Girlfriends. Not Really My Area.
By J. H. Watson
~ 7,000 Words
Someone had made a small tactical error. While it was true Sherlock Holmes had been told he wasn’t to attend his brother Mycroft’s tenth birthday party, no one had expressly stated that Sherlock wasn’t allowed to observe the party. Besides it was boring stuck in the nursery alone. And it wasn’t fair that he couldn’t come because he was only almost-three. All the other people at the party were old. Some of them were even older than Mummy and Father!
At the moment, Sherlock was hidden behind a curtain trying to keep absolutely still. He’d had to slip into the room that acted as both library and Father’s study because someone was coming down the hall. He’d barely managed to get behind the curtains before two older boys entered it as well. Before Sherlock could decide whether to show himself and demand what the boys were doing in there, taking the what his older brother called the offensive, the boys moved to the window next to him, flung it open, and began smoking.
Apparently, they only had the one cigarette because Sherlock could hear them pass it back and forth, taking long, deep sucks, then holding their breaths for several seconds before slowly releasing the smoke in the general direction of the open window. One of the boys coughed. Some of the smoke drifted to the small pocket behind the curtain tickling Sherlock’s nose. He thought the cigarette stank and he knew Mummy was not going to be happy about the smell in her curtains. Even Father never smoked in the library.
The boy who coughed shifted his weight. His shoe made a distinctive squeak as he said, “Dude, this is good shit.”
The other boy inhaled deeply, held his breath, and after a moment replied, “Yeah. I nicked it from my sister’s boyfriend.” The second boy had the trace of a Scottish accent and a high pitch to his voice.
“He’s going to be pissed when he finds it gone.” The first boy sounded bigger and older with a deeper pitch, and had a solidly upper-class accent.
“Not as pissed as when he finds his fifty quid is gone, too.”
Then both boys broke out into a fit of giggles. Sherlock was trying to hold his breath to avoid the stinky smoke when the library door opened and he heard his brother say, “You aren’t suppose to be in here and you definitely aren’t suppose to be smoking…” There was a pause as Mycroft sniffed before finishing with “…marijuana in here.”
“Piss off, you fat faggot! And take you’re stupid girlfriend with you,” the bigger boy with the squeaky shoes said.
“Really? A fat joke and a sexual epithet? That’s the best you can do?” Mycroft said calmly in that supercilious tone that drove Sherlock mad. Sherlock heard Mycroft and someone smaller cross the room. Mycroft continued, “As for stupid, smoking pot while the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police sits in the next room with a judge, two members of Parliament and a member of the Cabinet staff hardly reeks of superior intellect. You two, on the other hand, do reek of cannabis. You may want to wash before rejoining the party.”
Here the larger boy with the squeaky shoes said something Sherlock didn’t recognize. Judging from the feminine gasp, Sherlock figured it was something he should not say around Mummy or even Nanny, but might try to shock his brother. The smoking boys stomped off with Squeaky Shoes in the lead. As the door closed as loudly and firmly as any door in Mummy’s house was allowed to close, Lady Beatrice “Bunny” Wigglesworth asked, “Should I go get Daddy or someone?”
“No. It would upset Mummy if her party were ruined by… unpleasantness. Why don’t you run along and get a us good seats before the music starts?”
“I hope there’s dancing.”
There was a brief hesitation before Mycroft said, “I’ll be along in a moment. I just want to air out the room a bit.”
Bunny’s footsteps moved away and the door opened and closed once more. There was a beat and then Mycroft said, “Sherlock, you can come out now.”
“Why did that boy call you a bundle of sticks?”
Sherlock’s ploy to distract his brother worked. Mycroft stopped what he was about to say and thought for a moment. Then he answered, “He was using it in the slang term of someone who prefers boys to girls.”
“Oh. What’s an epithet?”
“It describes a characteristic of the thing mentioned. It’s usually an abusive term— ”
“It has to do with sex.”
“You aren’t suppose to be down here,” Mycroft said in that same supercilious tone he’d used on the other boys.
“I was just observing,” Sherlock said trying to hold his brother’s stare. He couldn’t do it and looked away first. “No one said I couldn’t observe.”
“You know if Mummy catches you down here it will upset her.”
Sherlock remained silent. A stubborn frown had formed on his face.
Mycroft walked over and opened the second window fully. The breeze swept in pushing aside the curtains, ruffling papers on Father’s desk. Mycroft stepped over to it and placed a paperweight on the papers, giving them a quick skim as he did. He took the mechanical pencil he always kept in a pocket out and made a note on the inside of his shirt cuff.
Sherlock was already bored. He knew he’d have to go back upstairs, but Sherlock fell prey to the common human desire to put off the unpleasant as long as possible. “Who were those boys?”
“The Lord Wickham-Villiers and Graeme McMenamin, the oldest son of Sir Gowan Ogilvy McMenamin.” Mycroft shook the curtains, sniffed them, frowned, and gave them another vigorous shake towards the open windows.
“Are they your friends?”
Mycroft was now straightening the curtains so that they fell in the neat, even, ripple, to each side of the windows as he answered, “No. I don’t have friends.” He paused in his tidying and added, “Except one.”
Sherlock was now leaning against his father’s desk, rifling through the papers. “Who?”
“What about me?”
“You’re my brother.” Sherlock’s face fell, but Mycroft didn’t see this because he had his back to Sherlock as he closed the windows to one inch slits.
“Then how come you invited them to your birthday party?” Sherlock asked.
Mycroft came over and removed Sherlock’s hands from the papers and put them back in the exact position they’d been in when he’d come into the room. “I didn’t. I didn’t even want a birthday party, but Mummy said it would be a good way to cement connections with families and boys I’d be going to school with in a few years.”
Mycroft said the latter part of the sentence in a manner that let Sherlock know his brother was quoting Mummy precisely. Mycroft took one more scan around the room and then turned back to his little brother.
“If you go back upstairs and stay there, I’ll bring you two pieces of cake,” Mycroft offered. When Sherlock merely crinkled his nose, Mycroft added, “And I’ll let you try my BBC Micro computer.”
“You don’t have a computer.”
“I’m about to get one as a birthday present.” Mycroft thought a moment and then added, “Mummy and Father think I don’t know so don’t tell anyone.”
“Oh. Okay. Can I play Pong?”
“We’ll see what software the computer has.”
“I hope it has Pong,” Sherlock said as he slipped out of the library and scooted upstairs spotted only by Nanny who paled at the sight of him.
Sherlock tried to entertain himself, but Mummy had had Nanny lock up everything that “might be disruptive” so he was limited to books, stuffed toys, and some coloring books and his crayons — with Mummy’s admonition that he was to color only on the table with the white butcher paper that Nanny had put out. Even Mummy wasn’t taking any chances of leaving Sherlock a loophole today.
He tried reading, but he could hear the noise from the party downstairs and couldn’t concentrate, so after awhile he put down his book and got all of his stuffed toys out and put them on his bed. Then he went into his brother’s wardrobe.
Thirty minutes later Sherlock’s plush menagerie were adorned with ties and scarves wrapped around their heads in a fair approximation of the pirate sailors in the copy of Treasure Island on the bed table. Sherlock was decked out in one of Mycroft’s white shirts, riding jacket, belt hanging a kilter and Mycroft’s umbrella stuffed into it like a cutlass. A black sock (also his brother’s) was tied around Sherlock’s head so that it covered one eye. He couldn’t find a hat that looked like the pirate hats.
Sherlock proceeded to command his stuffed crew to look lively, haul anchor, heave ho, and set sail. Alas, the blue bunny had to walk the plank almost immediately for insubordination (which was a word that Sherlock liked, especially after Mycroft showed him how to look it up in the dictionary and Sherlock discovered he could be insubordinate to Mycroft — but not Mummy. Mummy didn’t like insubordinate at all.).
But after a short while, Sherlock grew tired of admonishing his crew of very little brains. He wanted to set forth to hunt down, capture, and plunder rich merchant vessels (while killing and dismembering the crew in a systematic and scientific fashion). He could then put all of his treasure into a chest and bury it on a desert island (ensuring the secrecy of the location by killing more of his crew), and drawing a complex and secret map so he could find it again (on the butcher paper with lemon juice so it would disappear and be really secret until he held it up carefully to the lamp).Unfortunately, Sherlock didn’t have any treasure (aside from his grandfather’s urn which Mycroft had told him he wasn’t allowed to touch under any circumstances — except to rescue in the event of fire, flood, or other emergency).
Sherlock thought very hard for a moment. Nanny had treasure but it was all fake — costume jewelry. Mummy had treasure. She had a lot of treasure. And almost all of it was real treasure. She also had lots of hats.
Mycroft was carefully not eavesdropping as hard as he could as Sir Kenneth Newman discussed the implications of reform in the Metropolitan Police Service to the Judge Sahaj Kuthrapauli and MP “Sandy” Fitzhugh. There were some interesting data about the use of computers and closed-circuit television cameras to assist in increased security monitoring in light of growing concerns about IRA bombings in the city. Apparently, there was considerable resistance to costs and application of the new technology, but Mr. Fitzhugh felt that by judiciously inflaming the fear of IRA attack, all obstacles would be eliminated. Just as the conversation turned to the rather interesting topic of fear as a political tool, Mycroft became aware that Mummy was coming up to him.
“Mycroft, I believe Lady Beatrice wishes to dance,” Mummy said.
“I can’t dance.”
Mummy tilted her head slightly and stared down at Mycroft. “We paid good money for you to take lessons.”
Mycroft replied, “That was ballroom dancing, Mummy. Unfortunately, I don’t think this band can play a waltz or a foxtrot.”
The band was a new, trendy, rising electronic pop offshoot of a popular punk group that had made the British top ten. Most of the children, especially the teenagers, had been lured to the party because of the band. Mummy had scored quite a social coup by getting them for a private party, but Mycroft knew it’d happened because Mummy knew something about the band’s manager. The parents had come because Mummy had made it very clear that there was to be a separate gathering where they could mingle and grown-up refreshments would be served.
Mycroft added, “I assure you, Mummy, that my dancing to this music would not enhance my, or the family’s, image. I do not gyrate or bounce well.”
Mummy glanced towards French doors leading to the marquee set up in the garden from which cutting-edge synthetic music with a rapid beat blared. Then she glanced back at Mycroft and looked him up and down. Unconsciously, Mycroft sucked in his stomach and stood a bit straighter. Mummy tapped a long, slender finger on the diamond and ruby bracelet around her extremely narrow wrist. “I’ll have them play a slow song.” She caught Mycroft’s gaze as she asked, “You can dance to a slow song, yes?”
Mycroft knew the only acceptable answer to this question. “Yes, Mummy.”
“Good. Go find Lady Beatrice and ask her to dance the next slow number.”
He found Bunny sitting alone on the bottom step of the staircase. She was hunched with her arms wrapped around her bent legs, scrunching her obviously new party dress, and resting her head upon knees. She looked up quickly when she heard Mycroft approach. The initial fearful look on her face transformed into a welcoming smile when she realized it was him.
“Bunny, would you like to dance?” Mycroft asked, and then quickly added, “The next slow dance, I mean.”
Bunny scrambled up and said, “Yes.” She took a step toward the way to the garden, stopped, and looked at Mycroft. “Unless you’re only asking because someone made you ask or you’re just being polite.”
Mycroft hesitated. He had never lied to Bunny or even used a social convention with her to feign an emotion or interest he didn’t have. But something intuitively told him that girls, especially older girls (for Bunny was already eleven going on twelve), did not always like abject honesty. Bunny’s face began to crumple under weight of that momentary silence. Mycroft replied, “Mummy did come and suggest that I ask you to dance, however, the only reason I had not offered before was that I think fast dancing would make me a target of ridicule.” He studied her face for a moment and explained, “Some of the others would make fun of me if they saw me trying to dance to that music.”
Bunny nodded. “I know.” Looking at the expression that flitted across his face before he could regain control of it, Bunny quickly continued, “They make fun of me, too.”
The two of them had been walking down the hall and had not quite reached the French doors that opened onto the garden. Mycroft stopped and stared at Bunny’s face. “You’ve been crying. Why? Did someone tease you?”
Bunny glanced down at her shoes. “I know it’s really dumb — ”
“You are not dumb.”
Bunny smiled up faintly at Mycroft. “I know. You told me. I am intellectually challenged, but far smarter than those who aren’t and don’t use their intellects fully.” She said the last sentence slowly, enunciating each word carefully in an imitation of Mycroft’s style.
A smile flickered on the edge of his lips. “You make me sound like a pompous twit.” The smile disappeared. “Now please tell me what made you cry?”
“I was standing near the dance floor hoping someone would ask me and a one of the older boys said no one would want to be seen dancing with me, even if I was titled because, while it was okay to be seen with a titled, rich, and stupid girl, no one wanted to be seen with an ugly one. And the other kids laughed.”
Mycroft’s jaw clenched. He took a deep breath and released it slowly as he let his anger wash through him and ebb away. He asked, “Who said this?”
“Tommy Wickham-Villiers. Am I really that ugly, Mycroft?”
As Bunny noted the fleeting look of alarm in Mycroft’s eyes, she added, “Tell me the truth, please.”
Mycroft turned so that he could look at Bunny squarely. He had to look every so slightly up because even though he was tall for his age, Bunny was two inches taller. She was also, alas, at that awkward phase where she was all gangly limbs that frequently behaved as if not quite connected to the rest of her body, or her brain had quite forgotten to include them in the instructions. While most of her was achingly thin, making Mycroft painfully aware that they appeared as a reverse Jack Sprat and his wife, her face still retained some of the roundness and softness of “baby fat.” To add insult to the many injuries of the age, the rather old-fashioned full braces that Bunny wore made her look a bit like Jaws from the Bond movie when she smiled. Having a basically sunny personality (something Mycroft envied), Bunny smiled often.
And then there were the glasses.
At around age eight it was discovered that Bunny suffered from both acute hyperopia, often called farsightedness, and astigmatism. The correction required a pair of glasses with rather thick lens that tended to magnify her eyes so that they appeared oversized for her face. Unfortunately, the current fashion for extremely large wire frames did nothing for her appearance.
Mycroft’s instincts indicated this was another occasion where diplomacy might be better than total honesty. He studied her throughly, as if he were looking at a piece of art, turned her around once, and then tipped his head and squinted slightly. This gave him both the time to formulate a response and the appearance of taking her question quite seriously. Finally, he said, “I think that you are only eleven — ” Here she gave Mycroft a look similar to the ones he received from his little brother, so he amended, “ Going on twelve. And when you finish growing up, you will be a woman of above average height, slender, blonde, blue-eyed with very straight teeth. You will be a be able to afford the best clothes and have them altered to fit and flatter your figure. You’ll also wear contacts by then. And there will be someone, probably many someones, who will see you as the most beautiful woman they have ever met. And they will right.”
Mycroft was greatly embarrassed to see tears forming in Bunny’s eyes and to feel himself flush in consequence. He spotted Mummy casting glances around the edges of the marquee where various people sat. He coughed and asked, “Shall we go out to the marquee and wait for our song?”
Sherlock zipped around the corner with his plundered cake held in both hands, so he couldn’t stop his fall when Lord Wickham-Villiers stuck out a foot to trip Sherlock. Sherlock landed with a hard thud that hurt. The cake shot up from the plate and flew forward in compliance with the science of physics and Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion (which Mycroft had been attempting to explain to Sherlock, but had not the imagination to demonstrate with plates of cake). The cake landed icing side down on the hall rug. Wickham-Villiers and his sidekick Graeme McMenamin giggled. Sherlock tried to sit up, but discovered he couldn’t because Wickham-Villiers had his foot, and most of his weight, planted on Sherlock’s “cutlass.”
Sherlock twisted around as best he could and pushed at Wickham-Villiers. “Get off!” he commanded.
“Make me, squirt.”
This set the two older boys to snickering and giggling again. Sherlock tried some applied anatomy to the fleshiest part of Wickham-Villiers’ calf.
“Ow! The little sod pinched me!” Wickham-Villeirs said to McMenamin as he jumped back off the umbrella. Then he grabbed Sherlock up off the floor, hit Sherlock’s head, and shoved Sherlock back with his foot. Sherlock landed next to the upside-down cake. McMenamin was plucking at Wickham-Villiers sleeve and looking down the hall as he said, “I think someone’s coming.”
The older boy glared at Sherlock and said, “You’re lucky I’ve got something to do.” before he followed his friend around the corner.
Sherlock sat for a moment rubbing his head and scowling. Then Sherlock’s attention turned to the cake and the dawning realization that frosting was smeared all over Mummy’s hall rug. Sherlock could practically smell Mummy next to him!
Quickly, he forgot his own ills and raced to the bathroom, wet a washcloth, grabbed a towel, and returned the scene of his crime. He scooped the cake back onto the plate, scrubbed the frosting off the rug, and then dried it as best he could with the towel. As he was bent over rubbing the rug, he sniffed. After hiding all the evidence of his pirated cake in the laundry hamper, Sherlock returned and surveyed the rug. He bent to pick up Mycroft’s umbrella and sniffed again. Then he got down closer. If someone had been watching, Sherlock would have looked like a rather skinny hound on the scent as he crawled along the hallway sniffing the rug every few inches.
Mycroft’s umbrella sat abandoned at the other end with a definite angle in it.
Mycroft was beginning to believe this was the longest song in recorded history. It seemed he and Bunny had been dancing for half the night. He’d tried to hold her a reasonable arms distance, but halfway through, Mummy had come by dancing with Lord Hamilton and gave him The Look and managed to bump him closer to Bunny who immediately latched on like a limpet to a rocky outcrop in a tidal pool. Mycroft tried very hard not to flinch when she gave him the full Jaws smile before moving her head towards his neck to rest upon his shoulder. Fortunately, slow dancing for his generation required nothing more than swaying in place with occasional tiny steps in a one-two pattern to generate very slow turns. Even Mycroft couldn’t look too stupid doing the White Boy Two-Step in the middle of a crush of bodies that effectively prevented anything remotely athletic.
The song finally came to an end and the band returned to the techno-pop beat that matched the rapid heart rate of a cardiac patient. Bunny looked hopefully at Mycroft, but he merely took her by the arm and guided her from the floor. As they reached the edge of the dance floor, Mycroft was bumped hard by Lord Tommy Wickham-Villiers, causing Mycroft to stumble. “Watch where you’re going you clumsy faggot,” Tommy called. Graeme McMenamin giggled as they passed on into the crowd.
“He did that on purpose,” Bunny said.
“Yes.” Mycroft answered distractedly. He’d spotted Mummy. She appeared to have caught her bracelet on Lord Hamilton’s cufflink and it had snapped the clasp. Lord Hamilton appeared apologetic. Father seemed concerned as he picked the bracelet up off the ground. But Mummy laughed, took the bracelet from Father’s hand, and went off towards the house.
“I’m thirsty after all that dancing,” Bunny said.
Something in her tone brought Mycroft back to the his own moment, and he realized something was expected of him. “Would you like to go get some refreshments?”
“Oh, yes.” Bunny looked at him through her lashes which, magnified by her glasses, looked like the legs of a tarantula coming towards Mycroft. His stomach lurched, but Mycroft manfully said, “I believe it is this way.”
“Do you think there’s any cake left?”
Mycroft certainly hoped so. He felt he’d need it.
Sherlock, bored with Treasure Island, was switching to Peter Pan. His crew of stuffed animals could just as easily become Lost Boys. He’d already “borrow” Mycroft’s alarm clock and tucked it inside his tiger, which was was a close as Sherlock could come to a crocodile. The nightlight could perform in the role of Tinker Bell and the Paddington Bear could star as Peter Pan.
The now bent umbrella could fill the role of the actual umbrella in the story and as Capt. Hook’s sword. There was, of course, going to be a slight revision to the story. Capt. Hook was going to win. Sherlock was stumped, you should pardon the politically incorrect pun, by trying to figure out how to make a hook for his hand.
Just as Sherlock was seriously contemplating dismantling a coat hanger for a hook, there was a commotion in the hall. Sherlock peeked out the door and saw one of the girl’s hired to help for the day crying. Nanny had her arm around the crying girl and said, “There now. No one is accusing you of anything. They have to ask everybody what they saw or heard, especially anybody who might be moving around in the family areas.”
“What’s wrong, Nanny?” Sherlock asked.
Nanny continued walking with the weeping girl. Over her shoulder she said, “Nothing that concerns you. Just stay in you room and someone will bring you cake when it’s all over.”
This had the same affect as telling a cat where to sit. Sherlock waited until Nanny and the girl had gone far enough down the stairs to be out of sight, then he scooted out of his room and headed down the hall towards the sound of upset people.
Father’s assistant stood in front of Mummy’s bedroom doorway. As Sherlock approached, he said, “No one’s allowed in here. You should go back to your room.”
Sherlock ignored this as he did everything Father’s assistants said. Sherlock didn’t even bother to learn their names. They never lasted long. He peered around the young man and saw a three old men talking near Mummy’s dressing table. A number of things from her dressing table had been knocked to floor and Sherlock was certain Mummy would have sharp words to say about the mess made by spilled powder, perfume, and lotions. Mummy’s jewelry case stood open and several of the trays were sitting out on the table. Most of them were empty.
“Sherlock, go away. Please?” the assistant pleaded. Sherlock made a face at the young man and stepped to the next doorway and peaked into Father’s room.
Along with Mummy, Father, and Mycroft, Sherlock saw Lord and Lady Hamilton and their daughter. Bunny was seated on a chair. Tears coursed down her face. Mummy and Father were speaking quietly with Lord and Lady Hamilton. Μycroft spotted Sherlock, came over, and dragged Sherlock from the doorway.
“Go back to your room,” Mycroft ordered.
“But why is Bunny crying?”
Mycroft’s face twitched and his lips tightened for a moment before he replied, “Some of Mummy’s jewelry is missing. A ring and couple of bracelets were found in Bun— Lady Beatrice’s coat pocket.”
Sherlock frowned at his older brother. “Bunny wouldn’t take Mummy’s jewelry.”
“That’s what Bun— Lady Beatrice says.” Sherlock held his brother’s gaze until Mycroft added, “And I believer her, but the problem is that the jewelry was found in her coat which is very incriminating — that means it makes her look guilty — and there doesn’t seem to be any clues pointing at anyone else. Mummy doesn’t want to search all of the guests, but Sir Newman is saying that unless Bun— Lady Beatrice tells us where the rest of the jewelry is, he may have to call in his detectives to find them. It would look very bad and cause a lot of hard feelings. So go back to your room and don’t cause any trouble, Sherlock. Mummy and Father are not in a good mood.”
Mycroft pointed imperiously back down the hall. Sherlock scooted as quickly as possible to the sanctuary of his room and once inside fell heavily on his bed, sending stuffed toys tumbling. His brow wrinkled, his mouth tightened. He had to think.
If the situation hadn’t involved Bunny, Mycroft would have enjoyed observing how Sir Newman and Judge Kuthrapauli handled the political delicacy of investigating a major crime in the middle of a party attended by members of the upper-class and influential circles. Instead, Mycroft found himself annoyed at the lack of action taken to find the actual criminals and seemingly ridiculous need to discuss ad naseum everything. Bunny had stopped crying and now sat upright with absolutely no expression on her face like a member of the nobility on the way to the guillotine determined to put a brave face on it. Occasionally, she’d cast a glance at Mycroft who knew she wanted him to do something, but was totally at a loss what to do.
Mycroft had been allowed to stay initially because Bunny wouldn’t let go of his arm, and then he’d been able to stay because he’d made himself invisible standing silently in a corner. Unable to stand the frustration any longer, Mycroft slipped out the doorway into the hall. Looking down the hall, he saw the nursery door cracked open and his little brother’s eye. A skinny little arm slipped through the crack and gestured for Mycroft to come. Since Mycroft couldn’t yell at any of the adults, he decided he might as well go and yell at his little brother.
As soon as Mycroft stepped through the doorway, Sherlock closed the door and leaned against it. Before Mycroft could say anything, Sherlock said, “Bunny didn’t do it!”
“I know. Unfortunately, no one knows who did do it.”
Sherlock took a deep breath and let it out in a single gust before saying, “I do.”
Mycroft studied his brother. There was no doubt that guilt weighed heavily upon Sherlock. His brother was practically dancing in place with something he didn’t want to admit. “Tell me,” Mycroft commanded.
Father’s room had become considerably more crowded since Mycroft had left. Sir Newman, Judge Kuthrapauli and Mr. Fitzhugh had joined the others. Bunny was still sitting upright in the chair with her hands folded in her lap, looking as if the firing squad were in front of her. She looked briefly at Mycroft when he stepped back in and he nodded at her in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. Taking a deep breath, and followed closely by Sherlock, he walked up to his mother.
She looked down at him and said, “Not now, Mycroft.”
Taking another deep breath, he said, “Mummy, I know who the thieves are and how to prove it.”
The room went silent. All eyes turned towards Mycroft. Mummy said, “Explain.”
Mycroft forced his shoulders to relax as he did. The adults listened to his theory that the Lord Wickham-Villiers and Graeme McMenamin were the thieves and that most of the jewelry was in the shrubbery beneath the bathroom window and that the two boys had planted the pieces found in Lady Beatrice’s coat.
Sir Newman turned to Father and said, “Have that assistant of yours look beneath the window.”
As they waited for the assistant to return, Kuthrapauli said, “The tricky bit will be proving they had anything to do with it.”
“Excuse me, sir, but I believe if someone inspects their shoes, that traces of perfume and possibly powder and lotion will be evidence that that they were in Mummy’s room. It might even be possible to trace their steps by inspecting the hallway rug. By following the trail, I believe you will find they lead from Mum — my mother’s room to the coat room and to the bathroom.”
Sir Newman stepped out and knelt. After a moment, he said, “He’s right. While the evidence has been a bit corrupted by the rest of us, there’s still clear tracks of smaller shoes coming out of the Mrs. Holmes bedroom and heading down the hall. Someone go get those boys and their parents and bring them up here.”
Father held a hasty discussion with the others, the gist of which was that Father wanted to try and avoid scandal. Lord Hamilton was in favour of “horse-whipping the sons of bitches” who tried to frame his daughter. Calmer heads prevailed and a plan was created that seemed to satisfy most everyone except Mycroft, who rather agreed with Lord Hamilton but kept that information to himself.
Just as Lord Wickham-Villiers and his mother, Lady Wickham-Villiers, and Sir McMenamin’s son and family were brought into the uncomfortably crowded room, Father’s assistant returned with a tied up Hermes silk scarf that obviously contained bits of jewelry. Graeme fidgeted, but Lord Wickham-Villiers conveyed boredom in his slouch.
In highly diplomatic terms, Sir Newman managed to convey the gist of the situation to the new arrivals and requested a look at the boys’ shoes. Lord Wickham-Villiers said, “Well, if there’s anything on my shoes, it’s there because I went searching for Graeme.”
Graeme McMenamin looked startled and then glared at his “friend.” He said, “Sod this! I’m not taking the rap for you. It was his idea. I told him it was stupid and dangerous, but he just laughed and said that was half the fun.” After a beat, he added, “And it was his idea to try and pin it on the little moron, too.”
It took Father and Judge Kuthrapauli to prevent Lord Hamilton from going after Graeme McMenamin for calling his daughter a moron. Then Lady Hamilton whacked Lord Wickham-Villiers with her handbag and Sir Newman had to stop Lady Wickham-Villiers from demanding Lady Hamilton be arrested for assault.
Finally, an agreement was reached in which Mummy was to receive a rather large sum of money for damages to her stuff and for “distress” and Lady Beatrice was to receive a very large sum for damages to her name and Lord Thomas Wickham-Villiers and Graeme McMenamin were to assigned community service work by Judge Kuthrapauli for the next six months or else Sir Newman would investigate the suspiciously smelling pockets of both boys.
Sir McMenamin thanked Mummy and Father for not pressing charges before taking his son firmly by the arm and marching him out. Lady Wickham-Villiers gave everyone a frosty farewell before leading a discernibly unrepentant Lord Wickham-Villiers out. Father’s assistant followed both boys and their families out of the house in a tactful manner.
“Nasty bit of work that Tommy Wickham-Villiers,” Sir Newman noted. Mr. Fitzhugh concurred and Judge Kuthrapauli added, “Wouldn’t be surprised to see him before my bench some day.”
“Yes,” said Mummy. “Thank you gentlemen so much for helping straighten out this mess in such a discrete and timely fashion.”
Sir Newman grew in the glow of Mummy’s smile. “No problem, Mrs. Holmes. But really you should be thanking your son.” Here Newman stooped a bit to address Mycroft and added, “That was some good observations and clever deductions. Maybe you should consider joining the force and become a detective someday.”
“Thank you, sir, but not I think not. You have to spend too much time with the criminal element,” Mycroft responded in his most formal tone. “I’m thinking of a minor position in government.”
Newman replied, “Speaking of criminal elements.” Looking at Sherlock, Sir Newman added, “Perhaps you’d like to be a detective when you grow up.”
“No, sir. Gonna be a pirate.”
“Oh, finance. Good choice,” Sir Newman said straightening.
Lord Hamilton approached Mycroft at that moment with his hands on Bunny’s shoulders. “My daughter has something to say to you, young man.”
Bunny did her looking-up-through-her-lashes bit and said in a quiet voice, “Thank you.” Then she diffidently bent over and kissed Mycroft lightly on the cheek. Mycroft went red and his stomach went into free-fall as he glanced at Mummy who was looking very much like the cat who ate the cream. His throat seemed to constrict and he gulped twice trying not to see his little brother watching.
“That’s twice you’ve rescued my daughter. You’re becoming quite the Sir Galahad,” Lord Hamilton said to Mycroft before turning to Sherlock and adding, “And thank you as well for your part. It won’t be long before you’ll be looking forward to kisses from all the young ladies you rescue, eh?”
“No, sir,” replied an alarmed-looking Sherlock.
“Oh, and why not?” asked a jovial Lord Hamilton.
In a loud, clear voice, Sherlock answered, “Because I’m a faggot.”
The room went still. For at least five seconds, not a person moved or even breathed, then Lord Hamilton broke out into belly laughs and everyone else began laughing in that way they do when they think a child has said something embarrassingly cute. Even Mummy smiled.
Sherlock’s forehead furrowed as he looked with a puzzled expression at each laughing person ending with Mycroft. Before Mycroft could say anything, Lord Hamilton leaned over and whispered into Sherlock’s ear, “Don’t tell anyone, but so’s my brother.”
With that, Father led everyone out to rejoin the last of the party. As they passed the door to the nursery, Mummy took Sherlock by the arm and directed him into his room. She followed.
“Where did you here that word?” Mummy asked.
Sherlock knew which word she meant. He said, “Lord Wickham-Villiers called Mycroft a fat faggot.”
“Did he?” The look on Mummy’s face made Sherlock feel all cold. Sherlock clarified his statement with, “Mycroft said it meant that he liked boys better than girls.”
“Don’t you like girls?”
Sherlock made a face and replied, “They’re dumb!”
Mummy crinkled her nose slightly and a faint smile played on her face as she said, “Not all of us.” Then the smile disappeared and she said, “But don’t use that term again. It’s not a nice term. It’s meant to hurt people.”
“What did Mycroft do when Lord Wickham-Villiers called him that term?”
“Mycroft asked him if a fat joke and a sex-u-al ep-i-thet was the best he could do?”
A smile twitched on one corner of Mummy’s lips before she said, “Good for Mycroft.”
“What’s a sex-u-al ep-i-thet? Mycroft said it had to do with sex.”
“What’s se— ”
“Not now, Sherlock. I have to get back to my party. Stay in your room until the party ends and I’ll have someone bring you cake.”
Sherlock made a face.
“You don’t want any cake?”
Sherlock shook his head.
Mummy raised an eyebrow. “What do you want?”
Sherlock’s eyes grew wide as he answered, “To play with Mycroft’s computer!”
Now it was Mummy’s eyes that went wide as she asked, “How do you know about Mycroft getting a computer for his birthday?”
Sherlock put his hand over his mouth and a look of guilt washed over his face.
“Never mind,” Mummy said, “I don’t know why your father and I think we can keep secrets from you two. You will have to negotiate with your brother about the computer.”
With that she left Sherlock alone.
It was several more hours before Mycroft returned followed by Father’s assistant carrying the new BBC Micro computer with great care. It was set on the nursery table with understanding that this was a temporary location until a suitable desk could be provided and that Sherlock was not to touch it without Mycroft’s express permission. The rest of Mycroft’s loot from his birthday party would remain downstairs until the morning when he would go through it with Mummy and write the necessary thank you cards.
Nanny brought dinner and set about straightening the room, treating the computer like an IRA bomb that might go off at any moment if she got too close. Then she left to help with the clean up downstairs. Mycroft ate distractedly with one hand, while reading the computer manual with the other. He barely bothered with attempting to persuade his little brother to eat more than a few bites, before eating Sherlock’s meal as well.
Sherlock remained unusually quiet and even got his own pajamas out for bed time. Mycroft was so absorbed in his manual, he ran his brother’s bath and didn’t notice Sherlock splashing about with his boats instead of actually washing. Sherlock dutifully got out when told to, brushed his teeth, and climbed into bed, while Mycroft continued to carefully committed the arcane instructions in his manual to memory.
It wasn’t until Mycroft had finished and was preparing for bed himself that awareness dawned on the now ten year-old that something was amiss. He lost no time in rounding up the usual suspect and asked, “Sherlock, what happened to my clothes and why is there cake in the laundry hamper?”
Sherlock shrugged, pushed the bent umbrella further under his bed with the toe of his shoe, and offered his defense. “Pirates.”
Mycroft tilted his head and stared down at his brother giving a look of disapproval filled with skepticism. Sherlock faced formed a rebellious pout. After a few seconds, Sherlock looked down. Mycroft started to say something, but stopped and gave his little brother an appraising look. Eventually, Mycroft said, “You were bored.”
A small “Yes” was directed by Sherlock to Mycroft’s slippers.
“The cake was stolen.”
“Plundered,” Sherlock corrected, looking up now in defiance.
Mycroft paused for a moment of thought and then stated, “I see. It ended on the rug when Tommy — ” Mycroft caught himself. It didn’t do to get into bad habits of expression. “Lord Wickham-Villiers and Graeme assaulted — that means struck — you which his how you smelled Mummy’s perfume on their shoes. You used the linens to clean up the mess and then threw everything into the hamper along with all my clothes that you played with. That’s what you didn’t want me to find out.”
Sherlock nodded silently. Mycroft studied his little brother for some moments before asking, “Why did you risk getting into trouble to save Bun — Lady Beatrice?”
Sherlock shrugged and then replied, “Because you said she was your friend. Your only friend.”
Sherlock scuffed his toes, twiddled his fingers, and looked around the room as Mycroft stared at him. Just as Sherlock was about to ask if he could go to the WC, Mycroft said, “Thank you.”
Mycroft said it very softly and very seriously and suddenly Sherlock felt all funny — happy and nervous and self-conscious and uncertain what to say. So he bent down and pulled Mycroft’s broken umbrella out from under the bed and offered it to his brother saying, “They broke you umbrella, too. Sorry.”
Mycroft sighed. He took the umbrella and leaned it’s parenthesis-shaped body against the bed table and said, “How would like to help me get the computer running?” As Sherlock streaked to the table where the system sat, Mycroft added a bit louder, “But don’t touch anything until I tell you to!”
## The End ##