A/N: I would like to say a huge thank you to my amazing beta Rheadyn for helping me sort through the mess that is my head.
For Prompt: The missing key to a case of serial murders may lie with a little kid who refuses to give up the goods until their heroes, the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful blogger, John Watson, have a tea party with them.
Murder is Make-Believe
Sherlock's eyes were wider and more horrified than John had ever seen them. It would have been funny if not for the impending sense of doom blossoming in John's stomach.
"She used her magic teapot to turn Gilbert into a frog?" Sherlock asked slowly.
"Yes, she had to take revenge on him. He insulted her brother for being the only unicorn without a horn."
John looked on with the fascination of someone watching a train wreck. Oh God, little children and Sherlock. John really hoped the parents didn't make him pay for therapy. How could Lestrade have possibly agreed to this? It had be a breach of the police code. I do sincerely declare and affirm to well and truly serve the Queen, with fairness and integrity. To uphold fundamental human rights, preserve the peace and never let Sherlock Holmes near children and seniors.
The case was a difficult one, five patches according to Sherlock although that might have be the nicotine addiction talking, but this had to be the most difficult part. Sherlock's brilliant deduction skills had identified the only witness to a mysterious robbery and homicide, 10-year-old Sarah Tailor. The only problem was that she had flat-out refused to talk until her demands were met.
"A tea party with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson." A pale-looking Lestrade had read out from the transcript.
And that's how they had ended up here, cramped uncomfortably around a small round table in the drawing room of an enormous mansion that was currently surrounded by police cars stocked with candy and shock blankets (whether they were for the child or Sherlock was anyone's guess). Lestrade's parting advice, "Sherlock, just don't be you", had been gleefully ignored and things had gone from bad, "I was informed that this would be a tea party so why are you serving apple juice?", to worse, "How can I pass the sugar to Mr. Bear when he is an inanimate toy?". But Sarah, despite her blond curls and Barbie pink dress, was apparently made of sturdier stuff. She just smiled politely and ate her digestive cookies.
And now this.
"Well, that's just fundamentally wrong." John kicked Sherlock under the table but he might as well have kicked the table leg for all the success it brought…In fact, maybe he had kicked the table leg, it was hard to tell in such a tight space. "By definition a unicorn without a horn is just a horse. So Gilbert's observation was perfectly logical."
John glanced across the table at Leo, the plastic pony (sorry, unicorn without a horn) who was the brother of Maya the fairy princess.
Sarah gasped and covered her mouth with both hands.
"Shhh! She might hear you!" she hissed, "Then she'd have to turn you into a frog too!"
The air of disgust that Sherlock was emanating was almost palpable. He opened his mouth to say some scorching come-back, no doubt, but John quickly cleared his throat.
"Sherlock, it's just make-believe." He said through his smile.
"Make-believe? Criminal is what it is. Meting out judgment without the proper counsel of a court of law, imposing the twisted justice of one individual on the masses. Vigilantism is illegal, John. Gilbert's remark cannot even be considered verbal abuse because 'horse' is not a derogatory term. He would be acquitted in any court of justice."
John closed his eyes briefly. He wanted to shout "It's a frog plushie for God's sake!" or maybe "Please don't antagonize our only witness! I miss sleeping". But Sarah was looking at him with round, innocent eyes.
"Okay, yes, a court of law would find Gilbert innocent." John conceded. "But legalities aren't everything, Sherlock. Maya has a right to protect her brother."
"Protect him from what precisely?" Sherlock scoffed.
"Bullying. Which—" John raised a hand to forestall his friend. "has a variety of detrimental psychological effects."
"Oh, you are so sentimental, John. You are comparing mere words to a physical assault."
After a year of living with Sherlock, John knew for a fact that in the hands of a talented man insults could supplement a gun. But Gilbert didn't look like a high-functioning sociopath with a rapier tongue. He looked quite docile, with his serene plastic eyes and a little red tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Would probably make a good quiet flatmate, John thought wistfully… Right, he really needed sleep and caffeine. Lots of caffeine.
"Look, all I'm saying is that protecting family is important. Besides I'm sure that if Gilbert apologized Maya could always turn him back into…"
"A bunny" Sarah supplied. "But she wouldn't."
"Why not?" John asked wearily. God, he was too old for this.
"Because blood is thicker than water."
Sherlock blinked. John stared. Sarah smiled and offered them each a cookie.
"Oh I see." Sherlock said handing his cookie to John. "Right, that's all I need." And with that he unfolded himself from the tiny chair and swooped out of the room.
John, flustered as always by the sudden change of events, called him back. "Uh, Sherlock, aren't you forgetting something? Don't you want to ask Sarah about last Friday?"
Sherlock, looking annoyed at having his grand exit ruined, stuck his head back into the room.
"She already told us. Don't you ever listen? Text Lestrade. Tell him to take in Mrs. Lane, the housekeeper, and have her take a DNA test. He'll find that she's related to Mr. Berkley, sister probably, who died last week from a heart attack. Only it wasn't a heart attack; he was murdered." When John still looked confused he added, "'Blood is thicker than water', it was revenge!"
"How—" John shook his head. "Can't you tell him? He's just outside."
"No. He'll just ask stupid questions and waste my time. We need to get to the morgue. Now." And he disappeared again.
Feeling like he'd once again started watching a movie from the middle and hadn't quite caught on to the plot, John thanked Sarah and hurried after Sherlock. They left from the back of the house, Sherlock steering John through any obstacles as he kept him eyes on to his phone, quickly texting Lestrade.
The text sent, his focus returned to Sherlock.
"You could have said 'thank you'. She is your fan after all. And she did give us juice."
"Fan? Please, she doesn't even know what the word deduction means. The entire tea party was a farce. Someone set her up to this."
John couldn't believe it. "You are SO paranoid."
Sherlock gave him that smile that said I'm-about-to-prove-you-wrong-and-you're-going-to-love-it and launched into his explanation.
"China set, new, no signs of it being used before; so she's either meticulously careful with her belongings or it was bought particularly for this occasion. The tear on Mr. Bear's arm, although that's clearly an alias, and the tangled state of Maya's hair say she's not careful. Then there's her clothing, clearly not what she's used to, she spent half the time fidgeting and adjusting the skirt. She had her hands glued to her lap like she was afraid the skirt would blow away. Not just a new dress then, she's used to wearing pants. There a small smudge of dirt just under her chin and sand particles under her nails and she's tanned which tells us that she spends a lot of time outside and isn't afraid to get dirty. The scratch on her left elbow is fresh but it has gone untreated. So she didn't go to her parents when she got hurt. Why? Probably cause she's used to it." Sherlock paused dramatically. "She's a tomboy. So then why would a tomboy suffer being dressed like a princess? She must have been forced into it. The only real question is by whom?"
"Incredible." John whispered, ignoring the way his heart skipped a beat when he got another quick smile. "Right. So someone set this up… Moriarty?"
"I don't think pink is really his colour."
John laughed softly, remembering the garish shade of Sarah's dress.
Sarah walked quickly towards the park; the sky was dark with clouds and if she didn't hurry she'd be caught in the rain. She had changed back into her normal clothes and washed the sweet-smelling spray out of her hair and felt much more like herself again. Dresses were horrible! How did Melissa wear them all the time?
She made it to the play structure and knocked on the side of the twisted slide; two times quickly then a pause and once more. A moment later a pretty dark-haired woman looked out from the top.
"Come up the rope ladder." She said with a smile before turning her attention back to the phone in her hands.
Sarah climbed up. The woman was leaning against a pole near the small hanging bridge.
"In the play house." She said jerking her chin in the direction of the small house on the other side of the bridge. These people sure knew how to do creepy.
Inside the house Sarah found the old man she had spoken to earlier, sitting at the small table and looking very uncomfortable and out of place in his suit.
"Good afternoon, Sarah." He said with a sickly sweet smile. "Did you get what I asked?"
"Yeah." Sarah handed him the small round camera that he had given her. She would have to get mom or Greta to stitch up Mr. Lucky later. "So where is my prize?"
The man pushed a white envelop across the sandy surface of the table. Sarah snatched it up and broke the fancy wax seal before pulling out the laminated card inside. Finally! The Milotic Pokémon! Now Robert wouldn't stand a chance against her deck.
She turned to leave, grinning like an idiot, but the man's quiet voice called her back.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
The old man smiled and gave her a nod. As Sarah hurried away from the play house she heard the old man muttering to himself.
"Yes, Mummy will like this very much."
Sarah resolved to never return to that park again and maybe her parents were right about not talking to strangers.