Herrings', in which among the many artists, there are two who have a violent brawl on a golf-course. It is a worrying sign of how my mind works, and how much Golden Age of Detection stuff I read while young, that at soon as I had the idea of Sherlock's appearance leading to an artist being traumatised, that that incident immediately got pulled up from my mental database of criminal references.
ginbitch
Jul. 16th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
Wonderful wonderful wonderful!!!

And I haven't read a good pre-slash in _ages_!

Maroon ftw!

<3
2ndskin
Jul. 20th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
Dittoing the love for this complex, old case-filled banter between them. But what I especially like is your obnoxious Sherlock voice. I've liked it before, but I like it doubly here because he's up to no good and John senses it, but isn't able to resist being drawn in. Shark Sherlock is just fantastic in your hands. I love that he can't resist emphasizing that he's half a foot taller than John and has better hair. Yet another sign (besides all those photos) of his raging egomania. Steeling myself for the pain and suffering to come.
r34dinglight
Jul. 25th, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
"So I'm now an ex-soldier with a shoulder wound, a psychosomatic limp and a need for plastic surgery?"

"Yes, but on the other hand, you're also six inches taller, and you've got better hair. You win some, you lose some. So stop giggling, John, and I'll tell you what to say in the next e-mail."

can. totally. see. this. happening. and then you go with there being a need to send a nekid pix. of sherlock. which john needed to see/choose as well. oh my.

of course he went for it. and of course i am going to have to read on. right now. :)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )