Stranger than Fiction
"So, are you going to tell me what's going on?" she asked. Sherlock slowly exhaled before launching in to his explanation.
"There are several possible explanations as to why and how you ended up here. However, the only one that fits, with absolutely no holes in it, is completely impossible." He stated. Louise could tell he was reluctant to say whatever it was out loud, but she needed to know. She also got the impression that he was usually blunt and brutally honest.
"And that explanation is?" she prodded.
"Your brother's machine, whatever it was, seems to be the catalyst that caused you to suddenly be transported from your home in America to our flat in London. Now, upon your arrival here, you materialized in the middle of our sitting room. You also mentioned an author who does not exist; in fact, you also do not seem to exist. Maybe with more time and better resources I might be able to find something on you, but after your conversation with your "mother" I doubt that. You clearly come from a loving family, and you seem to be rather close to your brother despite your sibling rivalry. Therefore it is unlikely they would react to your disappearance in such a way. Also, your "mother" said that her "daughter" was stillborn, that is not what people usually say when they disown their children." Sherlock paused as he steepled his hands in front of him and looked at Louise. She was hanging on his every word.
"And? I come from an odd family, but you're right my mom would never say that to me. I don't think they'd disown me even if I did crack, got pregnant, and eloped to Vegas." Louise stated.
"Really?" Sherlock asked. If only his family was so agreeable.
"Yes really," she answered, "That's what family does. We love each other, even when we wanna stick each others' heads in a bucket and kick it around the yard. Where are you from? – no don't answer that it was sarcastic and rhetorical, sorry. I'm just a little on edge." Sherlock was amused at her colorful and contradictory metaphor. He suppressed a smirk and nodded before continuing,
"Yes, well, at any rate it's clear that your mother would never do that, but this woman did. I don't think that was your real family you called."
"Uh, yeah it was. That was our home phone number I called, and it was definitely my mother's voice I heard." She said testily.
"No, She may sound like your mother, but it's not her because that was not your house you called. I think that your brother's machine did more than just transport you from one side of the Atlantic to the other. As impossible as it is, I think it transported you to a parallel universe." Sherlock concluded. There, He said it. It's the craziest thing he had ever heard of, but once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. It was impossible for Louise to have appeared in their flat as she did, yet here she was. What he thought was impossible was merely improbable – why can't the same be true for something just as unlikely? Truth, someone once said, is often stranger than fiction. Louise was gaping at him.
"You're right." She said. Sherlock raised an eyebrow. He didn't expect her to accept it this easily, most people tend to go in to denial.
" It is impossible." Louise finished while crossing her arms. So much for this being easy.
"Look," Sherlock said, "As I said before, you have nothing linking you to this world. There is absolutely no information on what you claim to be a famous author. There is no information on yourself, and most importantly, you materialized in the middle of my flat from out of God knows where. If not for that last piece of highly suggestive evidence, I would have dropped you off at the loony-bin." This girl was starting to get on his nerves, and now that he was sure he had indeed figured this puzzle out, he was ready to move on. Louise froze and looked him dead in the eye. He was completely serious, and she could tell he was tired of dealing with her. If what he said was true –and no matter how impossible it was, she just couldn't help but believe him – she would have nowhere to go if he kicked her out. Nowhere to go in a parallel universe, except maybe, as he so eloquently put it, the loony-bin.
"Okay, fine. Point taken. I'm sorry for being short with you, please don't kick me out." She said with her best sad puppy eyes. Sherlock visibly stiffened. I guess even he couldn't stand up to someone who used that look on a daily basis to get out of trouble with an ex-army mom.
"Apology accepted." He muttered begrudgingly.
"So, we have the who, the what, the where, and the why out of the way. What now?" Louise asked. She didn't really want to impose on Sherlock or what was his name? Oh yes, John, how could she forget.
"What do you mean what now?" Sherlock asked her furrowing his brow. The mystery was over, case closed.
"Well, I can't stay here forever, not that you'd want me too, and I really do need to find a way back home. I'm sure my family is worried about me, and calling them obviously won't work. I know this isn't your problem, but I could use some help." Louise said as she stared, imploringly at Sherlock. Sherlock considered it for a moment, but decided he'd rather not get involved. As intriguing as inter dimensional space-time travel sounded, he preferred to deal in less abstract concepts. He was about to answer her when the door to the flat slammed open.
"What is it this time?" Sherlock asked as DI Lestrade burst into the flat. Apparently everyone visiting that day seemed to be making dramatic appearances.
"We need your help." Lestrade said.
"When don't you?" Sherlock replied.
"Look, are you coming or not?" Lestrade asked exasperatedly. Sherlock glanced at Louise.
"I'll be there in minute." Sherlock finally conceded.
"Right." Lestrade nodded as he left the flat to return to the crime scene.
"What was that about?" Louise asked as Sherlock jumped up and pulled his coat on. "Was he with the police? Where are you going?" She questioned him as she tossed something out of her purse and under the couch, and slipped on a random pair of shoes that were lying on the floor. Hey, she couldn't run around London barefoot. She followed him out of the flat. He hailed a taxi on the first try and nearly lost her, but Louise slid in after him and closed the door just as the driver pulled away from the curb. "Hello again." she said. Sherlock glared at her and looked out the window.
"My we are persistent aren't we?" He said shortly. Didn't she know how irritating this was? Louise shifted around and settled down on the seat in a more comfortable position. She might as well since she had no idea where they were going or how long the ride was going to be.
"Sorry," she said smiling tightly, "but I'm not very keen on being left alone in a strange world that I know nothing about. So, for now you'll just have to put up with me. Now, where are we going?"
"l am going to investigate a crime scene." Sherlock said while shooting her his best glare in an attempt to get her to leave. It was definitely not working. She must be either really desperate or truly thick. Probably both.
"So, does that mean you're a detective? That other man looked like one." Louise continued on as though she wasn't getting a third degree burn from Sherlock's death glare.
"No, Lestrade is a Detective Inspector, but I am a Consulting Detective, the only one in the world. I invented the job." Sherlock decided to answer her. Glaring at her without getting a reaction was too dull. Louise looked thoughtful for a moment before she grinned at him and said,
beg your pardon?" Sherlock said as he stared at her incredulously. He'd
heard Americans were overly promiscuous, but she had seemed like a virg—
"Deduce me!" she said, interrupting his train of thought and
still smiling like a kid in a candy store. Oh so that's what she meant.
Well, that was startling, but at least he wasn't wrong in his assumption.
"Very well." Sherlock conceded. At least it would help pass the time until they reached the crime scene. "You are clearly American and from the South judging by your accent. You are also an artist; there are calluses on you hands that are commonly seen on a painter's as well as clay stuck in the crevices of your ring, so you are also a potter. You look younger, but your clothing suggests college. I know you are a student because your coat has marks on it from the friction of your backpack rubbing against it. You were home when you were…before you came here, so you commute to a local college. You have ADHD and possibly a few other learning disabilities. In your purse is what sounds like two medicine bottles, so you're taking medication. Whatever it is, it must be working because you look perfectly healthy except for those bags under your eyes from lack of sleep, and the arthritis in your back. You are also a virgin." Sherlock threw the last one in for good measure in hopes it would ruffle her feathers and get her out of his hair. People never seemed to like it when others found out they were virgins. Louise just stared at him and blinked before breaking out into a genuine smile.
"That. Was. Awesome!" She gushed. " You really are a detective!"
"Consulting detective, and that's not what people usually say." He corrected her, though he was a little surprised by her reaction. She was even more enthusiastic than John had been. Louise furrowed her brow, puzzled.
"Well, what do they say?" She asked.
"Piss off." He replied smirking. Louise laughed.
"I'm sorry, but that's just funny." She said after she had calmed down. They were smiling at each other out of amusement when the cab pulled up to the crime scene.
"Just so you know, this is a crime scene, and probably a gruesome one at that. Are you certain you want to insist on following me?" Sherlock asked as he got out of the cab, smirking back at her.
"Sorry, but you can't get rid of me that easily." Louise said as she climbed out of the cab and smirked right back.
As they approached the yellow tape surrounding the crime scene, a woman moved in to block their path.
"Hello, Freak." The woman said hostilely. Louise raised her eyebrows at the comment. That wasn't very nice. Wasn't Sherlock invited here?
"Sgt. Donnovan." Sherlock greeted the woman as he tried to lift the tape to enter the area. She moved again.
"What are you doing here?" Donnovan asked, though Louise was sure she knew perfectly well why they were there.
"I was invited." He said.
"By who?" She asked.
"Detective Lestrade." He answered.
"Why?" She said.
"Because I think He wants me to have a look." He said. Donnovan began to ask yet another annoying question when Louise interrupted her.
"Look," Louise snapped, "are you gonna let us in or not? You're just wasting everyone's valuable time by keeping us out here. Forensic evidence is not like Twinkies. Evidence actually does have an expiration date." Sherlock had to suppress a smirk as Louise scolded Sgt. Donnovan. The look on her face was quite amusing.
"Who the bloody hell are you?" Donnovan sputtered.
"I'm pretty sure I'm Louise Rouge." Louise answered.
"Well 'Louise Rouge' this is a crime scene. So, you're going to have to leave now." Donnovan told her.
"Actually she's with me." Sherlock said as he lifted the tape and walked over to where Lestrade was waiting for him. Louise raised her eyebrows in surprise. She was sure he'd use that as his chance to get rid of her, but since he didn't she hurried after him before he could change his mind.
"So you are straight?" Donnovan called after him. Louise looked back at her in confusion. Why did she think they were a couple? She reached Sherlock and Lestrade and noticed how completely bored Sherlock was when he said to Lestrade,
"Was this the only crime in London today?"
The Detective Inspector looked miffed.
"Why do you say that? Besides this man was murdered, now I've asked for your help Sherlock. Can you tell me who did it or not?" asked Lestrade crossly.
"Anderson moved the body didn't he? I hate it when he does that." Sherlock said, totally unfazed by what the DI had just said to him. Lestrade sighed.
"Alright Anderson, bring it here." Lestrade called over to a man next to a gurney with a body bag on it.
"What, but I just moved it from out of the house!" Anderson whined.
"Just bring it here will you." Lestrade ordered. Then, Lestrade finally seemed to notice Louise.
"Who is this?" He asked Sherlock while pointing at Louise. "This isn't a bloody school field trip, Sherlock, you can't bring civilians, much less children here!" He scolded him. Louise frowned and pulled what appeared to be a small sketchpad out of her purse.
"I'm not a kid." she said, "Apparently I'm twenty-one years old, and name is Louise Rouge."
"What do you mean apparently?" Lestrade rounded on her. "Why are you even here?"
"I said 'apparently' because I can't be totally sure, for some reason, I seem to missing my wallet. However, this picture," she began explaining as she open the book to a sketch of herself, "appears to be me, and on the back in what also appears to be my handwriting, is the information: self-portrait, Louise Rouge, 21 years old, 2011." She handed the book over to Lestrade so he could see for himself. "Apparently, I also have amnesia. I'm too nervous to be on my own right now, so Mr. Holmes let me tag along with him since I'm his client."
"You're his client?" Lestrade asked, looking up from the sketch. "If you're in trouble, why didn't you go to the police?" Louise blinked at him.
"Oh," she said looking between the two men, "I suppose that would have made sense, but I wasn't exactly looking for Mr. Holmes either Detective. The last thing I remember properly is wondering down Baker St. before I literally bumped into him. Once I explained my situation, he took me on. He said it was better than dying of boredom." Sherlock thought that was a rather good cover story. He might have been underestimating Louise. It was enough to give a plausible explanation for why she was there, with him, but still vague enough to keep people from questioning her too much if she acted odd. She could always claim it was a side-affect. Lestrade seemed to buy it.
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Lestrade said to Louise, "but you really shouldn't be here. I especially don't think one of your first 'new' memories should be of a corpse."
"Too late." Louise replied, turning a little pale as Anderson rolled the gurney up next to her and Sherlock. The body bag was still open, revealing the body. Lestrade glared at Anderson for his insensitivity and poor timing.
"What? You told me to bring it." Anderson said. Louise squared her shoulders and breathed out slowly, collecting herself.
"It's alright," She said, "I'll be fine". She weakly smiled to try to reassure the DI. Then she brought her hand up to cover her mouth as she noticed there was something odd about the victim's neck. "Detective, you said this man was murdered?" she asked hesitantly. Lestrade placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Yes, but it's alright love, you can wait with Sgt. Donnovan over there if it upsets you." He said kindly.
"Oh, but she's not upset." Sherlock said. They both glanced towards him and away from the body. "Well, She is upset, but not as much as you think." Sherlock clarified. Lestrade looked between Louise and Sherlock.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lestrade asked. Sherlock smirked slightly at Louise.
"Go on, say it." Sherlock said, prodding her to ask the question her could see brewing behind her eyes. Louise lowered her hand a way from her mouth and looked at DI Lestrade as she asked him,
"Is this really a murder?"
"What?" Anderson asked incredulously. "Of course it's a murder! He was strangled and hit over the head with a blunt object. What are you blind?"
"Don't speak out loud Anderson. You lower the IQ of the whole street." Sherlock chided him.
"So, wait you agree with Louise? You don't think it's a murder?" Lestrade turned to Sherlock confused. How was a young girl able to spot this so quickly? Sherlock turned to Louise.
"Tell me what you see, and why you don't think this man was murdered." Sherlock told her. Louise furrowed her brow, and looked up at him.
"Why? You obviously figured it out the minute you saw this place." Louise asked in confusion as she looked around the garage/workshop they had been led into.
"Humor me." Sherlock said to her. Louise frowned at him a little before looking around the room in greater detail.
"Any day now." Sherlock chided her.
"Give me a minute will you? Not all of us have brains that work at the speed of a particle collider!" Louise huffed at him. It was very dusty in the garage, and there were horizontal support beams all along the ceiling. They were all probably the dustiest things in the room, except for one. Part of it had been rubbed clean by something. There was a chair that had been dragged across the room. It was on its side close to the area under the clean beam. She looked back at the man's neck, and then back up at Sherlock.
"He was hanged?" She asked "It was suicide?" She was fairly certain that's what had happened, but she wanted clarification anyway. Sherlock smirked, almost smiled at her.
"I knew you were clever." he said
"What? Is that right Sherlock?" Lestrade asked him.
"Hmm, yes that is what the evidence suggests." Sherlock replied.
"If he committed suicide then why was he hit on the head?" Anderson questioned them. It was one thing to be outsmarted by a psychopath, but a little girl too?
"Louise." Sherlock prompted her. She raised her eyebrows at him.
"What again?" She asked. Sherlock just stared at her. "Fine then, first of all, the marks on his neck are all wrong. If he was strangled, they should be more horizontal on his neck, but they aren't. The marks look like they were made by a rope are angled up towards the back, like they would if someone were hanged. Also head wounds usually bleed a lot, don't they? This one has hardly any blood around it, so it was probably inflicted postmortem. Moving on to the room, this whole place is dusty. Those horizontal ceiling beams in particular. They look like they haven't been cleaned in years, but part of that one is," she said pointing to the clean section of the beam, "and there's a chair on the floor almost directly under it. It's been kicked over. I suppose it could have happened in a struggle, but nothing else appears to be out of place in here. So, the victim probably stood on the chair, tied a noose to the beam, kicked the chair away and hung himself." She concluded. "Why do you keep insisting I do this? Aren't you the one they're paying to solve this?" Louise asked Sherlock.
"Oh please, he's a psychopath! We don't pay him, he does it because he likes it!" Anderson scoffed at her. Louise blinked. She seemed to be doing that a lot today. She turned to Sherlock and said,
"Really? You struck me as more of a sociopath, a high functioning one." Sherlock actually laughed. It startled Anderson and caught Lestrade off-guard for a moment.
"Why are you laughing at me?" Louise asked confused.
"You haven't known me for more than an hour," Sherlock said to Louise before turning and addressing Anderson, "and she's an amnesiac, and she still knows more than you lot."
"Well if she really has amnesia, then how does she know enough to tell whether this is suicide or not?" He huffed.
"You know, I was kind of wondering that myself." Louise said innocently, though both she and Sherlock knew full and well that she does not in fact, have amnesia. Sherlock hid a smirk as he answered,
"It is not uncommon for people with amnesia to be unable to remember anything about themselves, but to still retain information about society around them. At least you seem to remember the important things." He raised an eyebrow at Louise. Louise crossed her arms and huffed at him in mock frustration.
"My identity is important." She said, hiding a smile of her own.
"Yes, well sorry to interrupt, but if He wasn't murdered, then who made it look that way and why?" Lestrade asked them.
"Ah, now you're asking the right questions." Sherlock told him as he turned to look expectantly at Louise.
"Don't look at me," She said, "I haven't gotten that far yet." Sherlock turned away from Louise again and towards Lestrade as he said to her,
"Yes, well, you have already far exceeded my expectations for you anyway. I suppose I'll take over from here." Louise frowned and turned toward Lestrade and whispered,
"Is that a nice way of saying he thought I
Lestrade was about to answer her when Sherlock began explaining the rest of the crime.
"Louise was right about how the suicide was enacted," He stated, "Look at the man's clothes. They're expensive brands, but they're not recent, from about a year ago. I'm guessing that is when he came upon some financial trouble. The same can be said for the rest of the family." Louise looked around. She had been so focused on keeping up with Sherlock that she hadn't really paid to much attention to their surroundings until he had told her to. She finally noticed an ambulance that had a teenage girl, a boy that looked about two years older than her, about her brother's age, and their mother. They were all wearing nice but old clothes. They looked like they were grieving, and it might be that they had enough time to get over the shock of his death before they got there, but they didn't actually seem too shaken up or surprised by their father and husband's death. Sherlock continued, "I'm sure if you asked the family, assuming they were honest with you, they would tell you that this man had been acting strangely, possibly had a history of depression. At any rate, the recent financial trouble he was facing became too much pressure, and he sought suicide as a form of escape. One of the family members, probably the daughter, came to fetch him for supper only to find him hanging from the ceiling of the garage. She was understandably upset I'm sure, and ran to tell her mother and brother. I'm certain the man had taken out a life insurance policy on himself, but most companies will not pay if the subject commits suicide. Due to their desperate situation, the family needed all of the financial aid they could get. So, they worked together to cover up his suicide, and make it appear as though a burglar of some sort had attacked him. I'm sure they fed you some story about how a burglar broke in without them noticing. However, as Louise pointed out, there are clear signs that he did indeed commit suicide. In addition, there are no signs of forced entry, so there's no evidence to support the family's claim. You'll probably find the rope he used to hang himself and a bloody cricket bat in the garbage can out back." As Sherlock finished his deduction, Louise couldn't help but wonder when he had time to examine the family members and the garage door. She hadn't taken that long to catch up with him.
"That was amazing." Louise breathed. She knew from how he had deduced her earlier that he was a genius, but still.
"You do know you do that out loud, don't you?" Sherlock asked her.
"Oh, sorry." She told him.
"No, it's fine." he replied before addressing Lestrade. "If that's all, I think I'll be off then." Sherlock told him as he started to leave. Louise quickly smiled and nodded goodbye to Lestrade as she hurriedly followed Sherlock. He had already hailed a cab. How does he always get them on the first try? She wondered. They rode back to 221B in relative silence before Sherlock said,
"Oh, I never did ask you to clarify how much I got right about you." He told her. Louise smiled and said,
"Well, you were right, I am American, and I'm from the south, specifically New Orleans. I moved to Hammond with my family two years ago when I started college. I commute from home too. I am an artist, but I'm a graphic design major. Painting is just a hobby of mine, and I'm taking ceramics because I needed another art elective. I do have ADHD and other learning disabilities, like dyslexia. That's one of the things I'm being medicated for. I also have Bipolar II; I get sad, not mad, and I take medicine for that as well. I did suffer from depression for a while – chemical imbalance, not trauma – but it's in regression right now, so I'm okay. You were pretty much right about everything."
"Hmm, I didn't expect to be right about everything." Sherlock admitted, just as they pulled up in front of the flat. Sherlock paid the driver, and they went up to the flat together.
"So," Louise started cautiously, " can I crash with you guys for awhile, at least until I figure something else out?" Sherlock stopped to consider it for a moment. She was more intelligent than he gave her credit for, and John couldn't always come with him. He said he needed his job at the clinic, dull. She was also a lot less conspicuous to talk to than to walk around London carrying his skull. Before he could answer Louise, John finally came home from work. John was exhausted as he trudged up the stairs before opening the door and hanging up his coat on the rack next to the door. John jumped a little when he noticed Louise was still in their flat, sitting on the couch like everything was perfectly normal.
"Oh, hello," John said cautiously, although he was trying to sound casual, " still here then?" Louise smiled apologetically at him. She felt a little bad for upsetting him, even though it wasn't really her fault.
"Yeah, it looks like it was a one way trip, unfortunately." She replied, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you like that. I'm Louise Rouge." Louise stood and offered her hand to John. She remembered that she hadn't properly introduced herself to John yet, and her mother had always taught her to mind her manners. John looked hesitantly at her hand for a moment before brushing off his worries. He took her hand and smiled kindly as he said,
"John Watson, it's a pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise." Louise answered, relieved that John seemed to have accepted her for the moment. " I don't mean to impose, but I was just asking Sherlock if he knew of a place, I could stay. I'd prefer it if I could stay here, since I'm not sure they'll accept money from parallel universes anywhere here, but I'll understand if you say no." She explained to him. After all, it was his flat too. John paused when he heard the "parallel universe" comment, but he took it in stride. Louise guessed he must be used to strange things happening around him. John felt sorry for Louise, being alone in a strange world with nowhere to go. He looked at Sherlock, who seemed to be watching their exchange with a faint interest.
"She's staying, Sherlock." John told him. Louise raised her eyebrows in surprise. She could tell John was probably the more compassionate of the two, but this was more than she had hoped for. Now how would Sherlock react?
"Fine." Sherlock said as he lay down on the couch, and started putting what looked like nicotine patches on his arm. John was glad Sherlock had agreed, but he was a little surprised Sherlock had given in so easily.
"It's really alright?" John asked. He remembered earlier how he had worried that Sherlock might try to dissect the poor girl, and started interrogating him about it. Sherlock had the decency to at least look appalled at the idea. The two men began to have a heated discussion that Louise was sure would turn into an argument. She decided to intervene.
"Are you alright John?" She asked. "You look tired. Why don't you sit down, and I'll get you something to drink." She offered. John looked at her gratefully.
"Ah, thank you Louise. It was a rather long day. I think I'll take you up on that. Some tea would be lovely right now." He told her as he relaxed onto a chair next to the couch. He could get used to this. Louise asked Sherlock if he wanted any, but he just ignored her. She nodded and made her way to the kitchen and began making the tea. She managed to find a mug and the tea while avoiding some very suspicious looking experiments that were spread around the kitchen.
"Do you want anything in it she asked John?" She asked John.
"Just some milk, thanks." John replied. Louise opened the refrigerator door to get the milk, turned pale, and immediately slammed it shut again. She repeated this several times before John asked her what she was doing.
"What are you doing?" John asked her. Louise kept opening and closing the door as she answered him,
"I'm hoping if I do this enough times, eventually what I'm seeing in here will change." John immediately knew what was wrong.
"What's in there now?" He directed his question at Sherlock as he walked into the kitchen as he stood beside Louise and opened the fridge door himself. It was another bloody severed limb. At least it wasn't a head this time. Louise saw how annoyed and unsurprised John was, so she knew this must be a common occurrence. No wonder he had accepted her with such aplomb.
"I take it this happens often?" She said, raising an eyebrow at John.
"Yes, sorry about this. I keep telling him to stop putting things in with our food, but he never listens." John told her apologetically. Louise shook her head.
"It's alright, I'll be fine…eventually. I'm just not used to finding body parts in my fridge is all." She said lightly, trying to make light of the situation. "Besides," she said, "I'm assuming he managed to somehow legally obtain these things right? It's not like he goes out and collects them himself, if you know what I mean, right?" She joked. "Are you sure you still want the milk?" John was a bit surprised at how understanding she was. Most people would have assumed the worst when they found something like that. Although, she had managed to survive a whole day alone with Sherlock.
"Ah, no I think I'll pass on the milk for now, thanks." John said, smiling at her. It looked like Louise Rouge will fit in just fine here at 221B Baker St.