A/N – I'm publishing this solely at the insistence of ScopesMonkey (who once again made this better than it would have been. Thank You!) and with the belief that publishing it will make me finish it. I'm being brave here so be nice to me. :o)
Warnings – If you can think of it, it will probably be here.
Disclaimer – Duh!
Will the Wind Ever Remember
Will the wind ever remember
The names it has blown in the past
And with his crutch, it's old age, and it's wisdom
It whispers no, this will be the last
Jimi Hendrix The Wind Cries Mary
I have no idea how long I've been staring at the computer screen. I've read the name probably a hundred times and I still can't believe that I'm seeing it.
Troy Benson is staring at me from my email inbox. I haven't heard from him in 21 years, 21 long and complex years. I honestly never expected to hear from him again.
I don't know how to feel about it. I guess I feel numb, tense and numb.
Troy Benson. 21 years.
The subject line reads, "Need your help."
He needs my help. Troy Benson needs my help.
Numb. I actually don't feel anything; I guess that means I'm in shock. I vaguely wonder how long I've been sitting here. When I opened my email, my next patient was an hour off. I wonder when she will get here - soon I imagine.
My hand is shaking as I move the mouse and click. The hour glass appears for a fraction of a second and the email appears.
Troy bloody Benson.
There are three attachments which I don't open, instead I take a deep breath and begin on the body of the email.
I know this must be a shock and I apologise for that. If we ever spoke again I expected it to happen under different circumstances. But once again, I apologise. I hope that you know I wouldn't have contacted you if it wasn't serious.
I guess I should get to the point.
It's about Stephanie."
I stop reading and close my eyes, Stephanie. A name I never thought I'd hear again. Stephanie Benson, Bella's daughter.
I open my eyes and continue to read.
"I don't know how closely you follow the news here now that both you and Harry live in London, but Stephanie has gone missing." My chest tightens. "She's been missing for two weeks now and the police here insist that she has simply left. They are refusing to put any effort in to locating her.
"John, I know we haven't spoken in years and that you haven't seen her since she was a baby, but please trust me. She would never have just left. She has a daughter." I gasp at that. I can't believe she's old enough to have a daughter. It makes me feel old. "Her daughter was found alone in the house. She's only 2. Stephanie never would have just left her. It just wouldn't happen. Please believe me on this. Please.
"I don't know where else to go. Mum is distraught and Matt and I are out of ideas and places to look. I discovered your blog and have been reading it for a while. I see that your husband is a detective and I was wondering if he would be willing to investigate.
I know that you don't owe me anything, John, probably the exact opposite considering our history. But I have to ask. We are running out of options here and honestly the police are doing nothing. If your husband or you are unwilling or unable to help us I understand, but I have to ask.
We don't have much money, but that can't surprise you. We are willing to pay everything that we have though. Mum is willing to take a mortgage out of the house if need be. We'll give anything if you will help.
Please consider it.
Other than that I'm glad that you appear to be happy. Bella would have been happy for you, surprised that you have a husband, but very happy.
Thank you and please consider it.
I read it three times, still numb. It has to be shock.
My phone chirps. "Dr. Watson, your 3 o'clock is here." It's Emily, the receptionist.
I hit the button. "Give me about 5 minutes and bring her in."
I quickly open the attachments. The first is a newspaper article about Stephanie going missing. It's a short piece in the local paper; it was published bi-weekly when I was a child. I wonder if it still is. The second is a copy of the police report where they reported her missing. It was filled out by Troy and Judy, Troy's Mum. Stephanie's Nan.
Bella's Mum. I think and frown. I click on the third. My breath catches and then I let out a loud gasp.
My first thought is that it is a picture of Bella. Bella as she looked when I was in Uni.
It's not though, the hair cut is wrong and the color is slightly off, but it is close. Stephanie looks alarmingly like her mother.
Even after all these years there is a twinge of pain at seeing that face and at seeing the little girl I hadn't seen since she was a baby. I stare at it until Emily knocks on my door and brings my patient in.
After I've convinced Ms. Jacobs that the new mark on her arm is indeed a freckle and not a cancerous growth I get my mobile out. I stare at Lestrade's name for several moments before I finally hit the send button. The least I can do is get the case file.
"Lestrade," he answers.
"It's John," I reply, "I need a favour." He's quiet for a moment, waiting. I continue. "I need all the information gathered on a missing person case in Wellow, Hampshire. I have a case number and a name."
Lestrade is silent for a moment. "Is this for one of Sherlock's case? I haven't heard anything from him," he asks. I can hear shuffling; he's probably getting a pen or clearing of space to work. His desk is usually a disaster.
"Um, no, well, maybe. It's somebody I knew, or rather I know her family. They don't think that the police are doing enough."
"Mm-hmm," he says on the other line. "A common complaint in missing person cases. I take it she's an adult?"
I can't believe that she is an adult.
It was cold, so cold. I had my brand new Army fatigues, my duffle sitting at my feet as I bury my hands into my pockets and tuck my nose under the scarf to keep it warm. So cold.
"John," her voice came from behind me. Even hearing it hurt me, tore through my chest. I didn't want to see her.
I turned anyway and she was standing there, bunch of blankets in her arms. I knew what she was holding, who she was holding.
"I, I just wanted to…" She stops and closes the distance between us. I hope she turns around with every step. She doesn't, she keeps coming. When she's right in front of me I close my eyes and wish her away. When I open them, she's still there.
"I wanted to say good-bye," she says. "I wanted you to see Stephanie." She holds the blankets out. There is a tiny face peeking out, a small pink newborn face.
Stephanie, my mother's name.
I look at her but step back, I can't hold her. I can't, it will kill me.
I shake my head and Bell pulls the baby back to her chest. She nods her head, understanding.
"I'm sorry, John, so sorry." I nod.
"I know, Bella. I know. I'm sorry too. Sorrier than I can say."
"You didn't have to do it this way. You didn't have to go into the Army."
I shrug, I may not have had to, but it certainly felt like the only option. I'd still be studying medicine, I'd still be helping people, and I'll be travelling. I'll be out of Wellow, out of Hampshire, away from Bella and all the Bensons. Away from Stephanie.
"I know," I say. "The train will be here soon."
She frowns and looks sad. That hurts me even more. I never liked Bella sad, it always hurt me. I can't though. I can't stay. It'll kill me.
"Good-bye, Bella." I hear the train coming. I grab my duffle and toss it over my shoulder. Bella has moved farther away, she obviously isn't leaving though. She's going to see me off. I turn my attention to the train. I promise myself that I won't look back. I won't look at her, at either of them.
It stops and I wait a moment. No one gets off, not surprising. I get on and settle in a seat next to the window. I look.
Bella is staring at me. She holds her hand up and waves, looks down at Stephanie, and then back up at me. She smiles that enchanting Bella smile. I smile back, despite myself. I always did.
As the train starts to move she holds up her hand one more time, I do the same. I wave and she seems relived. I lean forward and watch as far as long as I can.
I think that I'll see her next time I come home. Maybe it will be easier then, maybe it won't hurt. There will have to be a point when it won't hurt. It will never be back to the way it was, but maybe it can be okay again.
It would never be okay again.
"John?" The voice brings me back to the present, I realize that he's said my name more than once. I take a deep breath and release it.
"I'm sorry Lestrade, lousy reception in my office," I lie. "What do you need from me?" I open the email again and deliberately don't read it.
"You said you have a case number, let's start with that." I open the attachment and give it to him, along with the date she was reported missing and the address. I listen as he types in the background.
We are silent for a few minutes, "Benson, Stephanie."
I nod and close my eyes, "That's her." Bella's daughter.
"There isn't too much here honestly. She's an adult and allowed to leave. It seems her daughter was in the house alone. That's troubling of course, but she was fed, properly clothed, and in her crib. It says the Stephanie was aware that her grandmother was on the way over to take the baby for a few hours. The assumption is that she left because she knew that someone would be there to get the baby shortly. It happens all the time actually, you'd be surprised."
I smile at that; I've been married to Sherlock Holmes for over two years. It is damn near impossible to surprise me anymore.
"Her family insists she wouldn't have just left. They've asked me to see if Sherlock is willing to look into it. I'm much more likely to succeed in that if I can show him the police officers aren't doing much."
Lestrade laughs on the other end of the line. "Understandable," he pauses, "Are these good friends John? You grew up around there right?"
I'm surprised that my initial instinct is defensive; I want to tell him that is none of his business. But this is Geoff, this is my friend. I push the reaction away and answer him somewhat honestly.
"They used to be. Stephanie's uncle, Troy, was my best friend growing up. We lost touch over the years," when Stephanie was born, when I left, when Bella…
"So, not close now. But they are good people, if they think there is reason to look deeper there probably is." Assuming Sherlock is willing.
He's quiet again, "Okay. Well, I'll email all they've got over to you. Does that work?"
"Perfect," I reply and begin to say thanks but he speaks first.
"You're my friend, John, and I'll trust your judgment on the Benson family, but you should probably prepare them for the worst. Cases like this almost never end well."
"Okay," I say and wonder if he's trying to warn me as well, but dismiss it. "I will warn them. Thanks, Geoff. I owe you one."
He chuckles at that. "Any time, and good luck convincing Sherlock."
"Thanks," I reply. I'll need it.
Less than 3 minutes later I'm looking over the email Lestrade sent. He's right. There isn't too much there, probably not nearly enough to entice Sherlock. If I ask him to do it for me he'll do it without question - he won't like it, but he'll do it. I don't think I'll be able to do that, not with this case, not with these people. But I'm willing to go if he is.
I realise that a part of me hopes he says no.
I print each of the documents and grab a folder from inside my desk. I glance at the clock, 30 minutes before we close. I only have 30 minutes to figure out what the hell I'm going to tell my husband.