February Prompt #20    Property

There are two meanings to the word property. One definition is a thing or things belonging to someone (eg., chattels, movables, assets); the other is an attribute, quality, or characteristic of something (eg., the property of heat expands metal at uniform rates)

 "Are you sure this is legal?"

John deserves the glare that Sherlock aims in his direction. "Legality is not the issue, John. The dog gets to choose."

They are in Hyde Park on an early morning in the first week of March. Sherlock is down on one knee, patting a handsome black Labrador dog, who is sitting in a relaxed way, enjoying the attention.

It had all started three days ago when Sherlock had admitted Skylar, the dog, and his owner, Roger Miles, to 221b. Miles was grateful; "No murder involved, Mister Holmes, so I am grateful that you could find the time to help me."

John has always known that Sherlock has a special rapport with dogs, especially Labradors, ever since he was first introduced to Bella, an aged chocolate Labrador at Parham, the country estate in West Sussex owned by Mycroft.* So it had not surprised him that Sherlock was willing to take the case.

Miles had come to own Skylar when he agreed to re-home the dog from the South East of England Labrador rescue charity. The dog had been found wandering loose in Maidstone, Kent, in a terrible condition. Dehydrated, emaciated, with several nasty wounds, the dog had obviously been feral for some time. It was terrified of any human, and had been caught stealing food from a rubbish can behind a takeaway chicken restaurant.

The retired accountant who had re-homed the dog said that he'd accepted the challenge of rehabilitating the dog in part because he'd lost his own Lab years before, but didn't want to start all over again with a puppy. "I'm too old now; I just want a companion to keep me company. Skylar doesn't like long walks, do you boy?"

Sitting quietly by Roger's side, Skylar was the picture of health. Roger had explained, "It took quite some time to coax him out of his fear. Good food, paying the vet bills to get him healthy again, lots of affection when he was ready for it — turned out well. I've had him for four years now. He still runs with a limp; permanent tendon damage on his front left paw, but he's not in pain anymore. We're suited for each other, as my hip's starting to wear out. Then three days ago, I received this through my letterbox."

He handed over a typed letter, with a solicitor's address at the top. Sherlock had scanned it and passed it over to John, who read it. A demand from someone claiming to be the dog's previous owner, saying that it had been stolen from their premises. The owner said that they'd spotted the dog on the UK Labrador Association's facebook page, where Roger was a member and had posted photos of Skylar. The owners were the Wenbury shoot, a large pheasant shoot, and claimed the dog was one of theirs, trained to work the five thousand acres during the corporate syndicate days. Kennel bred-and-trained, the pedigree dog had been stolen by "persons unknown" but the implication in the letter was that Roger himself might be prosecuted if he didn't return their property immediately. He was a valuable gun dog with field-champion bloodlines that they considered to be their property for breeding purposes.

Miles had been distraught. "They're right about the law; dogs are just property, and even if they are lost, stolen or re-homed, the original owner has the right to claim him back. But it doesn't seem fair, not to me or to Skylar. We've become great pals, and I'd hate to lose him. Is there anyway you can help us?"

Not every crime Sherlock solves is a murder. Read how he solves this one on Ao3 here. 

Hello? I would like to speak to the manager of the pandemic please. I was promised cheap real estate, goddammit. I was told Covid had killed cities and nobody wanted to live in them any more. I was told urban property prices would plummet. Well, it sure seems like someone forgot to tell house prices. Last time I checked – and I check multiple times a day – major cities are still majorly unaffordable.
To be fair, prices have fallen in New York’s ultra-luxury market. But do I care if an apartment that once cost $20m now costs $17m? No – this information is irrelevant to my lifestyle. Rents have also dropped from extremely exorbitant to just exorbitant. But every time I Google “house prices”, I am greeted with headlines such as “house prices hit record highs”. The price of an average house in London, for example, is almost 10% higher than this time last year and has just topped £500,000 for the first time.
My partner, E, and I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Sometimes, when E is on a Zoom call, I have to lie on my stomach and slither or commando roll across the floor so I can get from the living room to the kitchen without her colleagues seeing me. I mean, yes, technically she could turn her camera off momentarily but slithering is more fun. Anyway, I love our apartment: while the place isn’t huge, it’s perfect for our needs. Or at least it was until we decided to bring a child into this hell-world. At the beginning of E’s pregnancy, I was fairly blase about how much space a baby would need. We’d just stick a crib in the closet, I thought. Turns out, no, babies need ventilation. Also, babies grow. So we have been spending our weekends schlepping around Brooklyn looking for a bigger place – which is why I have a sudden obsession with real estate.
Here’s a fun thing I have learned from looking at a million apartments: kitchens are going extinct. They don’t seem to exist in some of the newer places we have looked at. There is just a gigantic fridge in the living room and enough counter space to set out your takeout. Another thing I’ve learned: many Americans are not familiar with the British expression, “Not enough space to swing a cat”. If you say this loudly during an open house you will get some alarmed looks.

“ For Iqbal to reach his two-bed flat – valued at £800,000, of which he owns a quarter and pays rent on the rest – he must walk past the grand, hotel-style main entrance to the complex, flanked by supercars with personalised number plates, to the back of the development, past construction fences and piles of rubble, to a small door located between ventilation grilles and a bin store, facing on to a railway line. “There’s a reason they’re called ‘poor doors’,” he said. “I grew up in South Africa, in a country that was racially segregated, but in London there is still really bad class segregation. We have a mortgage and we pay our rent, but every day we are made to feel inferior, like the have-nots of Nine Elms.””