This is my first Sherlock fic! I do not own the characters nor do I profit from this in any way. But they sure are fun to play with!
Paul worked the afternoon shift at the clinic. Actually, he worked the afternoon shift outside the clinic. And he didn't so much "work" as just watch one thing everyday (well, Monday through Friday) and then text in his observations. For this investment of his time and attention, he would get paid a moderate amount of money. Not "real job" money, but enough for a few hot meals and a shower at the local hostel. He would retrieve this payment from a locker at the local train station once a week. Along with the cash there would be a new mobile phone to use for the coming week's work with one number programed into it. The old one was to be dumped. Sometimes, when he provided especially the right amount of detail that his "employer" was looking for, there was also pack of cigarettes. Paul never wondered too hard about how his employer knew that he smoked when he had only met him once for 2 minutes. Paul did think it was odd that there was always one cigarette missing.
It took some trial and error to find out how much information the man receiving the texts was looking for. At first, trying to please the man, Paul reported a bit too much detail. He reported what time the man he was to be watching stepped out of the doors of the clinic at the end of his shift. He texted about what he was wearing, what he was carrying, and what direction he headed in. This garnered him the response "boring". So Paul then offered less. He just reported when he left (that much the man made clear he needed to know) and which street he turned down. In Paul's defense, this was a pretty boring job. It was like nothing really ever happened to this man he was paid to watch. Nothing exciting anyway.
But after a few days of only offering those bare-bones reports, which were met with silence, he was startled to get a return message one evening. It said "Need more detail today". It was the "today" that struck Paul as interesting. Paul's target had already rounded the corner out of his view, so he jogged to the corner and peaked after the blond, shorter man to see what he could find to report back about. Same jacket. Same guy as always. But then he saw something a bit different as the man stepped off the curb to cross a street. Paul texted "limping a bit today". That week the cigarettes showed up for the first time, along with a small raise.
Paul was a smart guy and knew how to take care of himself. He just had a problem feeling cooped up when he was indoors. Paul grew up in the Yugoslavia during the conflicts. A car bomb went off outside his family's flat. Wall caved in on him and his sister. She didn't make it and he came out of it with plenty of scars, not all of which were the kind you could see. So he preferred to live outside, where you could better see what's coming.
Most people overlook Paul as just another fixture on the street. They walk by him like he's invisible, or inanimate. That's why he and those like him get offered these types of "jobs" in the first place. One could get to thinking of themselves as invisible when the world treats you that way. Wanting to keep that little bit extra coming to him every week, Paul decided he needed to get closer to see what he could see. He moved from the alley across the street to a doorway the next building over from the clinic. No one noticed. No one ever notices him. He was able to text extra little snippits of info now:
"Got invited out for a pint by a coworker but declined" after overhearing a conversation from a few yards away.
"Grabbed arm of some bloke in a long coat suddenly, then apologized. Made a mistake."
"Guy with an umbrella waiting for him today. Exchanged a few words then went on his way. Looked bothered." Paul wondered why this bothered the blond man. He also wondered why the tall guy in the suit had the umbrella when it wasn't raining and he had a car waiting for him across the street. But Paul figured he wasn't getting paid to ask questions.
"Doubled back quickly like he forgot something. Came back out of clinic with blue scarf on." Paul thought this was odd since it wasn't that cold.
Paul was now consistently following the man around the corner, at a distance of course, to see if there was anything else of interest going on. One day he was able to report "Stopped for quite a while to listen to street musician play."
Paul got the rare follow-up question texted back to him this time. "Violin?"
Paul thought that was just plain creepy. "Yes" he quickly typed back.
A few days later Paul did his usual casual watching then rounded the corner. Just as he turned it he almost ran head-long into the blond man who was, apparently, waiting for him. Paul was too stunned to cover his surprise. The man broke a smile but it looked a bit tight and forced as he quickly extended his hand and said "Hi there! My name is John. What's yours?"
Paul reflexively accepted the handshake and stammered out "Paul, sir".
The shorter man had a startlingly firm grip. His steely blue eyes squinted a bit harshly behind the fake, cordial smile. "Well Paul, now that we are on a first-name basis maybe you can tell me why you are following me, hmm?"
Although his mouth ran dry (who thought this little boring man could suddenly be so intimidating?) Paul gained his composure a bit and replied "Don't know what you mean, sir! This is the way to the soup kitchen at the Episcopal Church. I go there for dinner most days. I should really get going. Don't want to miss out on the good stuff."
"Oh, of course." Said the blond man, releasing his grasp on Paul's hand finally. "Sorry. Umm, hey, here take this for your troubles, okay?" The man, "John", fished a fiver out of his pocket and handed it to Paul. John suddenly appeared weary and older as he ducked his head with a thin smile and limped away. He didn't look back.
Paul stood there frozen for a few minutes, turning over the five pound note in his hand. A moment later he collected himself and ducked into the nearest alley and texted his employer nervously. He thought he handled it okay but knew it was his own fault he got spotted to begin with. He reported the whole thing honestly. Today he was not surprised when he got a reply.
"Anything remarkable about the bill he gave you?"
Paul's heart started to pound a bit at this. He hadn't thought to mention the drawing on the fiver. He thought it was just a bit of a doodle on the currency that some kid drew on there.
"Yeah. A smiley face. Yellow."
When Paul picked up his pay the next morning at the train station locker there was no phone. The pay was his usual, plus an extra week. There was a printed note. "Your services are no longer needed." Paul was fired, and just when things were starting to get interesting.
Thanks so much for reading! Please stay tuned for further chapters and developments! This is my first Sherlock fic and my first fic ever writing form the POV of an outside character. It's a bit of an experiment. Hope it was understandable. Please post reviews and questions if you are moved to do so!