Partners in Crime
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember
― Mark Twain
When Molly Hooper opened the door and tried to act nonchalant (she could not fool them, it was plain to see that she was nervous), Sherlock Holmes was taken aback. That phrase was seldom used in connection with the consulting detective, but it was very appropriate now. The pathologist did not look at all like he had expected she would. Not that he had spared a thought about it… She wore a floor-length, sleeveless, midnight blue sheath dress with a bateau neckline. He had never seen her wear something so elegant before, and he had to admit that she looked quite glamorous. Not like the mousy pathologist at all.
Of course he could muster to keep the wonder out of his features. Still, he knew that at least Mary had noticed. Sometimes it was a nuisance that his best friend’s wife was a trained killer and therefore knew how to read people’s behaviour.
When he did not move, Mary stepped past him into the flat with a knowing smile on her lips. “Well, if no one else is going to say something, I will: Surprise, Sherlock!”
Molly suddenly looked confused and unsure of herself and made a step back. “What?”
Sherlock finally entered the flat, John following close behind, and demanded to know in a harsh tone, “What kind of dress is this?“ He gestured dismissively towards Molly’s frame.
“A long one,” was her meek reply.
“I can see that, but where is the black one with the atrocious sequins?“
“In the closet. This is a new one. Mary and I bought it this afternoon. “ The pathologist looked pleadingly in her friend’s direction.
“Obviously.” Sherlock shot his best friend’s wife a look, who smiled at him innocently.
Molly gulped. “Do you want me to change? I can…”
She was about to turn around, when Sherlock stopped her, “No. This is fine.“
Molly looked down onto the floor, her cheeks red from nervousness. Mary stepped onto Sherlock’s foot.
He did his best to suppress a curse and then tried to sound reassuring when he told Molly, “I mean, you look… It suits you.”
She lifted her head to meet his eyes. “Thank you.”
They looked at each other for a moment and Mary winked at her husband.
Just as John thought Sherlock was going to say more, Molly’s voice broke the silence. “I just need my coat, and then we can leave.”
She walked over to the hanger. While doing so, her back was turned towards them, and for the second time in the last few minutes Sherlock was surprised. Only this time it was plain to see on his face, so that John had to hide a chuckle. Molly’s dress, that looked so innocent from the front, was not so innocent when seen from behind, because it had an open back.
Mary, who was never one to leave out a chance to tease her husband’s best friend, suggested playfully, “Sherlock, won’t you help your fiancée into her coat?”
Molly, who had been totally oblivious to what her attire was doing to the consulting detective turned around and looked confused at Mary.
Sherlock’s face was once more the likeness of
detachment. He straightened his shoulders before answering, “I think Molly is
perfectly capable of managing herself.”
With that he turned around and left the flat.
“We need to agree on some things we are about to do tonight.” It was the first sentence Sherlock had uttered since he had left Molly’s flat.
They were sitting in the Watson’s car. They had decided to take their car and not a cab, since their destination was in Hampshire, about 5 miles on the far side of Winchester, and that way they would be able to go back anytime they wanted. Mary was driving, John sat in the passenger’s seat and Molly and Sherlock on the backseat.
John turned around to comment on his friend’s words, “You mean: You are going to tell us what we have to do.”
John rolled his eyes and faced the road again.
Sherlock adjusted in his seat so that he had a better look at the other people.
“You call yourselves Mary and John Morstan,” he decided, directed at the couple in the front. “You keep your name,” he told Molly, “and I am William Holmes from now on.”
Molly turned to look at him sceptically. “Does that even make sense? Only changing the first name…
And not only that… I mean… it is your first name, after all.”
Sherlock cocked his head to the side. “How do you know?”
Molly shrugged carelessly. “I saw your real passport when you were in my flat after the fall. Not that I sneaked around or something, it was coincidence, I...”
The consulting detective interrupted her rambling, “People are far more stupid than you give them credit for. They usually don’t recognize me without the stupid hat. So I can as well keep my surname. We should stick as close to the truth as possible. That way it’s easier to remember for you.”
John snorted, “Yeah, because you don’t ever forget or confuse anything.”
“No, I don’t,” Sherlock confirmed tight lipped.
There was a pause in which Molly and Mary could not repress a small smile. It was always amusing seeing John and Sherlock behave like an old married couple. Mary thought about telling her husband that he should have considered marrying his former flatmate and not her, but Sherlock resumed his speech, “So, here’s the back-story…,” he said, talking to Molly.
One could tell that Sherlock had trouble keeping the irritation out of his voice. “The back-story. Since we’re undercover, we need to invent the history of our relationship.”
Molly looked uncertain. “Can’t we just use our real history?”
“I doubt that you providing me with body parts and me insulting you is the usual way how a normal couple interacts.”
Although his words should have stung, Molly scoffed, “We are hardly normal.”
“No, but William and Molly are. Normal to the point of being boring.”
Now Molly crossed her arms and demanded to know, “Why do you get to have another first name, but I have to keep mine?”
“Because nobody will be interested in you.”
John turned his head around and glared daggers at his friend, while Mary chided, “Sherlock!”
He ignored it, of course, and turned back to look out of the window, while Molly muttered under her breath, “So much for insulting me.”
In the next 30 Minutes the women chatted a bit, but the most part of the drive was spent in comfortable silence. Sherlock seemed to have forgotten about the back-story, or had decided that it was not so important after all. Although it was dark, one could make out small houses on the side of the street, surrounded by lawn and trees.
“What a charming rural place,” Molly remarked when they passed a few cottages. “One can’t imagine that crime should happen here.”
Sherlock chided her, “The lowest and vilest abbeys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
“It makes me sad that you always see the world as such a horrible place.” Molly was determined not to let Sherlock spoil her good mood.
“Why? I’m a realist. That way I don’t get disappointed.”
“No, that way you don’t see anything good.”
There was a pause, in which none of the passengers knew what to say.
A dozen things that he could retort ran through Sherlock’s mind, but they were all rude or insulting, and he didn’t want to ruin things with his fake-fiancée before the evening had even begun. Luckily before he could change his mind, Molly spoke up again, “So, we’re here so you can have a look around the house, because something weird is going on. Could you be a bit more specific?”
John was faster than Sherlock to answer, “A certain Miss Violet Hunter contacted us. She is the new governess at the Rucastle’s. She has excellent references and has worked in well-respected houses. Everything went exceptionally well at the job interview. Mr Rucastle even offered to pay her far more than she had expected. But when she moved into the house, it turned out that Mr Rucastle was of choleric nature, his wife was more or less silent, and the six year old son was torturing animals.”
“Oh, that must have been horrible for her!” Molly exclaimed in sympathy.
John went on, “I guess so, but that was not what made her seek our help.”
“When she took on the job, she learned that a former colleague of her, Mister Toller, worked there as well. He was the butler, but Miss Hunter had barely recognized him. His hair was cut short and dyed brown, although he had always been very fond of his blond curls, as Miss Hunter assured us. He also acted very strangely towards her, as if he did not know her. The Rucastles live in a mansion with many rooms. Miss Hunter told us that Mister Rucastle told her not to enter the east wing. Under no circumstances. At first she did not really pay attention to it, but then she started to hear screams coming from the east wing at night. And that was when she contacted us.”
“Wow,” was all that Molly could muster. “That sounds like a mystery novel.”
For the first time since John’s explanation Sherlock spoke up once more, “And that’s all there is: a young woman imagining things, because she has read too many mystery novels. Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality.”
“And if you are so sure that it’s nothing, why are we going to investigate?” Mary asked from behind the steering wheel.
Sherlock crossed his arms and settled back into his seat, like a petulant child. “That’s why I prefer cabs: I can pay the drivers to hold their tongue.”