a/n – Written as a birthday present for immortalbeloved, this is a rewrite of an original Conan Doyle story – tweaked a little, for the modern age, but not very much.
"Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient, come all the same. S.H."
John scowls at the text. Typical bloody Sherlock. He just wants John to sit in the corner so that he can throw random comments at him, and then berate him for being slow. Well, it won't work this time. John has work to do, his own life to live, he can't be at the beck and call of that skinny lunatic all the time.
Five minutes later, he swears to himself, and catches up his jacket.
The lanky figure is flung carelessly over the sofa, one long pale forearm adorned with a patch.
"The Camford Clinic."
John's eyebrows rise slightly.
"You've heard of it." It isn't a question.
"I read the papers, Sherlock. Celebrities go there to 'rest', come out looking ten years younger. Diet, exercise...and probably high-end cosmetic surgery. They also do a nice little line in dealing with addictions..." A sudden silence from the kitchen, and then John leans back out of the door, frowning. "Sherlock...?"
A pale hand waves away his concern.
"Mycroft contacted me. One of his pet politicians is acting oddly."
"Define 'odd' for a politician. It's either oranges and bin-bags, or hand-carved duck-houses."
"He's decent, honest and competent. Such a rare beast needs to be preserved, apparently."
"I'd go past 'rare' and into 'mythical', if we're talking about a politician. But he's one of Mycroft's cogs in the machine, I get it."
If he was someone Mycroft concerned himself with, then he was presumably extremely capable, politically useful, or both. But...
"It isn't like you to do favours for Mycroft." John sets the mug of tea down sharply. "What's he holding over you?"
"He's calling in an old favour." Sherlock admits.
John Presbury's whole career has been built upon the fact of his being a solid family man. Not even in the hackneyed sense of 'family values', with the attendant lip service and revealed hypocrisy. No, when Presbury had been left a widower with a small daughter, he had quite genuinely devoted himself to bringing her up. Quite as many column inches were lavished on Edie Presbury and the family dog, Roy, as were dedicated to her father's pursuit of tougher legislation against drink driving and vehicular manslaughter.
"...and now he's got himself engaged to his press secretary."
"Looks like the usual story. Blonde, half his age." John tilts his head to admire the photograph. "Alice Morphy. She's a bit of a cracker, actually. Don't blame him. Why should some bloke's striking lucky ring alarm bells? Unless Mycroft thinks someone's been poisoning his Viagra."
Sherlock gives him a stare, and the corners of his mouth twitch.
"Very good, John."
"Back in June, he took a trip abroad, to a health spa in the Czech Republic. Since his return, he has been making regular visits to the Camford Clinic."
"And recently, his dog bit him."
"Quite." Sherlock tilts his head. "Put the kettle on again, John. Our visitor is here."
Jack Bennett is Presbury's PA, a tall, diffident young man in a quietly expensive suit. He's trying very hard not to show his horror at the chaotic room he's found himself in, perching on the edge of the armchair. Between natural politeness and political caution, the sparse facts are nested in circumlocution and disclaimers.
Since his return from his holiday, Presbury has become more restive, reckless with his money. He had been slipping away from his office at regular intervals, and it was only by the inadvertent interception of a phonecall that Bennett had discovered the appointments at the Clinic. In all innocence, Bennett had queried this with Presbury, and had been blasted by an unprecedented fury. This new temper had manifested itself again, and on one occasion, Roy had snapped at his master.
"I can't force him to see another doctor, and the Camford is hardly disreputable. But the mood swings..."
"There's no other sign of confusion?"
"None at all. He's as alert and sharp as he's ever been..."
There's a disturbance on the stair, and a leggy brunette in boho chic, all tiny skirt and long scarf, comes through the door, dog first. Bennett springs to his feet.
"Edie, you're not supposed to be here..." The protest is weak, and her sunny smile tells them exactly how much notice she takes of it.
"Oh, do shut up, Jack. He's my father, after all." She sails serenely past him, and plants herself in his vacated chair. "Come on, Roy, sit."
Roy is a mutt. There's a good deal of spaniel in there, a touch of terrier, and some of the solid body of a retriever, but it would take more than even Sherlock's deductive skill to untangle the exact mix.
A feathery tail is wagging madly, and there is very little slavering going on. Slobbering, certainly, but the villain of the piece is making a pretty poor show of savagery.
"So, this is the vicious brute." She says, defiantly.
The 'vicious brute' rolls on his back, tongue lolling, and looks up at John hopefully.
"Of course, you would be a dog person." Sherlock grumbles. John, crouching to make a fuss of Roy, looks up and gives him a crooked grin.
"At least when a dog wrecks your slippers, he doesn't try and claim that it was merely an experiment."
"I've had Roy since he was a puppy, ten years now, and in all that time, he has never, ever attacked anyone. And it's only in the past couple of months he's even snarled at Dad. We used to feed him worming tablets, and he never even growled."
He's certainly one of the dopiest dogs John has ever encountered, with a look of concussed good nature. He collapses happily at his mistress' feet, and dribbles on her boots. John, abruptly aware of those long coltish limbs in supple leather and sheer denier, scrambles up.
Sherlock is hardly surprised at the young woman's presence – a forceful personality. She sits casually back in the chair, her vivid face all charm and cheekbones. The 'little girl' was now a University student (LSE, just started her second year.) Sherlock watches John trying not to watch her legs, stifles a smirk.
"Have you mentioned your engagement to your father?" he asks, blandly. "No, obviously not, because you are worried as to how he will take it. There was enough trouble over your wishing to live in halls. And Bennett is worried about his job, accusations of inappropriate behaviour. The worry is new, though. Before you went away to University, before Alice, you wouldn't have worried at all."
"I thought he was just being a silly old man." Edie says, in rush. "Come on, Jack, don't try and hide it, you did, too." Her clear eyes turn from one man to the other. "Look, I'm not saying that Dad hasn't had girlfriends in the past, but Alice is only a few years older than me. You can't expect me to be chuffed at the prospect of a stepmother I went to school with. But that's not the real issue." Catches up her lip. "He's...changed."
"He's certainly become harsher, less patient."
"This isn't a matter I could take to the police. What would I say? My father has a blonde girlfriend half his age, and he's trying to keep up with her? But something's wrong, Mr Holmes." She looks fierce, and suddenly very young. "I don't mind him buying a sports car and pretending to be Peter bloody Stringfellow if it makes him happy, but he's not himself any more. Whatever they are doing to him in that place, it isn't right."