There’s the rattle of the phone being picked up from the cradle and a long pause. The telly drones on in the background, hidden by the din of pots and pans and self-censored swearing.
“Hello,” a dark, cultured voice answers, smooth and undisturbed. The speaker stops in the middle of the street and turns around. “…who are you?”
“Sherlock.” The response is delivered with a matter-of-factness particular to five-year-olds. “Who’s this?”
“Sherlock Holmes,” comes the reply, delivered with a matter-of-factness particular to five-year-olds.
“No!” comes the appalled reply. Her frown is nearly audible. “It’s Sherlock Watson.”
He still doesn’t move.
“Sherlock Holmes,” he answers. Again. “Consulting Detective. Sort of. Only one in the world.”
“Why are you the only one?”
“Because I made it up. My method is based upon the observation of trifles. I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection.”
“Oh,” she replies. Then, “… can I be a concerning detective?”
“Yes. Of course you can. The world is full of things that nobody by chance ever observes,” he explains, walking on to try and find a quieter corner of London. “But eliminate all other factors and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
“ … improbable,” she whispers to herself. Diligently, she adds it to her mental list of words to ask her father for the meaning of.
“Is your father in, then? Don’t pass me to him, just tell me what he’s doing.”
She frowns for another two-point-five seconds.
“He’s cooking dinner,” she says, slyly peering around the corner at her father. The middle-aged man pulls out the kitchen knives from the block and replaces them one-by-one, muttering under his breath when he can’t find the blade being used by the television chef. “So we might have Chinese again.”
“Chinese,” Sherlock murmurs appreciatively. “Sounds good.” The taller man pauses, looking up for a moment. “Does he still order the chicken with ginger and green onion, with a side of special fried rice?”
The child adjusts the square phone in her small hands. “No,” she says, blinking. “I don’t like ginger. Or onion. So he gets sweet and sour sauce.”
He starts to walk again. He sucks cold air over his teeth.
“Quick question,” the former detective starts, half-glancing over his shoulder. “The bottom of your father’s jeans — are they worn a little bit, or are they faded at all? Can you have a look for me?”
She does. The good doctor turns around, still in search of his knife, and she dashes back behind the corner again.
“He isn’t wearing denims. He worked today.”
“Does he have a moustache?”
“He has one sometimes, after he’s been at the surgery too much,” she answers, candidly. “Oh, and in photos — but that was before I knowed him.”
She scratches her nose and thinks. She remembers the wedding photos, stashed in cardboard boxes under the steps, collecting dust.
“… did you know my dad when he had a moustache?”
“Yes,” Sherlock replies, slipping into a café and nodding at the waitress. He seats himself at a table and drums his long fingers. “It was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. He got rid of it after I told him so. That is, after he chinned me. Twice.”
“Twice?” she repeats, considering this for a moment. “Did he miss the first time?”
Sherlock laughs. It’s a deep, dark sound, like oncoming thunder. “He didn’t miss the first time. He was very cross with me.”
The young Watson has wild, fair hair that sticks up in an unreasonable mess of clumpy curls. It’s as conspicuous as a flag at sea, and her father notices it peering around the corner again.
“Willow,” the doctor starts. “Who’s on the phone?”
The detective silently tests the name in his mouth.
Willow. Willow Watson. Concerning Detective.
“It’s Sherlock!” she shouts back.
“Alright, Sherlock,” John sighs, loudly. Although his voice is tinged with irritation and impatience, it rings with ease and familiarity and love. “Who are you chatting with?”
She disappears from sight.
“Is it your aunt Harry?”
“… how old are you?” the man on the other end of the line asks after a moment.
“I’m five,” she continues, whispering frantically as her father approaches, wiping his hands on a tea towel and tossing it over a shoulder. “So how come I never seen you afore?”
“I went away five years ago.” He pauses, and starts to count the minutes. “It was only meant to be a six month contract, but it took longer. I didn’t keep in touch.” He’s more truthful than he needs to be, than he should be, but Sherlock can’t help himself. “I’ve missed London.”
“You should stay in London, then.”
“I’ll have to get to know her again,” the detective warmly replies.
“You should also come see Da,” she says, decidedly. “Because I’ve never met someone with the same name as me before.”
“I’m not sure your Dad would be comfortable seeing me, Willow,” Sherlock says the statement as gently as he can, but it still hurts. “It’s been a long time.”
Dr. Watson stops in the doorway and authoritatively holds out his hand for the phone; she squeaks and scampers off.
“Sherlock, I’m not chasing after you again!”
The detective wonders if she gets in trouble much, or if she’s good, like John.
“I should go, Willow.”
The taller man swallows whatever it is that’s building in his chest and sinks down like a child into his chair.
“Good night, Miss Watson.”
He hangs up quickly, without decorum, and exhales for one long, singular moment.
(I wrote this piece with my lovely wife, Ms. Watson~. We wrote it as a role-play so please excuse any discrepancies or repetitiveness that comes with writing in a different format. That said, she did help me edit it – and did so beautifully, I might add. I would be lost without her, as it turns out. You can find her art here if you like; bits of her written work should be on there too, somewhere. I love her writing regardless, and I’m so happy I got to share this with you.)