Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, seven and fourteen respectively, took turns describing the lesser people on the street to each other. The weather was dreary that morning, and the brothers’ feet smacked loudly against the wet pavement. Off in the distance, through the fog that had rolled in, a tall building stood out among the various homes lining the streets. This building was the school.
When they reached the school, the boys could see the mass of children, previously obscured by the fog, which had been converging outside of the doors to the elementary. Some were in tears, clinging to their parents’ pant legs, while others jumped excitedly and babbled to the others. Giving the woman who he could already tell was the teacher a disapproving look, Sherlock asked “How can she be a teacher after that?”
Without having to inquire as to what secret his younger brother’s eyes had stripped from the teacher, Mycroft replied “She hid it well.”
“Be careful.” He added warningly. “People don’t like it when you tell them all about their own lives.” Then he left, walking briskly in the direction of where his own class would be waiting.
Hearing bustling behind him, Sherlock turned away from his sibling’s retreating figure and went, along with the other kids, into the classroom. The teacher greeted herself enthusiastically to her class, whom she had given permission to sit wherever they liked. Sherlock hadn’t, after letting his observant eyes sweep over the other students, found anyone especially appealing to sit beside, so he had chosen a blonde that appeared less annoying than the rest. One by one, the children stood, gave their name, and told the others something interesting about themselves. Several introductions Sherlock found easy to guess, while others he found plain stupid, like “Moo!” or some other absurd animal noise. Finally, the boy he had opted to sit next to stood and introduced himself.
“My name is John Watson. I like going on adventures.” John smiled, not finding this proclamation silly, but brave. After several giggles and whispers of “me too”, John sat, and Sherlock’s turn arrived.
“My name is Sherlock Holmes, and I deduce things about everyone and everything.” He immediately sat down afterwards. From all around him, he heard kids debating over what “deduce” meant. After a few moments, the teacher regained her composure and said “Oh, that’s wonderful. Next?” While the next student took their turn across the aisle, John leaned towards Sherlock and asked quietly “What did you mean? What’s ‘deduce’?”
“It means that I figure things out about people and things without being told.” He replied without a moment of thought. John was genuinely curious about this skill, and voiced this curiosity.
“Take that kid over there for instance.” Sherlock motioned his head towards said child. “Her father’s a drinker.”
Craning his neck to see this girl, John asked, surprised, “How can you tell?”
Sherlock had never actually explained the process before; he usually only talked to Mycroft, who could essentially read his mind. “Look at their wrists.” He commanded, determined to elaborate on his deductions.
John squinted at the little girl’s wrists. “I don’t think I see it…” He admitted.
“You see. You just don’t observe.” Sherlock said. “Her wrists are red. You can see where they’ve been squeezed.”
“I still don’t understand…” John frowned, growing more confused than before.
“Now, look at her jewelry.” Sherlock said, feeling slightly disappointed when, like before, John didn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. Again, he ventured to provide an explanation.
“They’re brand new. Look at how they shine.”
“But… She might have just cleaned them.”
“No, no…” Sherlock sighed. “Obviously new.”
Looking quite defeated, John said “I really don’t get it. Can you please just tell me?” Sherlock put a stop to the quizzing, just as John had asked, and filled in the missing links.
“She’s been abused, but she’s also been given gifts to make up for it. Probably a drunk father who tries to make up with her when he’s sober.”
John, who, thanks to his family and their company, was well acquainted with these terms, inquired further. “How do you know it wasn’t her mom or something?”
“The marks were made by big, strong hands. So, a man. If it was someone besides her father, I’m sure that her parents would have put a stop to it by now. So, father it is.”
As their conversation had gone on, the two had slowly forgotten about the others occupying the room. Their voices had risen enough for everyone else present to hear, which they had.
The girl with the drunkard father burst into tears as soon as Sherlock had finished, proving that he had been entirely right. The teacher grabbed his wrist, dragged him to the girl’s desk, and demanded that he give a sincere apology. With a dull look painted on his face, he said clearly, “I’m sorry.” This wasn’t sincere enough for the teacher, who made Sherlock sit back down in his seat. Meanwhile, the others began to play with toys from bins in the corner and draw on colorful paper with scented markers. When he felt that the teacher wouldn’t see, John returned to his place beside Sherlock and said “It was amazing how you did that!”
Sherlock flushed at the compliment and said “Thank you.”
“Have you ever gone on an adventure?” John asked, looking excited.
“What do you mean by ‘adventure’?”
“Exploring, battling bad guys, and fun things like that! You’d be great at it!” John received a quizzical look for this. Surely whatever explorations John went on and the so-called bad guys he encountered were all imaginary.
“Or,” John added as the idea struck him, “we could solve mysteries!”
This seemed a bit more promising. “What kind of mysteries?”
“Like, when people steal things. You can do your deduce to find them!”
“You use ‘deductions’ there.” Sherlock corrected, though John didn’t listen. Instead, he babbled on about all of the things that Sherlock could use his “deduce” for. The one-sided conversation was cut short, however, when the teacher returned and marched John away from Sherlock, now a delinquent of sorts in her mind.
Later that day, when school had been let out, Sherlock exited the building and was greeted by Mycroft, who had been soaked by the rain that had just started falling. Joining his brother for a wet walk home, Sherlock listened to his brother try to determine how his day had been spent. He found it humorous when Mycroft never picked up on the role that John had played in everything. Noticing this, Mycroft asked, “What did I miss?”
Instead of answering his brother, Sherlock grinned. “Try to figure it out tomorrow.”
Adopting the same grin, Mycroft said “Oh, so I have to keep trying every day until I get it? Interesting little game, brother dear.”
The rain persisted the next day, though this time the Holmes brothers were prepared with an umbrella. After bidding Mycroft a sarcastic good-luck in their game, Sherlock walked into the classroom, where his steamed teacher was waiting for him.
“What’s happened to my chalk?” she interrogated him, her tone suggesting that she’d forgotten his young age.
“I don’t know; what has happened to it?” Sherlock returned blandly.
“It’s gone, every last piece of it! Care to explain that?” the teacher gestured towards the chalkboard. On it, in extremely sloppy handwriting, was a mess of random letters. “That wasn’t there when I left yesterday.”
Sighing, Sherlock said “That’s because some middle schoolers wrote it.”
Growing more suspicious by the second, the teacher retorted “And how would you know that?”
Trying to remember how he’d explained his deductions to John the previous day, Sherlock said, nodding towards the door, “When I left yesterday, I saw footprints in the mud leading into the school. They were too big to be a kid’s, but too small to be an adult’s. Besides, parents don’t go into the school. Now, there are some elementary students who have big feet, but there were several sets of footprints. I doubt that the largest the school’s got to offer decided to take a stroll into the building that they should’ve already been in.” When the teacher didn’t form a response quickly enough, Sherlock decided to continue. “There are several windows in the hallway, and one of them was open this morning. That’s how they got out after you’d gone.”
“That’s absurd!” the teacher said in disbelief. Then, turning once more towards the chalkboard, she asked “What business would they have writing that, anyway?”
“Is it a code?”
John had arrived and wandered over to listen in on their conversation. Nodding, Sherlock said “Yes, good job.”
“Why would they write a code…?” the teacher asked skeptically.
“Because it’s a game. It should tell us why they took the chalk or where it is now. Too short to be both.” While he said this, Sherlock grabbed a sheet of construction paper and a marker, with which he started jotting things down. Joining Sherlock at the table he was working at, John watched curiously as letters were matched up and actual words started to form. Within a minute, Sherlock had deciphered the message, which he held up for the teacher to read. It read:
“merry christmas we hope you like your gift”
The teacher was speechless, possibly because her chalk had been stolen by middle schoolers celebrating Christmas early, possibly because her seven-year-old student had just solved a cipher before her very eyes. Either way, she said nothing.
“They must have left us something, but where…?” Sherlock began looking around quickly.
“I always find my gifts under the tree.” John commented helpfully.
“Ah, that’s it!” Sherlock dashed out of the classroom, followed by his teacher and John. The other students, fascinated but afraid to leave the room, crowded around the window to watch as the party emerged outside and ran through the rain to the only tree growing near the school.
“That’s… chalk!” the teacher stared at the unopened box of chalk lying at the foot of the tree. It even had a bow on it.
“They really think it’s Christmas!” John laughed.
“No, they don’t.” Sherlock said, putting a stop to John’s laughter.
“Then, where’s my old chalk?” the teacher asked Sherlock, convinced that the boy had all of the answers.
“It’s like they’re playing a game… They wouldn’t have needed your chalk, so they probably just threw it away.” As he spoke, Sherlock started walking towards the window that the teens were thought to have escaped through, his feet squishing in the mud. Not far from the window were several garbage bins. Just as Sherlock had predicted, there were colorful pieces of chalk on top of the older trash.
Amazed with her little “delinquent”, the teacher asked “Was this just some kind of prank?”
Realization dawning over him, Sherlock answered “Sure…”
When the trio reentered the classroom, they were greeted by applause from the class. One child had actually tried his hand at making confetti, which now littered the floor. After (mostly) restoring order to the classroom, the teacher began the lesson that she had planned. Now that the first day of play was over, it was time for work.
Sherlock joined Mycroft under their umbrella after school.
“Your pocket looks lighter. How much did you pay them?” Sherlock asked.
Mycroft laughed. “So, you figured out that I hired them?”
“Of course you hired them, it was obvious. What was the point?”
“I just wanted to play a game, brother dear. By the way, you’ve made a friend, I see.”
Sherlock grinned. “You win. And I’ve won your game.”
Mycroft patted his younger brother on the head.