Copper Beaches

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

“Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.”
― Steven Wright

“Molly told me the other day that we had agreed on not having sex before the wedding. But I can’t remember ever having that conversation.”

John almost choked on his tea. Sherlock’s statement had come out of the blue. Sure the blogger had noticed that his best friend had been lost in thought during their journey to Winchester, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. John had suspected the detective had thought about the case. That he had obviously been contemplating the state of his engagement was definitely out of the ordinary.

They were sitting at a table in the Black Swan Hotel in Winchester and waiting for Violet Hunter. After the incident at the party the young woman had called them in the morning because she had been concerned about Sherlock’s state.

But after John had told her about the medical condition of the consulting detective, the governess had refused further contact. She had felt guilty and had been afraid of the consequences if the Rucastles found out she was still in contact with them.

But eventually she had been brave enough to answer a call from John (mainly because she felt responsible for Sherlock’s state) and after a long conversation she had agreed to meet them again –not at the mansion, but somewhere else. So here the crime solving due sat and waited for their client to arrive, but instead of talking about the case, Sherlock had opened a conversation about his relationship.

John lowered his cup of tea and contemplated his response.

“I guess it’s normal that you forgot the conversation after...,” he did not say it, but made a gesture with his hand, knowing Sherlock didn’t need further explaining.

His friend drew a hand through his hair, which John knew was a sign of his frustration. “I know, but with most other things I cannot remember correctly, I can at least recall bits and pieces of it.” He made a pause in which his gaze shifted from his friend towards an invisible spot on the wall behind him. He spoke as if to himself, ”I would not have thought that Molly was the kind of person who wanted to wait until she was married. And I know for a fact that she is not a virgin anymore.”
“How?” John blurted out before thinking. Sherlock looked back at him.

John shook his head vehemently and held up a hand, “No, wait. I don’t want to know.”
Sherlock’s eyes were fixed on the face of his friend, as if willing the answer to his next question to appear on his forehead. “Then why doesn’t she want to have sex with me?”

This was definitely one of those conversations John thought he would never ever have with his best friend. But then again he also never had thought that he would have to plan Sherlock’s wedding. He should have listened to what his fortune cookie had read last week, “Never say never. Ever.” This wisdom was definitely applicable when being best friends with the world’s only consulting detective.

John just hoped that the prediction in Mary’s fortune cookie didn’t come true as well, “Someone from your past will make a visit.”

John decided not to answer Sherlock’s question. How could he? Hence he asked one of his own, “So you think maybe Molly has invented the story about the conversation you had? It was just an excuse?”

John hoped that his best friend would not answer in the affirmative, because he was not sure how to proceed then. But John was lucky, because Sherlock assured him, “No! I trust her. I know she would not lie to me.”

John cringed inwardly when a felt a stab of guilt. He knew Sherlock trusted Molly, always had, and it was hard work to gain the trust of a high functioning sociopath – John knew from personal experience. But it only needed a little to ruin this trust forever, and not for the first time John doubted their decision to play along with Sherlock’s version of reality.

John took a sip of his tea and then prompted hesitantly, “So you want to...,” again he made a gesture with his hands.

Sherlock’s eyes widened at it. “No... I mean yes, I want to have sex with her, but I respect her wish. I just have the feeling that she...,” but before Sherlock could go on, Violet Hunter stepped into the room.

It was not lost on John that a few men turned their heads when she entered, and when he saw the look on his best friend’s face John couldn’t believe it. Was Sherlock –I-am-married-to-my-work- Holmes ogling Violet Hunter? At the party it had not escaped John’s attention that the governess had stared at the consulting detective in a very interested manner, but Sherlock had not so much as batted an eyelash then. So John could not help but tease his friend.

“She’s a woman men would die for,” he said, throwing back the word’s Sherlock had used at the party to describe the young woman.

Sherlock’s eyes snapped back to John and defended himself scandalized, “I am engaged!”
John wore an amused expression. “And I am happily married, but that doesn’t mean I’ve become blind to a woman’s beauty.”

“She’s a client, nothing more,” Sherlock said gruffly and chose to keep himself busy by taking a sip of his coffee.

“Sure, but a pretty one none the less,” John retorted and then the subject of their conversation had reached their table. The man rose to greet the woman and John noticed that Sherlock tried his best to avoid eye contact with her. Her fingers fidgeted nervously, and she looked paler than when they had first met her.

After they had set down and Ms Hunter was having tea of her own, Sherlock started the conversation – or better his interrogation. He was all business, and if one did not know that Sherlock was suffering from post-traumatic amnesia due to a head injury, one would have never guessed.
“John and I did some research on you and went to Westaway’s.”

“The job agency?” Ms Hunter asked surprised.

Sherlock arched his eyebrows in his typical arrogant way. “Do you know any other institution of that name that is related to the case?”

“No,” she replied in a small voice.

Sherlock went on, “Do you have any idea why an Australian gentleman might have visited Ms Stoper late at night?”

The governess shook her head. “No, I don’t really know her. She placed me jobs, that’s all. I don’t know if she has a boyfriend or if he is Australian.”

“Please do keep up, Ms Hunter, it was not that kind of nightly visit. It was a more or less official appointment. The man seemed to be some kind of agent.”

“Sherlock,” John cleared his throat, when he thought that his friend became a bit too rude with the young woman. Still he had to admit that he was a bit glad about it, because Sherlock behaved like he was supposed to. John was just sorry that it was at Miss Hunter’s expense.

The consulting detective drew a breath and then prompted, “Ms Hunter, would you be so kind as to tell us what has happened at the Rucastle’s since the party?”

The governess nodded dutifully. “Well, as you can imagine everyone was quite beside themselves, because of the incidents during the party. Mrs Rucastle wanted to send you some flowers on the next day, but Mr Rucastle was against it. In the afternoon he asked me into the sitting room and told me that it was very important for them to have a good relationship with their employees and that was why they would sit and chat with Mr Toller in the sitting room on a regular basis and they wanted me to have the same privilege. I would spend some time with them, but the way he said it did not sound like a request, but more like an order. After that everything went back to normal – well, as what is considered normal at the Rucastles. In passing I saw Mr Toller sitting in the chair in the sitting room with Mr and Mrs Rucastle a few times and they asked me to do the same at least once a week.”

She made a pause as if considering if it was appropriate to add what she was about to say, “And I think Mr Toller might have started drinking.”

While the woman had told her tale, Sherlock had folded his hands under his chin in his thinking posture. “And what do you do when you sit in the sitting room?”

Ms Hunter shrugged. “I just sit there and listen to the stories of Mr Rucastle. You would not believe how many entertaining stories he has to tell!”

The woman smiled and John could not relate to it. To him Mr Rucastle had not seemed like the funny storyteller when they had met him.

“Do you sit in the chair with the back to the window?” Sherlock asked her.

“Yes I do.”

Sherlock murmured something that sounded like, “Interesting,” and then studied Ms Hunter’s face closely. She obviously felt uncomfortable under his intense gaze and shifted in her seat. Just as she was about to lower her eyes, because she could not stand his staring anymore, he snapped out of it and resumed questioning her, “So tell me, Ms Hunter, how many people are currently residing at the mansion?”

The young woman took a sip of her beverage before she began to count out loud, “There are of course Mr and Mrs Rucastle, Edward (their son), Mr Toller and me.”

“Mrs Rucastle is not Mr Rucastle’s first wife, if I am informed correctly.” Sherlock said. It was not a question. Sherlock Holmes did his homework.

Ms Hunter shook her head. “No, he was a widow and Mrs Rucastle is his second wife.”

There was a pause in which the governess seemed to think about something and then she spoke up again. “There is also their daughter Alice, but they are not really related.”

Sherlock scoffed, “This is nonsense. You can’t be ‘not really related’ – either you are related or you are not.”

Ms Hunter explained, “Alice is Mr Rucastle’s daughter with his first wife. But she’s in Philadelphia. They say she has an aversion to her stepmother.”

“How old is she?”

“A few years younger than me.”

Sherlock nodded while John was busy writing down everything the young woman had said.
“And there’s the dog, Carlo,” Ms Hunter added to the list of inhabitants of the house. “He’s an odd little creature. It’s Mr Rucastle’s dog, but the animal seems to hate him. He always barks at him, but never at the others.” She shook her head at this oddity.

Silence enfolded the three, in which John kept on writing and Sherlock stored the information in his mind palace.

Ms Hunter raised her mug to drink her remaining tea, but stopped midway. “Sarah,” she said suddenly, “I forgot Sarah Marshall. She’s the housekeeper.”

John was exhausted when he came home. They had questioned Ms Hunter a bit more, but soon Sherlock had become frustrated, because he had been under the impression that it was not leading anywhere. He had wanted to have a look at the house and garden again. But since it had already been getting dark and the young governess had been impatient to get back, John had convinced Sherlock to go to the Rucastle’s another day, when having a plan what to look for exactly.

Surprisingly the consulting detective had agreed (John decided that new Sherlock had his advantages) and while Ms Hunter had gone back to the mansion, the men had travelled back to London.

John had a look into the nursery to kiss his daughter who was fast asleep (for now...) and then after a shower went to join his wife in bed. He told her about the investigation.

When he was finished and she had asked some questions, he told her, “I had the weirdest conversation with Sherlock today.”

Mary chuckled and snuggled closer to her husband’s side, “You usually talk about headless nuns and elephants in a room. I would consider every conversation with Sherlock as weird.”

John shook his head, “I mean even weird in a Sherlock-kind-of-sense. We talked about his and Molly’s sex life – or better the lack of it.”

That made his wife pause and sit up a bit to have a better look at his face.

“This is getting out of hand, John. We may joke about it and it’s nice that Sherlock is... nice... for a change, but this can’t go on like this. Imagine what Molly must go through! We have to set an end to this madness. Otherwise poor Molly will lose her mind too.”

John agreed with his wife, “You’re right. We need to find a solution.”

They had two hours of sleep, and then the baby started to cry.

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