This update contains some references to the EU Referendum and Brexit, in a conversation between Mycroft and Lady S, near the beginning of the chapter.
Mycroft stepped out of the staff car and nodded his thanks to the chauffeur, standing deferentially to one side and holding the car door open, before making his way up the steps to the front door of the elegant Georgian terrace that contained his Grace and Favour residence. Once inside the spacious entrance hall, he took the stairs to the first floor – slowly, wearily, one step at a time. It had been a long and extremely tiresome day and his body clock was telling him it was time for his customary balloon of brandy, a fitting reward for a hard day's work. But he had to remind himself that the contents of the drinks cabinet were still off limits, by order of Lady Smallwood, the keeper of the key, so he would have to make do with a nice, refreshing cup of tea.
On reaching the first-floor landing, he encountered Wilder, standing at the entrance to his flat, dutifully waiting to take his coat.
'Good evening, sir,' the factotum signed, having folded the great coat neatly over his arm.
'Good evening, Wilder,' Mycroft returned. 'Is Her Ladyship at home?'
'In the sitting room, sir,' the valet replied.
'I'll take my tea there, then, thank you.'
'Very good, sir,' Wilder nodded, deferentially, and waited for Mycroft to walk away before turning to hang up the great coat and then making his way to the kitchen to prepare the tea tray.
'Ah, Mycroft!' Alicia exclaimed, looking up from the sheaf of government papers that she had been perusing. 'How was it?' she asked, as Mycroft flopped onto the sofa opposite, with a great sigh of relief to be home, at last.
He knew without asking that the 'it' she referred to was the encounter between his mother and Eve Mathews, that morning. He and the good doctor had had ample opportunity to discuss the meeting – which had lasted a full two hours - in detail, during the car journey back to London.
'Surprisingly well,' Mycroft replied. 'Mummy was quite forthcoming about her conflicting feelings towards her brother. She accepts that he took advantage of their close relationship in order to further his own ambitions. She says she can never forgive him for taking her daughter from her and locking her up in that 'dreadful place', as she refers to Sherrinford. But she offsets that with her immense gratitude for the invaluable assistance he gave to me, through my education and early career in the Civil Service. She still can't recognise that as manipulation.'
'Similarly,' he went on, 'with reference to the loan Rudi gave to my father, after the fire – not to mention how he persuaded her to insist we all move to Musgrave Hall in the first place – she still believes that Rudi's intensions were good. But, on the plus side, she has agreed to further meetings with Eve… Oh! And she no longer believes that Eurus is a psychopathic mass murderer, so that's a step in the right direction.'
'And what about Rudi's role in the death of Victor Trevor? Any progress there?' Alicia enquired.
'They didn't even touch on that,' Mycroft replied. 'Eve felt it was too big an issue to broach at this stage of the process. It's likely to be the most traumatic aspect of the whole situation – confronting the fact that her dear brother actively plotted the demise of a small child and groomed another small child to lure the victim to his death, thus framing her for the murder.'
Alicia pursed her lips in recognition that there was to be no 'quick fix' for Maura Holmes.
It was at that appropriate moment that Wilder entered the room, bearing the tea tray, and placed it on the coffee table between the two sofas before stepping back to ask,
'Would you like me to pour?'
'No, thank you,' Alicia signed back, with a smile. 'We'll take it from here.'
With a nod of his head, the valet left the room and made his way to the dining room to finish laying the table for supper.
'I heard about your meeting with the PM,' Alicia declared, as she poured tea for them both.
Mycroft's brow furrowed and he gave an involuntary groan.
'The man is a complete idiot!' he exclaimed.
The meeting that afternoon had been to discuss the Post-BREXIT Impact Assessment carried out by the Department for Trade and Industry, with particular reference to the Port of Dover. It made for very alarming reading, warning of mile upon mile of lorries queuing for hours – if not days – waiting to gain access to the roll-on, roll off ferry port, once the United Kingdom became a Third Country, outside the European Union, following what had become know as a 'Hard Brexit'.
'He is still convinced that the Vote Leave campaign will fail, despite the fact that UKIP and those rogues at Tufton Street have been preparing for this Referendum for the best part of twenty-five years, willingly aided and abetted by the Right-Wing press, who have gleefully spread anti-European propaganda, propagating myths about banned bendy bananas and unelected bureaucrats…!'
Mycroft took a gulp of tea, in an attempt to assuage his frustration.
'Well, as one unelected bureaucrat to another,' Alicia remarked, 'we must do what we can to hold the line and mitigate the worst consequences of such recklessness. But I do so wish the PM hadn't announced that, whatever the result of the referendum, the government would implement it.'
Mycroft was only just beginning to appreciate the advantages of being able to vent his spleen, in the privacy of his own home, to someone who was not only knowledgeable on the subject matter but shared his point of view.
'Ah, that was the first of many basic school boy errors!' he snorted. 'As a mandatory referendum, nothing less than a 60/40 split would have triggered such a dramatic constitutional change. But as an advisory referendum, even a 51/49 result will now have to be enacted, since the PM has voluntarily committed to that course of action, potentially splitting the electorate right down the middle. Whichever side loses, they're not going to accept such a narrow result. This can only end badly for all concerned.'
'Not least the Irish,' Alicia sighed. 'The Good Friday Agreement, predicated as it is on the fact that both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom are EU member states, will be in serious jeopardy were the UK to leave.' She had been speaking to the Irish Taoiseach on this very subject earlier in the day. 'Mr Kenny is most concerned.'
'As well he might be,' Mycroft huffed. 'If only the PM shared some of that concern.' He took another swig of tea and tried not to imagine how much more efficacious a swig of brandy might have been.
'However, on a different but equally vexing topic...' Alicia continued, '...I'm painfully aware that, until we can complete the enquiry into Eurus's incarceration in Sherrinford, we have Sir Edwin languishing in a cell at the River House, noisily demanding his right of Habeus Corpus – which is rather ironic, to say the least, under the circumstances. The Select Committee of Enquiry needs to hear evidence from both Eurus and Charlotte, so we may establish to what degree Edwin is culpable and come to a decision about what to do with him.'
Mycroft frowned and rubbed his brow. Edwin was undoubtedly facing a long custodial sentence for his part in the whole sorry affair but, the main question was, where?
'Yes, I agree. The sooner they can present their evidence the better,' he conceded.
'To that end, I've invited your sister and her partner to London, to appear before the committee in person.'
'Ah', Mycroft nodded, immediately extrapolating that the two women would need to be accommodated. 'Well, there are rooms to spare at Rudi's house but I hardly think Eurus would wish to be reminded of her previous stays there - all the Christmases and birthdays when she was furloughed from Sherrinford for a few short days, only to be reincarcerated after a brief taste of relative freedom.'
'No, dear, I think not,' Alicia agreed.
'Then Anthea must arrange for them to stay at one of the department's safe houses…'
'Oh, no need!' Alicia declared. 'I've invited them to stay at my house and they have accepted. It provides all the security they are likely to need, far more discreetly than they would experience at any of the safe houses. They'll be comfortable there. It will allow them to relax, between sessions.'
'An excellent suggestion,' Mycroft agreed. 'So, have you set a date? When can we expect them?'
'They'll be arriving a week tomorrow.' Alicia rarely let the grass grow under her feet. When something needed doing, she got it done.
'I've convened the Select Committee to hear their evidence on Thursday and Friday – and the following Monday, too, if necessary.' There was a lot of ground to cover – thirty-odd years' worth.
'Well, my dear, you seem to have thought of everything,' Mycroft remarked, unaware of how patronising that comment might seem. Fortunately, Alicia recognised that this was not his intent and did not take offense.
'Anyway, enough shop talk!' she exclaimed, drawing a firm line under that conversation. 'I have more important news...' she announced. 'I had a little chat with your sister…'
'Oh?' Mycroft was curious to know what plots his partner may have been hatching with his sibling, since their 'chat' was clearly not about official business.
'Well, as your mother is anxious to meet with her daughter – and Eurus has stated a preference for this first encounter to take place on neutral ground, which I fully understand – I thought I might invite your parents to visit on the Saturday or Sunday, dependant on how resilient Eurus is feeling, of course.' The ordeal of rehashing all those years of imprisonment for the benefit of the enquiry would no doubt take its toll.
Mycroft gave a wry smile.
'Why, you really have thought of everything!' he exclaimed.
'Have I over-stepped the mark?' Alicia entreated.
'Not at all,' he assured her, with a fond smile. 'I am in awe of you, as you well know, and also immensely grateful. And,' he added, 'I have some news of my own.'
It was Alicia's turn to be intrigued.
'Since the opportunity somehow presented itself, I have advised my parents of our…arrangement – well, I've told my father, at least. He will have informed my mother by now, no doubt.' He was slightly surprised that he hadn't yet heard from his mother. After all, it had been several hours since he had left his parents' home, plenty of time for his father to let the cat out of the bag.
'And how was that news received?' Alicia asked, quietly amused by his use of the word 'arrangement'.
'Surprisingly well, actually. Papa seemed quite pleased.'
'Well, of course he would be,' Alicia assured him. What man would not be pleased to see his son happily ensconced in a loving relationship? 'And I'm sure your mother will be, too, once she gets used to the idea. I look forward to meeting them both.'
'Perhaps that weekend?' Mycroft ventured.
'Perhaps,' she replied. It was best not to be too ambitious with the scheduling of that particular weekend. 'But you had better mention to Sherlock that Eurus is travelling south. I'm sure he will want to see her and she him.'
As if on cue, the kitchen timer, that had been sitting unobtrusively on the coffee table, next to the tea tray, throughout their conversation, suddenly emitted a series of short, insistent beeps.
'Ah! Supper is ready!' Alicia exclaimed and the two rose in unison, to make their way to the dining room.
Eurus rolled slowly and carefully away from her sleeping partner, to the furthest edge of the generously proportioned bed and slipped out from under the duvet to stand on the bedside rug. She turned to check that Charlotte was still sleeping then tiptoed from the room, pulling the door to behind her. Crossing the broad landing, she entered the sitting room and closed the door quietly, before she crossed to the nearest window and stood looking down on the street below. The deserted road, illuminated only by the dim orange light of the street lamp opposite, testified to the lateness of the hour. All was quiet. Nothing moved, except for the gentle sway of leafless branches on the trees and bushes in the central square, stirred by the chill Winter wind, casting shadows like spikey fingers on the pavement.
Then something caught her eye - a slim, dark shape trotting brazenly up the middle of the street, before veering off and disappearing through one of the gaps in the Victorian, cast iron perimeter railings, into the square beyond.
'Good night, Mr Fox,' Eurus murmured, 'or should that be 'Good morning'?. Probably the latter, she thought.
Yesterday had been quite a day and she was still rationalising everything that had happened.
Her first session with Dr McKenzie, her new therapist, had not gone at all as expected – perhaps because her previous experiences of 'therapy' had been the Sherrinford version, more akin to interrogation than treatment.
'How was your journey here, Ms Holmes?' Dr McKenzie started as he meant to go on, in a relaxed, conversational manner.
Eurus was rather taken aback by that left-field question and so gave the stock reply.
'It was fine, thank you.'
'Really?' he queried. 'No anxiety? No trepidation?'
Well, come to think of it, there had been quite a bit of anxiety – not in anticipation of what the session might hold but just about the actual journey. Stepping outside the security of Charlotte's home – even straight into a waiting cab - was still difficult.
'There was a degree of trepidation, yes,' Eurus conceded, 'but Charlotte was there to hold my hand' – both actually and metaphorically.
'How many times have you been outside since you left Sherrinford – and I don't mean out in the garden, I mean 'Out' out?'
'Does a visit to a hair salon qualify as 'Out' out?' Eurus enquired.
'Indeed it does,' he confirmed. 'Was that during normal business hours?'
Eurus had to concede it was not. The visit to the hair salon had been arranged out of hours, as a special favour on the part of the proprietor for a valued regular customer - Charlotte herself.
'Not out in the Real World, then, so to speak?'
'I suppose not.'
'So, technically, you're still imprisoned,' declared the doctor.
'I suppose I am,' she agreed.
The rest of the session, which was intentionally short, so as not to over-stress the patient, was spent discussing ways that Eurus could begin to adjust to being 'free'. They agreed that she should step outside the house at least once a day, every day, on her own, beginning with literally just stepping outside the front door, onto the pavement and standing there for as long as she could bear it before rising panic compelled her to step back inside. They discussed ways in which these excursions into the outside world could be extended, such as walking to the end of the road and back, crossing the road and walking around the central square, perhaps sitting in the park for a short time and becoming acquainted with the other residents of the square, who might be walking there, too.
Eurus could see how these small increments could be achievable, especially with Charlotte's support, and could eventually lead to her being rehabilitated and integrated back into society.
The doctor, who asked to be called Xander…
'Short for 'Alexander', my grandfather's name,' he explained…
also suggested she write a memoir about her experiences in Sherrinford.
'Are you familiar with the 'Guantanamo Diary'?' he asked, which Eurus was not.
'Ah, I'm not surprised, actually. It's only recently been published. It's an account of one man's experience of being held by the Americans, without trial, for fourteen years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. It's heavily redacted, I might say, so some of the more egregious details are missing – we can but hope that an unredacted version might one day be permitted – and I'm not suggesting you read it yourself since it might be rather triggering. I'm just siting it as an example of the genre. I feel that writing about your experiences might be quite cathartic and could help you to come to terms with what happened to you. And it would be most useful for me to hear your version of events without you having to sit here and talk about it. What do you think?'
Eurus thought it quite ironic that someone who had been denied any form of writing implement for her entire adult life – she had been sixteen when Rudi decided that allowing her the means to potentially communicate outside the four walls of her cell would be too dangerous – was now being actively encouraged to do just that. But the idea appealed to her greatly. So much so, that she could hardly get home fast enough and sit down in front of Charlotte's laptop, open up a blank Word document, and begin writing.
She had written for three hours straight – just a random selection of anecdotes about particular events that had come to mind. At some point, she would probably organise them into a chronological order but, for now, they were just a stream of consciousness - whatever popped into her head. She may well have continued with her task had the phone call from London not interrupted her.
'Eurus,' said Charlotte, upon entering the sitting room, her mobile phone in hand. 'It's someone from the Home Office. They wish to speak to us both.'
Eurus closed the lid of the laptop as Charlotte sat next to her on the sofa and placed the mobile phone on the coffee table, switching it to 'speaker'.
'We're both here, now,' Charlotte announced and a voice she recognised replied.
'Ah, good afternoon, ladies. I must apologise for my rude intrusion upon your day. I hope you're both well?'
It was the woman who had called the other day, to tell Sherlock about his mother's accident – Alicia, was it?
'We're both well, thank you,' Charlotte replied, hesitantly, wondering who this woman – obviously an acquaintance of both Sherlock and Mycroft – actually was and why she wanted to speak, most specifically, to them both at once.
'Excellent!' the woman replied. 'I'm very glad to hear it. My name is Lady Alicia Smallwood. I'm the current Home Secretary but, please, don't let that fact influence your response to what I am about to say.' There was a short pause, during which Eurus and Charlotte exchanged a bemused look. 'I have a huge favour to ask…'
Lady Smallwood went on to explain about the Committee of Enquiry and how the evidence of both women was crucial to the Government making an informed decision about what action should be taken – concerning not only Sir Edwin but also the future of Sherrinford, itself – concluding with her asking them to travel to London…
'The Home Office will provide transport, door to door, and accommodation at the expense of the state.'
…to give evidence in person and, if so, how soon that might be feasible.
'We accept!' exclaimed Eurus, speaking for them both.
The three hours spent tapping out her lived experiences on the laptop had emboldened her to have her story heard.
'How soon do you want us there?'
'The latter part of next week would be the soonest I can convene the committee,' Lady Smallwood replied. 'Would that be convenient?'
And so, it was agreed that Eurus and Charlotte would travel down to London the following Wednesday.
Having concluded this business, it was assumed that the Home Secretary would say her goodbyes but, instead, she asked if she could speak to Eurus on a more personal matter.
Since she was already aware that this high-ranking member of Her Majesty's Government was a personal friend to both Holmes brothers, Eurus agreed.
'Would you like me to leave the room?' Charlotte asked, at which Eurus shook her head vehemently, so she remained in place.
Alicia went on to suggest the meeting between Eurus and her mother be scheduled for the following weekend, with the caveat that – should Eurus feel too fragile at that point – it could be deferred to a later date.
Eurus and Charlotte both felt that this would be a good plan. Eurus was not ready to invite her mother into her new home. Alternative accommodation would have had to be arranged for the meeting. This way, if things went a bit pear-shaped, they could curtail the meeting without feeling guilty for dragging the octogenarian all the way to Scotland. This agreed, Alicia invited them to stay in her own home in London.
'You will have the place to yourselves,' she explained. 'I am currently co-habiting with Mycroft at his grace and favour residence in Knightsbridge.'
It was at that point that the penny dropped and they realised that Lady Alicia Smallwood was, in fact, brother Mycroft's paramour. They exchanged a look of stunned surprise and then had to work very hard to hold it together to the end of the conversation – which came mercifully quickly – before exploding in a fit of giggles.
That had been the most surprising aspect of the whole day. Mycroft 'The Iceman' Holmes – so named by that psychopathic but generally astute individual, James Moriarty – had a girlfriend…or, rather, a 'lady friend'. And an actual 'Lady', at that.
Eurus stood by the window, pondering this revelation, curious to meet this lady who had broken through Mycroft's icy demeanour and melted his heart. Next week would be very interesting, on a number of different fronts.
'Are you OK?' came a voice from the doorway.
Eurus turned to see Charlotte entering the room, looking almost ghostly in her long, white, cotton nightdress.
'Yes, I'm fine,' Eurus replied her, with a smile. 'Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you.'
'You didn't,' Charlotte assured her, reaching out and inviting Eurus into her embrace. 'My bladder woke me. I desperately needed to pee,' she explained. They both chuckled at that.
'And I don't know about you but I'm still processing the idea of Mycroft being in love,' she added, resting her cheek on the top of Eurus's head as Eurus pressed herself into the curve of Charlotte's body, luxuriating in that deep sense of contentment that came from being in the arms of the person she loved and who loved her in return.
'Yes,' Eurus agreed, 'I think we've all seriously misjudged him.'
'Well, I think you can be forgiven for that. He was, after all, your chief gaoler for the last eleven years – or so we thought.' Charlotte stroked the back of her partner's head and let her land settle at the nape of Eurus's neck
'Actually, I wasn't even thinking of that,' Eurus mused, 'I always assumed he was gay.'
'Or asexual,' said Charlotte. 'That's what I would have thought, had I actually given it any thought.'
'Well, how wrong we both were!' Eurus giggled and tilted her head to press a kiss to the soft skin of Charlotte's cheek. 'Thank you,' she murmured.
'For what?' Charlotte asked. 'Being completely wrong about your brother's sexuality?'
'Nooo,' Eurus mock-chided, easing back to gaze earnestly into Charlotte's eyes. 'For rescuing me from that awful place.'
'Well, I believe it was actually Mycroft and Sherlock who did the rescuing, if I remember rightly,' Charlotte demurred, dropping a playful kiss on the end of Eurus's nose.
'They provided the cavalry,' Eurus agreed, 'but it never would have happened without your intervention. If you hadn't taken my side...'
There was that 'gratitude' thing, again - the thing that always raised a question in Charlotte's mind as to the true origin of Eurus's attachment to her.
'I only did what any decent, moral human being would have done,' Charlotte insisted, consciously suppressing her doubts.
'Then how fortunate am I that the such a decent, moral human being chose to come and work at that hell hole!' Eurus exclaimed.
Charlotte's brow furrowed. She always felt uncomfortable when anyone – Eurus, especially – alluded to her decision to take the job at Sherrinford.
She had jumped at the chance to work there, as it gave her a unique opportunity to study an unusually large sample of that very rare phenomenon – the criminally insane. And not just your average psychopaths – serial killers and the like. These were people who, driven by dark and inhuman compunctions, indulged their most extreme fantasies without any thought or feeling for their victims or consideration for the possible consequences. They were monsters, one and all. And they fascinated her. Altruism had played no part in her decision-making process.
But all those years ago, when she arrived on that tiny rocky outcrop - such an insignificant dot in the middle of the Irish Sea – the last thing she had expected was to meet the love of her life. And, by that, she did not mean her husband.
Yes, she had been attracted to David - he was a very attractive man - and when she accepted his proposal of marriage, after a relatively brief acquaintance, she knew it was a marriage of convenience rather than a match made in heaven, for both of them. For her, it provided a standard of living that she could not have attained on her own income alone. For him, it gave a degree of respectability as a 'married man'. And she did feel a certain fondness for him and believed he was fond of her, too. And perhaps he was, in his own way. But that didn't stop him indulging in dalliances whenever the opportunity presented itself – which was pretty much every time he left the island, for whatever reason. He even betrayed his marriage vows with other female staff members on the island, which was particularly embarrassing because these women were her colleagues and she felt – quite rightly – that David's blatant infidelities undermined her authority with these women. She often had the impression they were laughing at her behind her back and, every now and then, it manifested itself in outright insubordination, which left Charlotte feeling exposed and unsupported.
No. The love of Charlotte's life came in the form of Patient A, the lone, female, long-term resident of the Special Unit which had been hacked out of the solid rock, beneath the main facility, especially for her.
After Dr Taylor departed Sherrinford for fresh fields and pastures new, Charlotte moved up the pecking order and Patient A came under her purview. She had been aware of the existence of the Special Unit, of course, and was more than curious about its occupant, especially because of all the extra security protocols which surrounded this patient – always a minimum of two staff to deal with her at all times, constant video surveillance - kept as a permanent record, never to be deleted - and a complete ban on any kind of psychological assessment. That was the biggest anomaly. What sort of psychiatric facility banned psychological assessment of its inmates?
The first time she came face to face with Patient A, she was wary, to say the least. The patient's penchant for brain-washing her carers, bending them to her will simply by talking to them, was the stuff of legends throughout the facility. What Charlotte found surprised her.
When she looked into Eurus's eyes on that very first day – albeit through the barrier of a glass wall – what she did not see was the dead-eyed gaze of a psychopath.
'So, it's true then?' said Eurus.
'What is true?' Charlotte asked.
'Dr Taylor has moved on.'
'Yes, he has,' Charlotte confirmed.
Eurus sighed and her shoulders seemed to slump, though almost imperceptibly.
'Oh, well. I suppose that's that, then,' she murmured before turning and walking over to the single bed and sitting down, in a pensive pose. After a few moments, she looked up again and fixed Charlotte with an appraising gaze.
'Well, at least you're female,' she said, at last.
'Is that important to you?' Charlotte enquired. She was aware that all the staff attached to the unit, up until now, had been male.
Eurus gave a little huff of amusement and then shrugged.
'It's nice to have a bit of female company, don't you think? I mean, I don't suppose we'll ever be BFFs but, who knows? Maybe we'll synch our menstrual cycles? I believe that happens sometimes, amongst female acquaintances.'
As it turned out, she was wrong on both counts…
'Earth to Charlotte, come in, please,' Eurus quipped.
'Sorry, darling,' Charlotte sighed, hugging Eurus closer. 'I was just thinking what a happy accident it was to be offered the job at Sherrinford. I can't imagine my life without you in it…actually, I can,' she corrected. 'And it sucks!'
'Did you say it sucks?' Eurus snorted with amusement, inclining her head to stare in mock disbelief at her partner.
'Oh, my God! I think I did!' Charlotte gasped. 'What have you done to me, Eurus Holmes?'
'Turned you, of course. It's my superpower, you know,' Eurus replied, nodding sagely. It was a mark of how far she'd come, being able to joke about this intrinsic element of Rudi's insidious plot.
'This lady's all for turning,' Charlotte murmured, inclining her head to capture her partner's lips in a lingering kiss, which was reciprocated with a passion and intensity which dispelled any remaining doubts she may have had about Eurus's true feelings for her.
'Come to bed,' she said, softly, taking Eurus by the hand and leading her back to the bedroom.
A reminder that this story is set in 2015, the year that the redacted version of 'Guantanamo Diary' by Mohamedou Ould Slahi was first published. The full, unredacted version was published in 2017.