A/N The following story is my first Sherlock Holmes fan-fiction, so it's kind of an experiment. It should also be noted that much of this story is based on the Granada rendition of The Adventures, Return, Memoirs and Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. For instance, in one episode (I can't remember which at the moment), a remark was made about Mycroft Holmes' handwriting...Sherlock gave a note written by Mycroft to Watson, saying something about how a doctor's profession was infamous for bad handwriting.
So please enjoy!
Chapter One: A Most Singular Client
It was a quarter to seven on a chilly March morning when Sherlock Holmes was woken by the landlady.
The detective's only response was to pull the blankets over his head.
"Mr. Holmes!" Mrs. Hudson repeated irritably, flinging open the window. The sunlight burst in, illuminating the untidy room.
A mumbling came from underneath the blankets, all of which was indiscernible to her except "go away."
"Mr. Holmes," she said as loudly as she could without fear of waking Dr. Watson on the floor above, "A note has come from your brother! I believe it's urgent—"
At the mention of "brother", the sheets flew forward, revealing the tousled, dark-haired head of Sherlock Holmes. His eyes glistened with curiosity as he snatched the telegram from Mrs. Hudson's fingers and opened it. He motioned to the door in a flitting gesture. "Thank you, Mrs. Hudson…" he said distantly, his voice still slightly thick with sleep.
She huffed quietly and left.
He quickly scanned the note, and without another moment's hesitation, leapt out of bed.
"Whatever can this be about? He said nothing in his note!" Holmes exclaimed, curiosity and irritation clear in his voice. He talked on as he considered the reasons his brother might have contacted him.
Meanwhile, Dr. John Watson sat, half-listening, next to him. He'd been up late the previous night after seeing a client with a sprained ankle, and was a bit peeved that Holmes had found it necessary to wake him at this ungodly hour.
Not that he really minded, but why did these things always have to happen so early?
He read the scrawled note through bleary, yawn-tightened eyes, which he could actually make out this time around. He'd seen notes of Mycroft's before, and they were barely legible.
A most singular client has come to see me and has inquired after you. It is unsafe for her to leave without assistance. Come at once. You may bring Watson.
"It certainly is vague," Watson commented, handing it back to Holmes.
Holmes took it, but did not reply; Watson could see from the faraway look in the detective's eyes that he was working out the possibilities, and settled back in the hansom.
Holmes' mind whirled, full of questions. Why go to Mycroft? Why not go straight to Baker Street, if it was me she wished to contact? How would she know of Mycroft in the first place? To know where and who he is is indeed curious…
…could Mycroft be in danger because of her arrival?
He dismissed this last thought as quickly as it had come. Mycroft's mental powers far surpassed his own, and if he had sensed any danger at this client's coming, he would have not written the note so leisurely. Though his written words were indeed scribbles, Sherlock knew his brother's writing. Mycroft hadn't been rushed.
With this thought now processed and pushed from his mind, his brain set again upon the note. The woman is being followed or at the very least watched. She is certainly in some terrible sort of danger, or Mycroft would have sent her to me in a cab. And he says she is "most singular." I wonder what makes her so….
They arrived in Pall Mall within minutes. After paying the cabby, they headed straight into the Diogenes Club. After quietly stating their business, they were led by a be-slippered butler up the great flights of stairs and down silent hallways until they reached the double-doored room that Watson associated with the first meeting of Mycroft Holmes.
The butler knocked softly on the door, which opened immediately to reveal the portly, stout form of Sherlock's elder brother.
"Ah, Sherlock. Watson." He said in his heavy, deliberate sort of voice. He had a tortoise-shell box in his left hand, which the doctor knew to contain snuff.
"Mycroft." Sherlock smiled briefly.
"Her name is Christine Andrews," Mycroft said, getting straight into the matter at hand. "This way." He led Sherlock and Watson through the room with the bow-window, until they approached an offset, smaller sitting room. He nodded through the door.
Sherlock nor Watson spoke, but peered through.
The room was dark. The only light came from the fireplace, which was in need of another log; the curtains had been drawn tightly. Three chairs surrounded the fireplace, along with a small round table upon which a still-steaming cup of tea rested.
Next to this, sitting on a sofa facing the fire, was their client.
She was a small, slender thing who could not yet be thirty. Her golden-chestnut hair was not pulled up, but back, and hung halfway down her back, though some hung over her forehead in wavy locks. Her eyes were a light colour, perhaps blue or green; it was difficult to tell in the flame-light. She was very attractive, Watson noticed, and very…bold, he decided was the best word.
And Holmes would agree. She sat straight, with her head up and both feet planted firmly on the floor; her breathing was quite regular. Her composure was only betrayed by the fact that she was incessantly turning and twining her fingers around an old locket around her neck.
These observations were commonplace and most usual…quite the opposite of her clothing, which puzzled the detective.
She wore trousers and a button-up shirt, like a man. But the clothes were obviously cut for a woman. The trousers were the kind Holmes had seen some Americans wear, especially miners and working-class men, made of denim and dyed an indigo blue. The sleeves of the white button-up shirt ended a little past the elbow, and he began to make further deductions.
Her arms are well-muscled, yet she is not of a working class for her hands are not rough and her attire is, for the most part, very clean. So she exercises to keep fit. She may very well work in an office of some sort; the elbows of her shirt are worn down and the right one has a smudge of graphite or ink on it. She walked some way to get here, and came from the country; the hems of her trousers are worn and covered in mud…
…But it has not rained for a week. And what unusual shoes…I cannot tell what material they are made of. A brown flexible kind of material…and the sole… rubber perhaps? There is a symbol on the side that looks somewhat like a check-mark. There is her jacket, on the sofa arm beside her. Or perhaps it is her brother's, or father's, for it is much too large for her frame. He stared at this jacket, for he'd seen nothing of the sort. It was of brown leather or sheepskin, with thick fur around the collar. It was old, very worn, and had a patch of Britain's flag on the shoulder. Where there should be buttons, there were two lines of metallic teeth-like things.
His eyes ran along this jacket, along the sleeve, which was draped over the sofa in such a way that one arm nearly touched the floor. Next to this, leaning against the sofa was a large, old knapsack.
Holmes stepped inside the doorway and turned on the gas lamp on a table next to him.
The woman stood bolt upright as the room was brightly illuminated, then reached for her knapsack, but halted midway through the motion. Her eyes, which they saw now to be a striking grey-blue, widened. Her mouth dropped open in surprise, and she slowly stood straight. She stood there in silence, with a strange look of – awe? – on her face.
"Mr. Holmes?" she finally asked in a clear, steady voice. Her eyes went to Watson, and seemed to widen even further. "Dr. Watson?"
"Miss Andrews." Holmes removed his top hat and placed it on the table; Dr. Watson did the same.
Her hand went involuntarily to her mouth, as if in disbelief, and she walked towards them, extending her hand. "Mr. Holmes, sir, it's such an honor. Dr. Watson, an honor."
She was all confidence; her demeanor, her stride, her handshake were all firm and certain. And yet Holmes could not deny that he felt an undercurrent of uneasiness, of fear.
After she had shaken their hands, Christine sat on the sofa again. Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft did the same. The latter took the seat closest to the warmth of the fire and listened to all, though one would have thought he was sleeping.
"How may I help you, Miss Andrews?" Sherlock Holmes asked in his usual, brisk manner.
With the introductions over and the real problem at hand, she suddenly looked tired. "You're the only one who can help me, Mr. Holmes." She paused for a moment to rub her eyes. "I need to tell you a few things first, before I tell you my story." She heard the slight rustling of papers, and looked up to see Dr. Watson pulling out a small notebook and pencil.
"If I may," he said questioningly.
"Oh, of course. Please." Christine nodded. "Alright…first, you're probably wondering why I didn't go to the police. The fact is, Mr. Holmes, and you know better than most, that strange things happen. There are things so bizarre, so odd, so…far-fetched that the police will either dismiss them as a hoax or nonsense, or stick with what seems to be the most obvious explanation. But you don't. You dig as deep as you can until you uncover the true solution…no matter how fantastic the situation. And second, I want to make one thing perfectly clear." She looked at Sherlock, then at Watson.
"What is that, Miss Andrews?"
"I'm not lying to you."
"We have no reason to presume that you are." Watson replied, looking up from his notebook in surprise.
"I know, but I just want to assure you of that. I won't lie to you…my story isn't easy to accept. Lying to you would be a waste not only of your time, but mine."
"We understand, Miss Andrews." Holmes leaned towards her, his fingertips together. "State your case."
She took a deep breath, and then, looking straight into Mr. Holmes' eyes, said, "I'm from the 21st century."