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Poor Jenny, bright as a penny

BBC Sherlock

Rating: 12 (implicit het, implicit femslash, character death)

Spoilers: major for A Study in Pink 
It was Miriam who told Jennifer about the song, shortly after they'd met at Somerville. Miriam knew every musical ever written, as far as Jennifer could gather: this was certainly an obscure one.

"Lady in the Dark?" she'd asked.

"Weill and Gershwin. The book didn't work that well, but 'The Saga of Jenny' is wonderful," said Miriam, and dug out the CD and played it to her.

"As soon as I met you in Noughth Week and you said you were studying modern languages, I thought of this," Miriam said afterwards, and started singing, in her slightly off-key alto: "Jenny made her mind up when she was twelve, that into foreign languages she would delve. But at seventeen to Vassar it was quite a blow, that in twenty-seven languages she couldn't say no."

"I'm not like that," Jennifer, Jenny, giggled. She hadn't liked the nickname before, but when Miriam said it in that husky voice, suddenly intense, it did things to her. "For one thing, it sounds like that Jenny was a bit too keen on men."

Miriam was singing again: "Jenny made her mind up at twenty-two, to get herself a husband was the thing to do. So she got herself all dolled up in her satins and furs, and she got herself a husband, but he wasn't hers."

"Not the sort of thing I'd do," Jenny replied.

"You're sure you're not that sort of girl?"

Jenny smiled wickedly, because she was pretty certain they both knew the score already.

"Well, as you should have realised," she said, "I'm not just a linguist, I'm a cunning linguist."

Even after they'd split up, Jenny stayed in touch with Miriam. Until the day she told Miriam that she'd got engaged to Simon Wilson.

"You sell-out!" Miriam had yelled. "You don't love him, you can't possibly love him. But you want a career in the media, don't you, and you don't want people to realise you're a dyke. Jenny the bearded lady, that's you."

"It's not that...it's not just that. I like Simon a lot, and I'd like to be ordinary, have a family some day."

"You don't need a husband to have a baby, you need a turkey baster."

"I don't want it that way."

"You're just a scheming little bitch!" Miriam had screamed, and slammed the phone down.


She wasn't even sure she wanted the production jobs sometimes, and yet she was so good at them - the negotiating, the organising, the detail - that everyone wanted to employ her. And she desperately, desperately wanted children, and yet it had all gone so wrong. Not just Rachel dying, not living, dead, but talking to the gynaecologist afterwards: very sorry, no treatment at present, but there were other options if she wanted to have a family.

Simon had said that as well, talked about adoption, even surrogacy. They'd gone into all the details, but in the end she hadn't gone through with it. She wanted Rachel, she didn't want some other child that wouldn't really be hers, not the way Rachel had been, inside her, with her, so that she never felt alone. Because more and more she felt alone now when she was with Simon.

She had no appetite for sex with him now that it couldn't mean a child, but she stayed with him because he was a fixed point in her life, and she needed that. It would all have been OK if Somerville hadn't invited her back, to talk about getting into TV. Stupidly, she'd accepted and a tall, beautiful girl called Lisa had come up to her in the bar afterwards, wanted to tell Jenny about her dreams, her ambitions, her desires. She'd forgotten how irresistible brilliant young women could be, and how the tone of a voice, the curve of a cheek, could stoke her libido. But now her whole body remembered.  Lisa was a one-night stand. Valerie, Toni, Sue weren't. And soon it wasn't so much a girl in every port, as a lover in every production location.

She told herself at least she wasn't cheating on Simon with men. She'd never told him about her lesbian past – she'd been trying to forget it - and it was scarily easy to fool him. One of these days, she knew, she would be caught, but it didn't seem to matter. Not yet, she thought, I've still got plenty of time for fun.


When she'd realised that the taxi was going the wrong way, she'd been cross rather than worried. How had this idiot managed to pass the Knowledge test?

"I said Wandsworth Road, not bloody Brixton!" She was running it tight to meet Christine before the casting meeting as it was.

"Sorry, love," the cabbie replied. "I'm taking you for a ride."

"What the hell?" she yelled and reached for the door. Locked. This couldn't be happening, she wasn't stupid enough to get into a minicab. This was a black taxi, for God's sake. She pulled out her phone, and as she looked up, his eyes caught hers in the mirror. There was cunning there, behind those stupid glasses, she suddenly realised.

"Not a good move," he said, half-turning, a gun appearing in his hand. "You phone anyone, you're a dead woman immediately. Come with me instead, coz we're going to play a little game." He turned back to the wheel.

"I've got my period," she said, wondering if she should somehow try and attack him as he drove, grab at him through the partition. But he seemed to know what she was thinking, and the gun was back again.

"Make a nasty mess, if I have to use this." he said. "I'm not going to rape you, not interested in that kind of thing. You cooperate and you've got a chance. Fifty-fifty, you live, you die. Crash the cab and you'll be crippled for life, most likely. I've seen a lot of car accidents, I have, not nice seeing the results."

Her nerve had gone, because this, this was how it was going to end, she knew it was. She'd got the breaks and other people hadn't, she'd lived and Rachel had died, but her number was up this time.

"Please," she said, "can I send one text? Just one, I promise. I won't call the police. Just to say goodbye."

"Long as you make it sound like suicide, that's OK," he said. "The coppers'd like that. Type it out and show me before you send it. But any funny business, and I'll be picking bits of your skull out of my upholstery."

Christine was waiting for her in Wandsworth, but she had no hesitation about who to text.

Simon, whatever happens remember I always loved you and never meant to hurt you. Jen xxx

She showed the message to the cabbie, and he smiled.

"Ah, that's touching that is. Heart-warming almost. OK, you send that, and then get ready, because we'll get to Lauriston Gardens quite soon. That'll be your final destination. Or maybe mine. Like I said, we've got a game to play, and you look to me like you like playing around."

She couldn't save herself, but could she at least get him caught? She didn't dare try and mark him, scratch him, even if it would leave DNA. She couldn't stand the thought of her body, her face, exploding. She was going to die, she knew, but not yet, not just yet. Message in lipstick on the seats? No, he'd spot that, kill her immediately.

And then she saw it, what she had to do. Plant something on him, something that couldn't possibly be his, that would link him to her. Not much of a chance, he might well notice it, get rid of it. But he had a family, she could see the photo by the dashboard. His wife might be suspicious, keep a careful eye on him. She might find something in his coat before he did. If she found a phone, her pink phone there, he couldn't explain that one away easily.

When they stopped and told her to get out, that was her chance. Staggering out clumsily, pretending she'd caught her heel, crashing into him, clinging to him. He brought out the gun, but she was sobbing onto his shoulder, not running, not trying to fight, and he seemed confused for a moment. She somehow managed to get the phone into the pocket of his coat, and collapsed on the ground to distract him, praying the phone wouldn't fall out.

And then the gun was pressing into the nape of her neck, and he was saying: "We haven't played our game yet." He sounded disappointed, and she thought he would pull the trigger, but he seemed oddly reluctant to. Instead he started to explain his 'game', but she wasn't really listening. Something about pills, two bottles, but it didn't matter. She was dead already, but at least she'd planted the phone...No, even that wouldn't work, no-one would find the phone on him, no-one would suspect one unremarkable, shabby little man in the whole of London.

But as they went slowly up the stairs of the abandoned house – so many stairs, till she thought her legs really would give out  – she saw how to do it, how to organise it. She'd always been able to organise things. If she left the password to her phone, someone might trace it: find it, find him before he realised about the phone.

Oh God, and then they'd also be able to read the messages on her phone. She always deleted her messages after a trip, but there were still some on it from earlier today, talking with Christine about where they'd meet, what they were going to do to one another. And her contacts, her partners, were all on there as well. Simon would find out. She hadn't been clever enough, after all. She couldn't go through with this.

And then, as  she stood in the bare room – a nursery once, perhaps, there was a rocking horse in the corner - and the cabbie showed her the bottles, she heard him say something, after all the things she hadn't heard him say:

"Who knows, fourth time lucky, fourth time unlucky?"

"You've done this before?"

"Don't you know what this is about even yet? You haven't been paying attention, have you, love? I'm behind all those serial suicides, thought you'd have heard about them. Killed a government minister, I have. Only a junior one,  though."

It wasn't this, it couldn't be. What were the odds, a million to one? But he'd done it before, he would do it again, keep on doing it. Unless she stopped him, whatever the cost. Just before she started the eeny, meeny, miny, moe of picking a bottle, she thought: Thank God I never chose a longer password. 

Notes: The Saga of Jenny  


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2011 09:53 am (UTC)
Bravo! *ecstatic applause*!

This is absolutely wonderful! I love the songs from Lady in the Dark (even if the plot lacks a bit) so of course I was hooked but I had _no idea_ where you were going with this! You get so perfectly under her skin. The lovers (and _of course_ Sherlock doesnt' get the gender right - we already know he's got a blind spot for sexuality) the disappointment, the burning desire for children and above all the _intelligence_...

Perfectly structured, perfectly crafted!

Memming like fury.

Mar. 21st, 2011 07:35 am (UTC)
To be fair to Sherlock (not a phrase I often use) he doesn't ever specifically state that Jennifer's Wilson's lovers are male, so he might conceivably have realised that they were female, but not regarded it as relevant to the case. And he is the one who points out how clever Jenny was. In a sense all I'm doing in this story is drawing out a lot of the implications that are already there in the screenplay. Some of these I only spotted when I was analysing the details about her, like that she must have had Rachel relatively young (given she's in her late 30s and Rachel's death was 14 years ago). Which fitted neatly with ideas that I already had about why a lesbian might have got married to a man.

I think it all shows once again that while the female characters in the show are underwritten, as soon as you look closely at them, there's interesting material there and they're mostly not just stereotypes.
Mar. 18th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much for this - I've been experimenting with different performances of the song.

I particularly like the expansion of "dying, not living, dead" conveying the full trauma of her loss, and the rocking horse in the corner, and the final moment when her conscience compels her to risk exposing her husband to her secrets in order to stop the killings.
Mar. 21st, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
Which was your favourite version of the song? I didn't have the time to explore the mani versions up on Youtube - it was choice between this one or Julie Andrews' performance in 'Star', which seemed to bloat up the song a bit too much.

There is a lot of good material in Pink on Jennifer Wilson that I had to play with: the 'dying' bit was inspired by Lestrade's comment on Rachel 'technically she was never alive', and the rocking horse is really there in the Lauriston Gardens house scene. And given the bit where Sherlock deduces that she never leaves her phone at home because of her string of lovers, there's a really nice dilemma there to set the character up with.
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
Very glad to be able to read this at last and it was worth the wait. Does S ever specify the sex of the lovers? I can't recall
Love the shaping of this and all the details already mentioned. Particularly love the way you made sense of Rachel and the lovers and yes, the ending.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )