"That one," John said, pointing discreetly toward a woman and an infant across the room.
"Really, John," his companion said, rolling his eyes. "Another? I'm becoming bored of this." Sherlock Holmes was, unfortunately, rather easily bored. The consulting detective (the only one in the world) had just spent the last sixteen days tracking a ring of child snatchers through Southern California. There had been plenty of twists, and plenty of danger, and a most unusual ending, which pleased Sherlock greatly. But coming home after such a long and involved case was like coming down from a high. His interest level in anything else plummeted, especially when he was reduced to deducing meaningless facts about passersby in an American airport. It didn't help that his colleague, John Watson (former army doctor, invalided out a year and a half ago, now his loyal partner in crime-solving, and the first flatmate who tolerated him in years), kept asking him to study more people.
"Just that one," John said. "I think I have her pegged."
"Oh?" Sherlock said, surprised. It was the first time John had offered a deduction of his own. He looked across to the woman he was pointing at. She was in her early twenties, a fat baby on her hip, and had stopped near the far wall to check her messages on her phone. Sherlock gave a small smile, and looked to John. "Let's hear it, then."
"Single mother," John said, watching the girl closely. "Baby, but no wedding ring. Wealthy. That phone is expensive, and she's fairly tanned. Plus, blonde highlights in her hair. Waiting to get on a flight like we are. She's got her bag next to her feet. Long flight, maybe, her purse is packed to overflowing, probably with things to keep her entertained. Going abroad, maybe... To visit family?"
"Mm, very good," Sherlock said, nodding as his eyes trailed from the woman's feet, up her cargo shorts and tank top, up to the crown of her head, and back down, over the baby, and to the bag next to her feet.
"Was I right?" John asked, pleased with himself.
"Not in the slightest," Sherlock replied, unable to suppress a small smile. John scowled at him, and he leaned in again to offer his own deduction. "The baby isn't hers," he said. "Distinctive facial markers rule it out, but look how she carries him. She's clearly right handed, but she holds him on her right hip. Any mother would hold the baby on the left, leave her dominant hand free, especially if she's an avid texter. Plus, her earrings aren't real. Clipped on. She's hesitant to pierce her ears, even at her age, she wouldn't be if she'd gone through labor. No wedding ring, you're right, but she isn't unattached, there's a silver band on a chain around her neck. Not a wedding band, no, but a promise ring, perhaps, too big for her fingers, suggesting it came from a man with larger hands, perhaps, or someone who overestimated her ring size. She is tan, but not tanned, she hasn't been to a tanning salon. Her shoulders are slightly sunburned, and her arms and chest are darker than her legs. A wealthier, vainer woman would visit a tanning salon and tan uniformly, but no, she's been to the beach."
"Just because she goes to the beach doesn't mean she isn't wealthy," John said, a little indignant at having his deduction shot through the floor. "You saw the beaches here. Some of the summer homes must cost millions."
"You pointed out her phone," Sherlock said. "Expensive, yes, and very well-kept, not a scratch on it. But it isn't hers, either. There's a bulge in her trouser pocket, small, but fat, perhaps a lower-cost flip phone model. Notice, she isn't texting, she's only looking. She scrolls with her thumb, but keeps shifting it around in her hand to hit the button to go back. She isn't used to a touch screen, and keeps selecting things she doesn't mean to. Looking back at the pocket of her trousers, there's an obvious tear down the side, where something caught on it and yanked. It's stitched back down. Most women with more money would want to avoid an unsightly repair, and just purchase a new pair of pants. As for her hair, those highlights are probably natural, from spending so much time in the sun."
"Okay, I was wrong," John sighed. "I get it, you don't have to-"
"Not finished," Sherlock interrupted, sounding smug. "She could have family abroad, but she isn't going to visit them. She isn't getting on a flight, especially not a long one. That bag is also not hers," he said, waving a long, pale finger at the duffle bag by her feet. "A woman with a baby would require much more luggage than that for any trip that would require her to travel by aeroplane. She could have a checked bag, but she has no ticket for her luggage. Were she waiting for a flight, she would still be holding it. Like you are," he said, nodding to the receipt John was turning over absently in his hands. John looked down at it, frowning. "Or, stuffed it in that ridiculous purse, where it would still be sticking out of the top as the rest of it is filled to bursting. Not filled with entertainment, just the things a woman carries about every day. Well, an especially disorganized woman," he added. He looked her over once more. "Also, notice the lack of a nappy bag. A parent with a baby in tow will have a bag for him, no matter what. Nappies, bottles, wipes, toys, food, et cetera. To take a child on a flight without one would be asking for disaster." The detective finally fell silent, a small, pleased smile on his face, and looked at John. The other man mouthed for a moment.
"Wait," he said, squinting at his flatmate. "So we're looking at a girl who stole a phone, a bag, and a child, and is just standing around an airport?"
"Not as such," Sherlock said, his focus on the woman once again. John followed his gaze. A flustered man was jogging over to her, gathering the baby back into his arms. The girl handed the phone to him, and hugged him, while he tried to shoulder a blue and yellow checked bag, a plastic bottle stuck into one of the side pockets.
"Oh," John said, frowning. He sighed. Wrong again. He had thought that maybe living with Sherlock, working with him, his own deduction skills would begin to blossom, and he would become more than just the tag along with the gun and the first aid knowledge. He sat in silence for a while, before another one caught his eye, a bald man with a polo shirt and backpack, and three teenagers in tow. He nudged Sherlock's arm to point him out, but he was already looking elsewhere. John turned to see.
Up ahead at security, a man was being forcibly removed from the line and handcuffed. John studied him a moment. Younger than Sherlock, but wearing far too much tweed for his age and a bow tie, he was certainly odd. Two friends stood by, about the same age, a redheaded girl and a young man with a long nose. The pair of them seemed irritated. John chuckled, wondering if the odd one had tried to be witty and made a bomb joke, and was going to make his friends late as a result. He turned to Sherlock once again, to say something, but found him staring at the commotion with a look on his face that John found entirely foreign.
"What is it?" He said, frowning and looking between the noisy scene and the detective.
"I'm confused," Sherlock replied, his tone of voice indicating that this was just as unusual as John thought it to be. He pushed himself up from the bench they had been sitting on, picking up his case from the floor beside him. "I have to..." He trailed off, and started towards security at a brisk walk, his eyes trained on the struggling man in tweed. John grabbed his backpack and chased after.
Before either of them could get there, the troublemaker had been carted off, and his friends had been ushered through the line. Sherlock stopped, his face twisted into an expression that suggested he was entirely displeased.
"Did you know him?" John asked, standing beside Sherlock and watching the progress of the line begin again, people filtering through security.
"No," Sherlock murmured, softly.
"Then what is it?"
"Something's not right," the detective said, and joined the line.