“Once upon a time,” said Mycroft, stirring sugar into his tea, “there was an angel. A marvellous, beautiful creature, quite beyond the ken of man or woman.”

“And they all lived happily ever after,” said Sherlock. “Really, Mycroft, I'm a little old for bedtime stories.”

“I thought it might help set the scene.” He shrugged. “Dr Watson, you might be familiar with UNIT.”

“Ah, yes,” said John, pleased that for once the conversation had strayed into his own area of expertise. “The Mulder and Scully of the armed forces. Supposedly working to protect us all from ET. God knows what they really get up to. Biochemical warfare?” he guessed.

“Nothing so mundane,” said Mycroft. He opened the folder he'd brought with him. “They had an advisor at one point, they called him the Doctor.”

“Doctor what?”

“Just the Doctor.” Mycroft handed John a set of photographs. “That's him.”

“These aren't the same man. It's a code-name?”

Sherlock took the photographs and studied them. “No, this is the same person. He just looks different.”


“Yes, John, a seventy-year old man puts on a mask and is suddenly three inches taller and in the full bloom of youth.” Sherlock looked at Mycroft. “How does he do it?”

“We haven't the slightest idea.”

“Wait,” said John, “you're not seriously saying he can change what he looks like?”

Mycroft gazed at John steadily and said “Yes. He's quite... unique. He's our ultimate expert.”

“I thought I was your ultimate expert,” said Sherlock, sharply.

“Of course you did. In any case, we've received reports of the his death. Since we can rule that out fairly easily, we'd like to know where he is and what he's doing.”

“How do you know he's not dead?” asked John.

“Because the planet hasn't been overrun by malevolent aliens.”

John nodded. “You do realise it's not April the first for another six months?”

“Haven't you ever looked up and wondered?”

“That's not the same as you telling me that there really are aliens and they really are a threat.”

“If you're not interested -”

“We'll take it,” said Sherlock.

“He's winding us up! It's a joke to see how gullible we are!”

“Mycroft is physically incapable of humour,” said Sherlock. “Besides, it isn't very funny.”

John held up his hands in surrender. “Fine. But when people laugh at us I want to be able to say that it wasn't my idea to get involved.”

Mycroft passed the folder to him. “A list of known associates, at least those you might be able to contact.” He stood to leave. “I'll be in touch.”

The London offices of A Charitable Earth were centrally-located and spacious. Obviously there was more money in charity than John had realised.

“Sportswoman, I take it,” said John, nodding towards a baseball bat in a glass case.

“Or someone prone to violence,” said Sherlock.

“She's the Chief Executive of a charity, she's not going to go around beating people up!”

“You'd be surprised,” said a dark-haired woman as she entered the office. “And no, I don't know where he is.”

“How did you..?”

She sat down in a plush faux-leather chair. “You're private detectives and you used the front door. Why else would you be here?”

“Much action in Columbia?” asked Sherlock casually.

“We don't get involved in direct action, Mr Holmes. We're a good organisation and we do what we're told.”

“Miss -”

“Dorothy. Everyone just calls me Dorothy.”

“Dorothy. I'm sure my friend didn't mean to suggest -”

“Oh, but I did.”

“Please,” said John quietly, “don't do it.”

Sherlock ignored him. “The tan shows you've been abroad recently, the bruise on your neck suggests violence. You know how to handle yourself so I doubt you came off worst. You haven't filed a police report, so you don't want anyone to know about it. You do have a juvenile record and faked credentials, so I'm assuming this is a front for something more active.”

Dorothy sniffed. “Am I supposed to be impressed?”

“Aren't you?”

“I hung around the Professor for four years, you're just an amateur.”

John liked this woman already. “Why do you call him the Professor?”

“He was her mentor,” said Sherlock. “Probably a parental substitute as well. No doubt he supplied the funds to set up A.C.E.”

“My eighteenth birthday present,” said Dorothy with a smile. “He said it was this or a car and he wasn't prepared to deal with the parking fines.”

“I don't know if you've heard,” said John carefully, “but there are reports that the Doctor may have... passed on.”

“Nah, I'd know if he was dead.”


“I just would.” She stood up. “You can see yourselves out. Tea's in the outer office, Fair Trade, 25p donation.”

“Why are they all so convinced that he's not dead?” asked John after the third one. “How could they possibly know?”

“Faith is a very powerful force.”

“Do you think they're in denial?”

“No, I think the Doctor's still alive. He just doesn't want to be found. A deliberately missing person. Now why would he do that?”

“Maybe he wants some time off,” John suggested. “Maybe he's eloped with one of those women.”


“You didn't notice? Almost all the names on this list are women. Attractive ones.”

“You have a wonderfully crude mind, John.”

“I'm going to assume that was a compliment.”

“Not necessarily. Ordinary people have affairs and casual flings.”

“Hmm. Next one's a woman as well. Sarah Jane Smith.”

“No, we're going home. We've got the word out that we're looking, the one who knows anything is going to come to us. The one who most wants to protect him.”

“And who's that?”

“Dr River Song,” said the woman with the gun. “And yes, the Doctor's dead. I killed him.”

Sherlock ignored the weapon and sat down on the sofa. “Before or after you married him?”

“Bit of both, actually.”

“How romantic.”

River holstered her gun. “I'm afraid you're not going to solve this one, boys.”

“Why not? The Doctor's faked his own death, you know why, and you're determined to make sure we don't find out what's going on. It's not far from that to knowing the truth.”

“You can't even begin to imagine the consequences if you prove he's still alive.”

“He never gives up,” said John.

“He's going to have to.”

“One condition,” said Sherlock. “We get to meet him.”

“That's not possible.”

“Then I'll just have to solve the case.”

River looked at Sherlock carefully for some time. Then she walked to the edge of the room, produced a tube of lipstick from a pocket, and wrote HELLO, SWEETIE on the wall. “Give him about five minutes,” she said.