Author's Note: The First
If you're reading my WIP 'Given In Evidence' you'll probably want to skip this, as it's the case which featured in Chapter Four - here edited and published as a stand-alone for those who don't enjoy slash.
"My girlfriend is too attractive."
Sherlock sat back in his armchair and regarded their potential client dubiously, taking in a very average arrangement of features atop a figure of pronounced rotundity. Only the most generous observer would anticipate his having a partner of even moderate appeal.
John spoke up from his seat at the table. "Er… do you want to expand on that, Mr…?"
The man gave a nervous smile. "Oh - it's Jenkins, Gary Jenkins." A suitably bland name for a singularly unimposing individual.
"I'm sorry, I know I sound daft…"
No one denied this.
"…but the more I think about it, the more worried I get. I mean, I'm not much to look at…"
No one argued with that either.
"…and I don't have much money, or an exciting job, or anything."
"What do you do, Mr Jenkins?" Sherlock enquired.
"I'm an insurance clerk."
Sherlock's interest level dipped dangerously close to his 'interview terminated' threshold.
"I met Deborah through an internet dating site." Jenkins offered a scrap of paper with a web address and login details, which Sherlock glanced at then held out to the side. John took it from his fingers.
"When she got in touch I was doubtful, because she didn't have a photo up, which usually means… well…" He shrugged. "Nothing good, I guess. But I hadn't had many offers and she seemed nice, so I agreed to meet her. Couldn't believe my eyes when she turned up - she's absolutely gorgeous." He reached into his trouser pocket and produced a mobile phone. "She doesn't like having her picture taken but I managed to snap a shot when she went to the bar at dinner last night."
He pressed a few buttons then passed the phone to Sherlock. The woman was tall and slender with long flame-red hair - wig, Sherlock decided immediately - and an admittedly inoffensive profile.
There was a low whistle from behind as John peered at it over his shoulder.
"You are not wrong, Mr Jenkins."
"Oh, call me 'Gary', please. I figured I'd never hear from her again after that first drink, but we've been dating for two weeks now and then last night…" He trailed off.
"Last night?" John prompted, passing Sherlock his laptop with Gary Jenkins' profile page showing on the screen. His user name was 'RocketMan75'.
"Yes, do please satisfy my flatmate's prurient curiosity," Sherlock invited, his eyes quickly scanning the page. "I'm sure we're all dying to know what happened last night." He produced his most insincere smile, but the clearly dim Gary Jenkins seemed to take it at face value.
"Well, she wants us to go away for the weekend. Together, I mean. Tomorrow, in fact." He shrugged. "Obviously I said 'yes', but then I got to thinking."
"That must have been a tremendous strain," murmured Sherlock sympathetically. John kicked his chair.
Gary nodded. "Yes… yes, it has been a strain. I mean, I don't want to be ungrateful, but this kind of thing just doesn't happen, does it? I mean, she's a definite ten… and I'm only a fi…"
Sherlock raised an eyebrow.
"… four, at best," Gary finished. "I mean, she's very nice, but you've got to admit it's peculiar." He spread his hands wide. "Things I don't understand make me nervous."
Sherlock's chair got another warning kick, this time before he'd even opened his mouth. He concentrated on the facts. "I'm very glad you brought this to my attention, Mr Jenkins. I shall start work immediately."
He got "Really?" in stereo as both client and flatmate spoke at once. Sherlock turned his head.
"He's absolutely right, John - the attractiveness ratio is entirely disproportionate. This 'Deborah' must certainly have some other motivation."
John sighed in an unnecessarily long-suffering manner. "Looks aren't everything, Sherlock. Sometimes a person's personality just fits you and…"
"Yes, but that's not the case here, is it, John?" Sherlock interrupted. "She found him on a dating site - all she'd got to go on were a photograph, an extremely bland résumé and a rather off-colour joke about a parrot." He turned back to their client. "What are your arrangements for tomorrow?"
"She said she'd call round to my place at seven and we could go from there. I don't know where she lives, actually - she's very reserved about herself." He lowered his voice. "That's another thing that worries me: what if she's married?" He shook his head. "Although I'm hardly 'affair' material."
"Indeed." Sherlock contemplated the sweaty palms before him and decided against getting up. "John will see you out. Do nothing for twenty-four hours. I'll be in touch." He focused on the laptop and ignored the resigned huff from over his shoulder.
"I don't know how the hell you got on to this!"
Sherlock looked up from his armchair as Lestrade loudly announced his arrival at 221B the next morning, staggering into the kitchen and dumping two boxes of files onto the table. Sherlock had the lid off the first one before he'd even got his breath back.
"New case?" John enquired, following from the living room.
"You tell me," Lestrade replied. "Got a call last night from your man here, wanting unsolved murders for the last few years with a victim named Gary."
He patted the boxes. "Narrowed it down a bit by age and limiting to single-victim cases, and these two jumped out because… well, have a look."
Sherlock threw a photograph of a very ordinary looking man onto the table. "Gary Mulligan, found dead in his car on the outskirts of the city two years ago, fatal stab wound to the neck, thought to have been a car-jacking gone wrong." He continued running through interview notes as he spoke but didn't find what he was looking for. He thrust a sheet of paper at John.
"Call the sister, would you? See if he had a girlfriend." John retreated obediently to the living room, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he went.
Sherlock started on the second box, immediately dropping another picture beside the first - again a man who appeared to be the personification of 'nondescript'.
"Gary Benson," Lestrade reported. "Also found in his car, though stabbed in the chest this time and it was twelve months back. I think his mother did mention something about a girl..."
"Got it," Sherlock interrupted, skimming through the notes. "He'd recently started dating a 'Debbie'. No one had met her and she was never identified or considered relevant." He snorted in disgust at such incompetence, throwing the file down onto the table just as John walked back into the kitchen.
"Right, the sister says there was a recent girlfriend, although they never met. Can't remember her name, but she thinks it began with a 'D'."
"Excellent." Sherlock escaped back to his armchair and settled into contemplation as Lestrade and John brought each other up to date in the kitchen.
Five minutes later, they were both standing in front of him.
"It had to be the name," he said without looking up. "Nothing else could have attracted that woman to that profile... unless she had an affinity for bad jokes about birds, which seems significantly less likely."
"OK," drawled Lestrade slowly. "I'm not totally convinced, but you've certainly struck lucky. So how...?"
Sherlock jumped to his feet. "Why would a woman - an attractive woman - approach a man like Gary Jenkins? Can't be his winning personality since a) she's never met him, and b) he doesn't have one. So, why? What's the draw? His photo shows a study in mediocrity: no one sets their heart on a thin mouth above an indeterminate chin. If she wanted blue eyes, there are much bluer available; if she likes a snub nose, there are plenty on the site not adorned with acne scarring."
He strode to the table and spun his laptop around, displaying an image of the man in question. No one suggested that his description had been overly harsh.
"So… name. But who cares about the name of their target? What swindler only wants to cheat people called Gary? No..." He shook his head. "Obsession with a particular name suggests a much darker motive - and if she's doing it now, she may have done it before."
"Right," murmured Lestrade. "So, if she's intending your client to be her third 'Gary', we can pick her up tonight when she goes to pick him up."
"And charge her with what? Dating a twit? You're going to need a much bigger jail."
"Well, we can't just wait until she knifes him!"
"Of course not," Sherlock agreed. "I suggest you bug his car, stake out his no doubt drab apartment, put a stab-vest on him, all your usual thing." He flapped his hands in a 'Go on' motion.
"And what are you going to do?"
Sherlock indicated the boxes in the kitchen. "We will go through the existing evidence."
As soon as Lestrade was safely off the premises, Sherlock grabbed his coat and plucked John's jacket from the chair.
"Where are we going?"
"Headquarters of 'matchme' dot com."
"Right." John took his jacket and started shrugging into it. "And why are we going there?"
He was moving too slowly. Sherlock tugged the jacket up over his shoulders and gave him a push in the direction of the door. "Think, John! What does this case hinge on?"
"Er…" John trotted down the stairs obediently, pausing at the bottom. "The name?" He wrinkled his forehead, then his face cleared. "Which wasn't given on the website!"
Sherlock nodded encouragingly, prodding him again until they emerged onto the pavement. "Keep going." He flagged down a conveniently passing taxi.
"So… oh - you think she works there?"
"Well, she could be a hacker, but employee is more likely."
John was smiling at him admiringly as they settled into the taxi and Sherlock allowed himself a moment to bask in it.
It didn't last. "So how come you fobbed off Lestrade with that 'going through the files' story?"
Sherlock just looked at him.
John rolled his eyes.
"John!" Sherlock snapped. "Will you be quiet?" He concentrated on what he was doing until the tumblers clicked into place and Deborah Martin's front door swung open. They were both inside a second later.
The hall light had been left on and Sherlock scanned their surroundings then nodded John towards the open lounge door, himself heading for the bedroom where he immediately began to search for anything which wasn't meant to be found.
The head of 'matchme' had been very helpful once Sherlock had flashed one of Lestrade's badges - and John had flashed his innocent blue eyes. A quick perusal of the personnel files had soon identified the woman snapped on Gary Jenkins' phone.
"Psst - Sherlock!" John's voice was a low hiss and Sherlock rolled his eyes as he moved to join him, finding the lounge now illuminated by a desk lamp.
"There's no need to resort to sibilance, John. The murderous Ms Martin will be well en route to her third intended victim by now."
"Look at this." John was holding out a framed photograph from a selection on top of the desk. Honestly, didn't people make any effort to hide incriminating evidence any longer? Where was the challenge?
Sherlock took the photo. It showed a younger Deborah Martin, perched on the bonnet of the type of car commonly associated with 'boy racers'. A plain young man had an arm wrapped around her shoulders, keys displayed proudly in his other hand, and the car itself was striped, tinted and modified to the point where the original manufacturer may have struggled to recognise it. A darker strip across the top of the windscreen displayed the names 'Gary' over the driver's side and 'Deb' on the right.
"The original Gary?" John offered.
"Wonder what happened to him?"
Sherlock set the picture down and moved to the other end of the large desk, pulling open the uppermost drawer and starting to look through the contents. "I would imagine he dumped her - and after she had done him the huge favour of dating someone less attractive than herself. Clearly a very resentment-inducing offence."
John looked about to respond when the sound of the front door banging caused them both to briefly freeze. He scrambled for the light switch instead, plunging them into darkness.
They waited as heels clicked across the parquet hall, then the door swung open and Deborah Martin appeared in the gap, her face filling with anger as she reached into her handbag.
John was already raising a hand in a calming gesture and starting to speak when she shot him.
Everything stopped. Then John's body began to fall and the world hit fast forward.
- Sherlock's hand on the surface of the desk, arm braced as he vaulted over it.
- Light from the open doorway glinting on metal as it swung towards him.
- Fingers closing around a wrist, crunch of small bones as he forced it upwards.
- Clatter of gun on the hardwood floor.
- Thud of assailant as she followed it down.
- Fabric in his hand as he gripped her collar and pulled head and shoulders up off the floor.
- "Pray he's alive." His voice sounding like nothing on earth.
- Crack of her head as he slammed it back down again.
"Thank God." Abandoning the unconscious woman, Sherlock reached the side of the desk in three long strides and dropped to his knees next to John, who was trying to sit up, one hand pressed to his side. The stain spreading under his fingers looked black in the dim light.
"Lie down, you idiot!" Thrusting one hand under his head for support, Sherlock pushed John back down then scrabbled at his clothing, heaving jumper, shirt and T-shirt up and out of the way. So many layers. Who the hell needed so many layers?
"I think it's just a graze." John was using his 'reassuring' voice but Sherlock didn't trust it. He peered closer then reached behind himself, finding the flex of the desk lamp and quickly tracking up until he reached the switch.
Black turned red and punched him in the chest.
"Honestly, Sherlock, I think it's fine." John was trying to sit up again. Sherlock pushed him back down.
"Will you stay still?" Gritting his teeth, he used the edge of John's T-shirt to wipe away some of the blood until he could see the extent of the damage.
He sat back on his heels. "You idiot!"
John propped himself up on one elbow and peered at the wound which ran along the line of one of his ribs. Messy. Painful. Definitely not life threatening.
"Well, I'm very sorry." He didn't sound it. "How was I to know she'd have a bloody gun?"
Sherlock got to his feet. "Of course she had a gun! Everybody seems to have a gun these days. I don't know what the country's coming to." He pulled out his phone to call Lestrade.
"What is it now, Sherlock?" drawled his brother's voice.
"Mycroft? Why are you answering Lestrade's phone? No, never mind - I don't want to know. Put him on, will you?"
There was a short silence. "What's happened?"
"Just put him…"
"Sherlock, you called me. What has happened?" His voice was urgent.
Sherlock jerked the mobile away from his ear and looked at the display, which was indeed showing 'The Queen'.
He hung up.
An hour later, he had finally managed to explain the situation in sufficiently simplistic language for the police to both understand and be able to spell. Fortunately, the capture of a serial killer seemed to have successfully distracted them from the topic of breaking and entering… and the rendering unconscious of said serial killer. The fact that it was the police who had tipped her off by getting themselves spotted at Gary's flat didn't hurt.
Sherlock waited to one side as John was treated in the back of an ambulance, smirking as loud protests emerged at suggestions that the hospital might be a more appropriate venue.
"A few stitches and a decent dressing and I'm good to go." John's 'you can't out-medic me, I'm a doctor' voice rang out. "Although, if you've got any lidocaine handy, that would be lovely," he conceded.
"A busy evening for you, brother dear."
Sherlock groaned as a figure stepped forward into his eye line.
"Do go away, Mycroft."
He didn't, of course. Just stood there, examining his umbrella as if it might be concealing an enemy satellite dish… or perhaps the last chocolate éclair.
"To get all this…" the umbrella described an arc encompassing the extensive police activity, "… simply from a man saying that his girlfriend was too attractive. Quite impressive, one must admit."
Sherlock waited for the punch line.
And here it came.
"… I find your error even more intriguing."
"Country running itself tonight, is it?"
"It's nice to know that at times of deep emotional distress you still instinctively turn to family."
Sherlock ignored him - in the sense that he ground his teeth and made no reply. Thankfully, John chose that moment to emerge from the ambulance, moving stiffly and with his jacket draped over his shoulders. Ignoring Mycroft suddenly became a much easier task.
With a last sarcastic rejoinder, Sherlock strode away, meeting John before he'd taken more than a couple of steps.
"All right?" His voice emerged a little rougher than normal, which he put down to the chill in the air.
"Absolutely," John grinned up at him and Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"That's your 'I've just thought of some dreadful title to go on the blog' smile," he observed.
"They're not that bad," John protested. "You didn't mind 'The Green Blade'."
"I said it sounded like a comic book character."
John smiled again. "You wouldn't make a bad comic book character yourself." His gaze seemed to be fixed on Sherlock's coat and his tone straddled a familiar line between affection and amusement.
Sherlock sniffed, resisting the urge to turn up his collar. "Go on, then," he invited. "What travesty of wit are you intending to inflict upon an unsuspecting readership this time?"
"How about, 'The Case of Three-Gary Deb'?"
Sherlock groaned, then turned and started a slow walk towards the nearest taxi rank, envisaging a long night of bickering ahead.
John fell into step beside him.
Where he belonged.
Author's Note: The Second
I extracted this case from 'Given In Evidence' as my entry for 'The Empty House': a collection of short stories and poems centered around the Sherlock Holmes canon characters and for the benefit of the Undershaw Preservation Trust.
My entry was not successful but 31 stories and poems were (including 'Distraction' by my beloved beta Ariane DeVere and '221B for Undershaw' by my dear friend Maria), so if you enjoyed this then please do consider buying the book and supporting this very worthy cause. I can't put links on this site, unfortunately, but paperback and kindle editions are available from Amazon (both UK and US).