A Rose By Any Other Name

Chapter 3

The pub was packed. Faces were laughing, talking, and drinking every which way she turned. It was hard to find Lestrade in all of the chaos. Crowds had always made Aryn nervous. She usually never went to places like this by herself and she guessed it was because her job exposed her to the dangers of the world. Creeps hid in plain sight, targeting their victims when they were most susceptible. She went through her own struggles in college with drunks at bars and never liked to revisit those memories.

She soon found herself being flagged down by Lestrade sitting at a booth just after the end of the bar counter. He wasn’t alone, John and his wife both smiling when they turned to see who Lestrade was calling to. Hurrying to her seat, she let out a huge sigh of relief not only that she had made it on time, but that there was a nice, cold pint sitting in front of her as soon as she sat down.

“I’ve needed one of these for a long time,” Aryn commented, taking a large swig. The cool brew immediately relaxed her, the amber liquid easing the tensions she had been holding for so long. Looking across the table, she realized that she had failed to introduce herself. “Oh!” she exclaimed, wiping her mouth and setting her drink to the side. She extended her hand and said, “I’m Aryn. Pleasure to meet you!”

“Mary, nice to meet you as well,” Mary said with a smile.

“John tells me you’re expecting! Do you know what you’re having yet?”

The conversation carried on for quite some time with the discussion of children and John and Mary’s wedding night. Aryn thought that it was adorable to think that the night John and Mary became one entity was the same night that they would also find out that they would become a family. Although it was sudden, their parental roles seemed to suit them. She could tell they were truly happy to be having this child.

“So what about you then?” Lestrade started, sipping from his beer. “No man in your life at the moment? No bloke for me to harass?”

She blushed at the thought. “Greg, you know me better than that. I work too much to have a decent social life. Why do you think I was so happy to see this pint?”

“In all this time that I haven’t seen you, not even one man has tried to win your hand? I’ll find you one right now if you like.”

The alcohol was having an effect on Lestrade at that point. Aryn laughed at him as she said, “No, no that’s quite alright. I’m fine for the moment.” Looking down at the pint in her hands, being in a place like this, moreover being back in proximity with old friends, brought Aryn down to a strange level.

In her life, there were only a few things that mattered: family, work, and school. In terms of her family, there was never really anything or anyone to discuss. She was very detached from home and didn’t hold a balance between all of the aspects of her life. After leaving for college, she had set out to create a successful life. Here she was, living her “dream”, and yet it didn’t feel complete. Not just yet.

Sitting in the library, she thumbed through the various pages of the textbooks in front of her. Notes were spread out across the dark brown, wooden table that had seen many other studious people before her. She held a pencil between her teeth and had another keeping her hair out of her face in a messy bun.

Was there an upcoming exam? No. Was there a pop quiz expected in the next class? Not in the slightest. She was doing research for fun. Her logic class astounded her and piqued her interest so much so that when she wasn’t reading her textbooks for math or science, she was learning about symbols, sentences, and patterns.

She hadn’t noticed the man who was sitting across the room in a red chair watching her dabble away at her work that night. He was supposed to be studying, but had found the classes too slow for his comprehension. This girl fascinated him, though. She was learning about logic and deductions for fun, noting her scribbles as he walked past her earlier. He wasn’t sure if there was anyone else who did that aside from himself and his brother. It was beside the point, though.

In his lap he had a file regarding a case he had been working on for a friend. Pictures of a crime scene were at his fingertips and he was itching to go out into the city to find more evidence. Things had been getting boring as of late and he didn’t enjoy talking to his skull as much anymore. He wanted someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone to keep his deductions in check.

Closing the folder, he put it away in his book bag and stood up, slinging the bag over his shoulder. Ruffling his hair into its usual messy state, he began to walk over to the girl who was intensely writing down sentences, fallacies, and symbols.

“Enjoy all of this…do you?” he had asked, picking up one of the books from in front of the girl and flipping through the pages.

“Depends…why do you want to know?” she replied, pulling the pencil out of her mouth and looking up at the dark haired man. He was tall and his face was slender. His eyes were piercing, even in the dull light of the library. He pulled his attention away from the book and locked eyes with hers. His gaze was wanting and eager.

“If you do, I have a proposition for you. Meet me at the boys’ dormitory in an hour if you’re interested.” Placing the book back down in front of her, Sherlock turned on his heel and left the library in a rush.

Aryn was dumbfounded, unsure of what had just happened. Was this some kind of joke? Was she really going to meet this man?

Of course she was. Who was she kidding? Ahead in all of her readings for class, uninterested in getting wasted with her roommate; what else was she to do to spend her time besides keeping her nose in books?

An hour had passed by and Sherlock waited outside of the dorms on a bench. He pulled his scarf tighter as he leaned back and closed his eyes. The gentle night breeze nipped at his skin as he waited. Tree branches swayed with the wind and rustled with excitement. It was going to be another cold night.

A new sound graced his ears while he was listening to nature’s symphony with the wind: the footsteps of an eager companion.

“You’re late,” he stated without opening his eyes.

Aryn stopped suddenly and placed her hands on her hips. “Not everyone has the luxury of living so close to the library.”

“You could have left your books in my dorm.”

“I don’t even know your name.”

Sherlock opened his eyes and turned to face the girl. She was dressed in dark grey pea coat, Converse gracing her feet. She had jeans and a dark red scarf around her neck. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun which was a much different appearance than back at the library.

“The name is Sherlock Holmes.”

She extended her hand towards him. “Aryn K. Clarke.”

He looked at her hand and ignored the gesture, standing up and towering over her small figure. “I have someone to meet. I’ll fill you in on the details on our walk there.”

Aryn stood in shock once again as Sherlock walked away from her.

He turned, noticing she hadn’t followed suit. “Are you coming or not?”

“Do you expect me to just go with you? A man I barely know...”

“You know my name, you know what university I attend, and if you’re any good with your logic, you should be able to tell me what my major is as well as what year I am.”

She shrugged her shoulders as she crossed her arms. “Not that difficult to tell with the dorm you came out of before you sat on the bench as well as the books you usually bring to the library.”

He smirked. She was sharper than he thought. “That’s enough to be going on, don’t you think? You can trust me. And if anything happens, you have enough information to turn me in. Now come.” He turned around once again, Aryn trailing behind him.

She woke up slowly. That dream was one she had kept having ever since she came to London. The night she and Sherlock had first met was an adventure in itself. After creeping around old buildings and stealing several files from a facility, she had become addicted to the feeling of not only going out on adventures, but feeling useful in her time at school. She had learned much more being out with Sherlock than she ever did reading her books, so they had begun to spend more and more time together both in and out of school settings.

Sitting up in her bed, she stretched and looked over at the clock. There was still ten minutes remaining until her alarm would go off. It wasn’t worth it to go back to sleep, so she kicked her legs over the side of the bed and walked to the bathroom to get ready for the impending day.

Her new flat was nothing to brag about. It had one bedroom, one bathroom, a small kitchen, and a living area large enough to accommodate five or six people if she ever wanted company over. There was a window where she could sit and look at the busy streets below. She lived within walking distance of a few shops where she could get food and some books if she got bored. At the rate the case was going, she might need to get some reading material eventually.

Finishing her morning routine, Aryn walked into the kitchen to grab something for breakfast. She had gone to the store before heading home the night before to get some quick meals to make on the go: bagels and oatmeal. As she was fixing herself some oatmeal, a splash of color near her window sill caught her eye.

A deep red color sat on the creamy white sill. Her curtains were flowing slightly with the breeze that was coming from outside. She knew she had closed and locked that window the night before.

Reaching for the gun in her holster, she started to go through her flat, checking every place that someone could hide. No one was there.

Walking cautiously over to the window, she found a large, fragrant rose. The thorns were cut off and a card was attached. “Welcome Detective Inspector Clarke,” it read, “to memory lane.” That was all. There was no signature, no date, no other indication of who could have written the note.

Rushing to her suitcase in her bedroom, she grabbed a small forensics kit she stowed away for emergencies and printed the sill as well as the stem of the rose. No fingerprints or handprints showed up. The card didn’t have any prints either. The paper was normal computer paper that could have been bought at any store. The message was printed from a printer with no disruptions in the ink.

She bagged the rose with the card and caught a cab to Scotland Yard. Aryn rushed to the elevator and waited impatiently as people stopped on every floor prior to Lestrade’s to get off and on. When she finally reached her destination, she quickly sped over to his office to see John and Sherlock already there with Lestrade, their faces muddled with worry, confusion, and frustration.

“What is this killer getting at?” she asked, tossing the rose on Lestrade’s desk. “I found this when I was getting ready to come here. Left it on the window of my flat.”

Looking down at where she had tossed the rose, she noted that there were three more next to it. Each card was addressed to Lestrade, John, and Sherlock.

“If we knew, we’d have an answer for you,” Lestrade explained, rubbing his temple as he leaned back in his chair.

“Did you—“

“I dusted for prints, checked the paper as well as the ink, and found nothing,” Aryn answered, not even bothering to face Sherlock. “This killer is taunting us. They know we’re not getting anywhere with this and now we know that they can get to us without us even knowing. One of us could have been killed last night.”

John’s jaw clenched at the thought of Mary being hurt. He was even more protective of her now that their family was at risk of being hurt. It was one thing to help Sherlock with cases before, but there was much more at stake.

Without saying another word, Sherlock left the room and went back downstairs.

“Probably going to the morgue. He mentioned something about seeing Molly,” Lestrade explained as he gazed off in the direction Sherlock had gone. He returned his gaze to Aryn whose fists were clenched tight and breaths were deep. “Sit down, you look like you’re about to burst a vessel.”

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she sat in the chair across from Lestrade and stared at the roses.

“I went through the victims’ files again last night,” John began, “and I still don’t see a connection. These seem to be purely random.”

“There’s got to be something,” Aryn commented, pulling the other three roses to her.

Hello Dr. Watson. Say ‘hi’ to the family for me,” the first note read.

Oh Sherlock,” the other note began, “losing your touch.”

Lestrade’s note only had his name attached to it.

The game was getting much harder.
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