"So," she said. "is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe that we got an eviction notice?"
Slowly, Sherlock opened his eyes and raised his head from its spot on the arm of the sofa, looking at the letter his teenage daughter was brandishing. With a quiet snort, he shut his eyes again.
"I hardly thought it was important," he muttered. Her eyes widening, Elspeth Holmes stared at her father incredulously, still clutching the letter in her hand. The envelope had been handed to her by their landlord on her way in and she thought nothing of it until she opened it, knowing that if she didn't, then the letter would go unread forever.
So imagine her surprise when the first words she read were 'eviction notice' in big, bold letters. The fact that her father remained lying on the sofa, his eyes shut and two nicotine patches stuck on his arm, completely disinterested, annoyed her even more.
"How is this not important?" she demanded. "Did you know we were going to get this?"
"I suspected it."
With a huff, Elspeth skimmed the letter a second time. "You haven't been paying rent," she said flatly, letting her arm drop to her side. "Dad."
Sensing her distress, Sherlock sat up and swung his legs so his feet were planted on the floor. Elspeth's cheeks were red and her lips were pressed into a tight line, blinking rapidly to keep back the tears that were threatening to fill up her eyes.
He knew why she was upset. This had been their home for years; Elspeth went to college, she had friends, she'd spent months getting her room just right, and now they had to move again.
"Don't worry about it," Sherlock said calmly. She gave him an unimpressed glance, one eyebrow raised and her lips pouting slightly.
"Easier said than done," she retorted.
Sherlock frowned at her, opening his mouth to say something, but Elspeth turned her back on him; she picked up the piles of bills that were tucked under the fruit bowel, looked at them and then threw them into the bin.
"We won't need them anymore," she muttered, scrunching up the eviction letter and throwing that it into the bin as well. "Or this." Elspeth started taking the various letters and reminders that were on the fridge door down, throwing them into the bin as well. "Or this, or this, or this," she chanted.
Sherlock, who had risen to his feet, watched Elspeth stride down the corridor and then followed her into her room, where she opened her wardrobe doors and started flinging her clothes onto her bed.
"I might as well start packing now," she said, still striding between her wardrobe and her bed. "We only have a week."
His lips tilting into a wry grin, Sherlock said, "221B Baker Street."
Elspeth paused, clutching one of her favourite dresses by the shoulders and slowly turning to face her father.
"221B Baker Street," Sherlock repeated. "It's a nice little place in Central London, I'm sure you remember it."
"Mrs Hudson's flat," Elspeth verified.
Gradually, Elspeth folded the dress she was holding and turned to put it down on her bed, where she stood with her back turned to Sherlock for a few seconds.
She then whirled around again, throwing the nearest thing – it happened to be a pot full of pencils – at Sherlock, who stepped to the side and watched it hit the wall behind him. It left a large chip in the paint and the one of the pencils snapped as they rolled down the corridor; Sherlock raised an eyebrow at Elspeth.
"I hope you don't intend on throwing your belongings at the wall in Baker Street."
"No," Elspeth grumbled, crossing her skinny arms and glaring at him. "Mrs Hudson would kill me if I did." She pursed her lips together. "I wasn't even aiming for the wall."
"Are you certain that we're moving to 221B? We're not going to end up squatting or something like that?"
Taking in a deep breath, Elspeth uncrossed her arms and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, glancing at the pile of clothes on her bed. "Alright," she finally said. "Go away, I have to pack."
And, before Sherlock could say anything, Elspeth shut the door on him.
"How do you feel about the violin?"
John Watson was startled by the abrupt question, glancing over at Mike just in case this strange man – he didn't even know his name! – was talking to him. But Mike continued to smile smugly.
"I'm sorry, what?" John asked.
"I play the violin when I'm thinking. Sometimes I don't talk for days on end. I have a teenage daughter." The man turned to look at John. "Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other."
He gave John a forced smile, who stared at him blankly for a few seconds.
"Oh, you . . . you told him about me?" John asked Mike.
"Not a word."
"Then who said anything about flatmates?"
"I did," the man answered, picking up his coat and pulling it on. "Told Mike this morning that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for. Now here he is just after lunch with an old friend, clearly just home from military service in Afghanistan. Wasn't that difficult a leap."
"How did you know about Afghanistan?" John demanded. He still didn't know the man's name.
Ignoring the question, the man proceeded to wrap his scarf around his neck, checking his phone as he did so.
"Got my eye on a nice little place in central London. Together we ought to be able to afford it." He started to stride past John. "We'll meet there tomorrow evening; seven o'clock," he continued. "Sorry, I've got to dash, I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary."
Riding crop? John frowned, but thought best not to ask.
"Is that it?"
The man had been opening the door when John posed the question, so he slowly turned back to the doctor and looked at him inquiringly.
"Is that what?"
"We've only just met and we're gonna go and look at a flat?"
Incredulous, John looked towards Mike for help; he received none. His friend continued to smile smugly, watching the strange curly haired man standing by the door.
"We don't know a thing about each other; I don't know where we're meeting; I don't even know your name," John pointed out. In his opinion, that was a very big problem.
The younger man looked at him closely for a few seconds before speaking again.
"I know you're an Army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got a brother who's worried about you but you won't go to him for help because you don't approve of him – possibly because he's an alcoholic; more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And I know that your therapist thinks your limp's psychosomatic – quite correctly, I'm afraid." He smiled smugly. "That's enough to be going on with, don't you think?"
Turning around, he walked towards the door and opened it, striding out. He then leaned back into the room.
"The name's Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B, Baker Street," he told John. "Afternoon."
The door swung shut as Sherlock Holmes left the room; John looked at Mike in disbelief, lost for words, and Mike smiled back.
"Yeah, he's always like that."
221B Baker Street. John limped down the street, leaning against his cane as he gazed at the brass numbers thoughtfully, and a taxi pulled up on the curb when he went to knock on the front door.
"Hello," Sherlock called, leaning in through the taxi window and handing the driver money, thanking him.
"Ah, Mr Holmes."
John shook his hand, turning to look back at 221B. "Well this is a prime spot. Must be expensive."
"Mrs Hudson, the landlady, she's giving me a special deal. Owes me a favour," Sherlock explained. "A few years back, her husband got himself sentenced to death in Florida. I was able to help out."
"Sorry, you stopped her husband being executed?"
"Oh no." Sherlock smiled. "I ensured it."
John barely had time to comprehend this before the front door opened and Mrs Hudson, a small elderly woman with a wide smile, greeted Sherlock cheerfully, embracing him. Sherlock hugged her briefly.
After the necessary introductions between Mrs Hudson and John, Sherlock trotted up the steps to the first floor, stopping to wait for John, who struggled to keep up. Once John had reached the top step, Sherlock opened the door and revealed the living room.
It was nice. Sweeping his eyes over the furniture and boxes that held various possessions, John nodded to himself.
"Well, this could be nice. Very nice indeed."
"Yes, I think so, my thoughts precisely." Sherlock looked around happily. "So I went straight ahead and moved in," he said at the same time as John said, "soon as we get all this rubbish cleaned out."
There was an awkward pause as John realised that the 'rubbish' were actually Sherlock's possessions. He didn't have long to be embarrassed; the living room door opened again and a young woman walked into the room.
"Jeez, Dad, you could've cleared the mess up a bit," she said with a grin. She was rather pretty, John noticed, with masses of wavy hair and hazel eyes that weren't quite green but not quite brown. When she spotted John, her grin turned slightly sheepish. "Hi."
"Hello," John replied, looking at Sherlock, who was making a poor attempt at straightening up the flat.
"Elspeth, this is John Watson. John, this is my daughter, Elspeth."
"Or Ellie, I don't mind which," Elspeth said with a shrug. "Your bedroom is the second one upstairs. I hope you don't mind but I kinda stole the bigger one."
"No, no, that's fine," John assured her with a smile, looking around. Something on the mantelpiece caught his attention. "That's a skull."
"Friend of mine," Sherlock answered. He frowned. "Well, I say friend . . ."
"My ex-boyfriend," Elspeth mouthed when John glanced at her. He paled slightly.
"What do you think, then, Doctor Watson? There's another bedroom upstairs if you'll be needing two bedrooms," Mrs Hudson told him with a smile.
"Of course we'll be needing two bedrooms."
"Oh, don't worry; there's all sorts round here." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "Mrs Turner next door's got married ones."
Elspeth didn't bother hiding her amusement, laughing as she sat down on the sofa, her legs flung over the arm, and John looked at Sherlock for help. Sherlock seemed oblivious to the insinuations.
"Sherlock, the mess you've made!" Mrs Hudson continued, also oblivious to John's dismay. Dropping the matter, he plumped up a cushion and lowered himself into the armchair. Elspeth's laughter died down into helpless giggles as she sat up.
"I looked you up on the internet last night," John told Sherlock. For some reason, it set Elspeth off again; she started to laugh hysterically.
"Ignore her," Sherlock said, glancing at Elspeth. She grinned at him. "Find anything interesting?"
"I found your website. The Science of Deduction."
Sherlock smiled proudly. "What did you think?" he asked. Seeing the look on John's face, his smile fell.
"You said you could identify a software designer by his tie and an airline pilot by his left thumb."
"Yes, and I can read your military career in your face and your leg, and your brother's drinking habits in your mobile phone."
"What about these suicides then, Sherlock? I thought that'd be right up your street. Three exactly the same," Mrs Hudson said, walking from the kitchen to the living room and gazing at the newspaper.
"Four," Sherlock muttered, standing by the window. Flinging her legs over the side of the sofa, Elspeth joined him, pulling back the curtain. "There's been a fourth. And there's something different this time."
Sherlock turned around as Lestrade strode up the stairs, giving John a polite nod before looking at Sherlock.
"Brixton, Lauriston Gardens."
"What's new about this one? You wouldn't have come to get me if there wasn't something different."
"You know how they never leave notes?" Sherlock nodded. "This one did. Will you come?"
"Who's on forensics?"
Both Sherlock and Elspeth grimaced at the mention of him, while John was completely baffled by the exchange. "Anderson won't work with me," Sherlock said.
"Well, he won't be your assistant," Lestrade said.
"I need an assistant."
"I'll come," Elspeth piped up hopefully.
"No," Sherlock snapped. Huffing, Elspeth glanced at Lestrade with wide eyes, her bottom lip pouting slightly.
"Sorry, Ellie, not this time. Will you come?"
"Not in a police car. I'll be right behind."
Waiting until Lestrade was gone, Sherlock clenched his fists triumphantly, leaping into the air and whirling around in an excited circle before pressing a kiss on Elspeth's forehead.
"Brilliant!" he cried. "Yes! Ah, four serial suicides, and now a note! Oh, it's Christmas! Mrs Hudson, I'll be late. Might need some food."
"I'm your landlady, dear, not your housekeeper," she reminded him.
"Something cold will do. John, have a cup of tea, make yourself at home. Don't wait up!"
Sherlock darted from the room, leaving Elspeth to flop dejectedly on the sofa.
"Look at him, dashing about! My husband was just the same," Mrs Hudson said fondly. She smiled at John. "But you're more the sitting-down type, I can tell. I'll make you that cuppa. You rest your leg."
"Damn my leg!" John said loudly, making both Mrs Hudson and Elspeth jump. "Sorry, I'm so sorry. It's just sometimes this bloody thing . . ."
"I understand, dear; I've got a hip."
"Cup of tea'd be lovely, thank you," John said over his shoulder.
"Just this once, dear. I'm not your housekeeper."
"Couple of biscuits too, if you've got them," he added.
"Not your housekeeper," Elspeth reminded him with a small smile. John smiled back, picking up a newspaper and beginning to read about the suicides Sherlock was investigating.
"You're a doctor," Sherlock said from the doorway. "In fact you're an Army doctor."
"Seen a lot of injuries, then. Violent deaths."
"Bit of trouble too, I bet."
"Of course, yes," John said quietly. "Enough for a lifetime. Far too much."
"Want to see some more?"
"Oh God, yes."
"Can I come?" Elspeth asked, following Sherlock and John out of the room.
"No," Sherlock called over his shoulder.
"Are you all going out?" Mrs Hudson inquired. Sherlock turned to face her with a wide grin.
"Impossible suicides? Four of them? There's no point sitting at home when there's finally something fun going on!" Taking her by the shoulders, Sherlock pressed a kiss to Mrs Hudson's cheek.
"Look at you, all happy. It's not decent."
"Who cares about decent?" Sherlock cried. "The game, Mrs Hudson, is on!"