Spooky Action at a Distance

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson looking shocked[Warning: This is a story about Einstein, quantum physics, and John “Three Continents” Watson in action. There’s an expletive not deleted and reference to the physical response of male anatomy. Apologies in advance to any physicists reading this for the liberties taken with the science. Hey, don’t blame me. You guys named it entanglement.]

 

by J. H. Watson

(~1,300 words)

A chilly autumn rain started again. Umbrellas popped up; a business man raised a newspaper above his head; a young man in a pea coat shook like a dog and said, “Fuck.” Sherlock Holmes huddled deeper into a door frame, watching the entrance to an alley down the street. He sipped the hot coffee he’d just purchased at the cafe on the corner. He frowned. He forgot the sugar.

#

John Watson glanced around the room as he took a sip of his coffee. He made a face, looked to his right and said to the woman beside him, “I’m sorry. Apparently, I just drank your coffee. I’ll buy you another.”

She looked up from her phone screen, smiled and asked, “Are you flirting with me?”

John thought the woman had a lovely smile. He returned it. “No. But I’d be happy to flirt with you if you’d like.”

“What made you say that’s not your coffee?”

“Someone’s put sugar in it.” He wrinkled his face remembering the cloying taste, looked around for its possible owner.

“Yes. You did.”

“I did?”

“I saw you.”

John set the cup firmly on the counter and stared at it. A small dark stain spread slowly towards him where the coffee slopped over on impact. Rings of coffee waves rippled from the center.

“Is everything all right?” the woman asked.

John studied the cup as he replied, “Yeah. It’s just I don’t drink sugar in my coffee. I never drink sugar in my coffee.”

The woman beamed another smile at him. “Ah. Spooky action at a distance.”

“What?” John thought, Oh, great. A nutter. A pretty nutter, but still…

“Einstein’s comment on quantum entanglement. Oh. Right. You aren’t with the conference.” John took the opportunity to glance down at the woman’s chest. It was a nice chest. Presently it was adorned with a name badge declaring her to be Dr. Chris Cooke attending the International Conference on Quantum Implications and Intelligent Systems Engineering. Dr. Cooke asked, “Do you know anyone who drinks coffee with sugar?”

“I… used to.”

“Two spoonsful?”

John looked up sharply. “How did you know that?”

“That’s what you put into your coffee.”

For a moment John felt weak. Dr. Cooke said, “Are you alright? You look a bit pale.”

“I’m… I’m fine.” John shoved the disturbing images from his mind. He concentrated on Dr. Cooke’s smile. “I guess I was just… spooked. Like Einstein.”

Dr. Cooke’s smile widened. “Ooh, I like that. You could say Einstein was spooked by quantum theory. I don’t suppose I could steal that for my lectures…”

“Feel free.”

“Thank you… You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”

“Sorry. Dr. John Watson.”

“Please to meet you, Dr. Watson.” Dr. Cooke looked at John and smiled again.

John held her gaze, returned an even wider smile and replied, “John, please. So what’s quantum… What did you call it?”

“Entanglement?”

“Quantum entanglement, right.”

“Well, you know how particles normally exist in their own state?”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Sometimes, two particles act on one another so that the pair can only be described as a single quantum state. We call that pair entangled.” As she spoke, Dr. Cooke’s eyes widened, and she leaned slightly forward.

John leaned in closer as she said, “When one particle spins right, the other spins left, even if they are millions of miles apart. The particles are always connected and they act on one another instantaneously, behaving as one. That’s why Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance.’” Their two heads were nearly touching now. John noticed the deeper blue-green flecks in her pale blue-grey eyes. Long dark lashes stroked creamy skin when she blinked. She continued in a sultry voice, “Einstein thought Quantum Mechanics flawed because the affect of one particle on the entangled partner appeared to be faster than the speed of light.”

“Fascinating. May I buy you a drink?”

“I don’t really think I need any more coffee. I’m stimulated enough.”

“There’s a very nice restaurant in this hotel and I’m sure it has a bar.”

“I suspect you’re right. There’s also a mini-bar in my room.”

John stood up and tossed some money on the counter as Dr. Cooke collected her bag. One of the bills landed in the spilled coffee, soaking it up, marking it.

#

Sherlock dropped the offending shopping bag on the sales counter. “Excuse me. You apparently gave me someone elses purchase.”

He glowered at the scrawny 26-year old sales clerk from Surrey who clearly had no medical need for those glasses nor the large quantity of alcohol, in unfortunate combinations, consumed the night before in a South London basement and on an East London rooftop, where she wound up cleaning the vomit off her shoes of someone male, judging by the aroma impregnating her sweater, who’d also consumed too much alcohol mixed with MMDA and West Indian soup made with an excess cumin. As she attempted to casually slip her phone under the counter, Sherlock observed she was looking for a new flat — and a new boyfriend.

The girl peered over her plastic frames at Sherlock for a moment before opening the bag and pulling out the sweater inside. “No. This is yours. It’s what you bought. I remember.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Do I look like someone who would wear…” Here words did not so much fail Sherlock as get censored by the filter of his former roommate. He waved an accusing and dismissive hand at the repugnant garment. “…That?”

The sweater was a deep red with black and white geometrics spreading from the neckline down to the shoulders and chest. Leather patches were stitched at the elbows on the sleeves. The yarn was a machine-washable blend. The sales clerk tilted her head and replied, “I thought you were trying to make an ironic statement.” Sherlock merely stared at her. She looked at the receipt and pushed it towards him. “Is that your signature?”

Sherlock glanced at the “Sigerson” scrawled in his writing. The strangled silence tightened between them as the sales clerk waited. “Yes,” he finally conceded.

“So I got it right and you’re returning it?”

“Yes.”

“It was a sale item.”

Sherlock waited this time, an eyebrow raised in question, until the clerk flicked a strand of her dark hair off her face, sighed in resignation, and added, “So I can only give you an exchange or in-store credit.”

“Fine. Where are your dress shirts? Perhaps a dark purple. Aubergine.”

The sale clerk sneered. “So you are wanting something ironic?”

#

“I like your shirt. I like a man who’s well-dressed but not boring.” Dr. Cooke said as she handed John a glass of scotch from the mini-bar and settled beside him on the sofa. She opened her laptop and turned it on.

“Oh, uh, thanks.”

She slid the laptop where he could see it as well and shifted beside him. “It’s a very good color for you. What do you call it? Thistle or heliotrope?”

“I call it purple.” John could feel the heat where their thighs touched. He took a sip of his drink. “You know, I went in to buy a sweater. I don’t know how I ended up with this shirt.”

“More spooky action. Maybe you’d be interested in seeing my abstract for the conference.” Dr. Cooke looked at John over the rim of her glass and arched an eyebrow.

John smiled, leaned towards her and said, “I’d love to see your abstract.”

#

Sherlock awoke in the small hours of the morning from a disconcerting dream about a school exam he’d forgotten to prepare for involving calculations for momentum and thrust. Under the covers he had an erection.

 

### End ###

 

 

 

 

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