goldvermilion87: (Default)




When John finds out that Jefferson Hope, the taxi driver, did not have an aneurism, he fears that there might be a larger game afoot.  But who are the players?  And what is the prize?


Authors: [livejournal.com profile] goldvermilion87 & [livejournal.com profile] capt_facepalm 
Artists: [livejournal.com profile] sobota ( A Fanmix, as well as the gorgeous headers/section breaks)
[livejournal.com profile] zebra_three ( Four incredible illustrations, plus two very entertaining extras)
[livejournal.com profile] ruelynian ( A wonderful hand-drawn illustration. :-))








Author’s Notes: 
This story was written for the [livejournal.com profile] casestory big bang challenge.  Some might call it AU.  Technically it is still perfectly canon compliant, and we tried to construct it so that it would stay that way, but Series 2 could easily make it AU.  Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] littlepippin76, [livejournal.com profile] med_cat, and especially [livejournal.com profile] labourslamp for their hard work beta-ing this monster.  :-)
goldvermilion87: (Default)




When John finds out that Jefferson Hope, the taxi driver, did not have an aneurism, he fears that there might be a larger game afoot.  But who are the players?  And what is the prize?


Authors: [livejournal.com profile] goldvermilion87 & [livejournal.com profile] capt_facepalm 
Artists: [livejournal.com profile] sobota ( A Fanmix, as well as the gorgeous headers/section breaks)
[livejournal.com profile] zebra_three ( Four incredible illustrations, plus two very entertaining extras)
[livejournal.com profile] ruelynian ( A wonderful hand-drawn illustration. :-))








Author’s Notes: 
This story was written for the [livejournal.com profile] casestory big bang challenge.  Some might call it AU.  Technically it is still perfectly canon compliant, and we tried to construct it so that it would stay that way, but Series 2 could easily make it AU.  Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] littlepippin76, [livejournal.com profile] med_cat, and especially [livejournal.com profile] labourslamp for their hard work beta-ing this monster.  :-)
goldvermilion87: (Default)


Middlegame III





All these people he involves in his adventures… They're not safe. We're not safe. There are forces out there and they're coming for Sherlock Holmes.

John titled the post “The Blind Banker,” and hit “publish.”

And he wondered:  Certainly there were people coming for Sherlock Holmes.  Any number of people who wanted to avenge themselves or their relatives…  Criminals who had been prevented from committing their crimes…

But a psychopath who targeted geniuses?  That was a frightening thought—and a thought that had occurred to him more than once since the case started.  He pushed it aside again…

He was just paranoid.  If Ella knew, she’d have a thing or two to say about it, and he might actually agree with her for once.

 

 

“Why won’t you go?”

 “Did you see the email from this… Bewick, John?  It makes your blog look like Shakespeare.  He’s an idiot, and he has anger management issues.  I’m sure he did whatever he’s accused of.”

“Sherlock, every single lead in the Moriarty case is dead.  You said so yourself.  Lestrade has nothing for you to do.  Just go!  He says he’ll pay.”

“I don’t care.”

“Well, I do.  I have a job now so I can pay my part of the rent.  Where is yours?”

“A bit hypocritical coming from the man who asked me to lend him money… ten days ago?”

“Didn’t even know you heard that.”

“Well, I did.  And I refuse to follow up on someone’s petty case just because they might pay me.”

John started to pick up the breakfast dishes with bad grace, and grabbed Sherlock’s unfinished mug of coffee, for good measure.  He dumped them in the sink, and then went to brush his teeth.

“I’m going to the surgery,” he called over his shoulder.

“No you’re not; you’re going into the bathroom.”

John rolled his eyes.  He tried again as he put on his coat.

“Going to the surgery, and if you find you’re bored enough to blow up my beer again… or to blow up anything, really… just go to Minsk.”

“Mmm.”

It didn’t sound terribly promising.

John should have known that getting Sherlock to follow his advice would be more trouble than it was worth.  Sherlock had gone to Minsk.  So John had had an evening to himself, to blog, and watch telly, and generally live a normal life without the imminent fear of explosion, or poisoning, or any other uniquely Sherlockian danger.  Not that the normal life was his cup of tea, but it was a nice holiday.

But to come home from the surgery the next day to find an even more bored Sherlock shooting holes in the wall, and to wake up the next morning to find that his flat (and flatmate) might have been blown up, and then to help Sherlock solve four cases four days in a row to prevent innocent people from being blown up, all the while fearing that Sherlock was being turned into a monster… or at least something less than a man.  That was more excitement that he had ever wanted.

And to find himself standing outside a pool strapped to a bomb, listening as Moriarty confirmed his suspicions—confirmed that Sherlock was to be the crown jewel in his collection of geniuses; confirmed that John was the final pawn in a complex game that Moriarty had been playing for months?

He could hear someone talking on the other side of the door.  He couldn't make out the words, but he recognized the voice.  Idiot!

And then in his ear:  “Remember.  Only what I tell you to say, or my snipers shoot.  Now go!”

For a  moment he closed his eyes and breathed deeply.  He had faced death before without a tremor, but now—now his left hand shook.  And he knew why.  This wasn’t about his own life.  This was about Sherlock’s soul.  He wanted to believe that his friend could be a good man.  And the not knowing…  He clenched his hand into a tight fist where it quivered in his coat pocket.

One of Moriarty’s men opened the door for him, and he stepped out, and Sherlock’s face at that moment said everything that Sherlock might never be humble enough to say in words.  John’s hand stilled and he looked directly at Sherlock.  He could see the battlefield.

And the voice came again.

Evening."

goldvermilion87: (Default)


Middlegame III





All these people he involves in his adventures… They're not safe. We're not safe. There are forces out there and they're coming for Sherlock Holmes.

John titled the post “The Blind Banker,” and hit “publish.”

And he wondered:  Certainly there were people coming for Sherlock Holmes.  Any number of people who wanted to avenge themselves or their relatives…  Criminals who had been prevented from committing their crimes…

But a psychopath who targeted geniuses?  That was a frightening thought—and a thought that had occurred to him more than once since the case started.  He pushed it aside again…

He was just paranoid.  If Ella knew, she’d have a thing or two to say about it, and he might actually agree with her for once.

 

 

“Why won’t you go?”

 “Did you see the email from this… Bewick, John?  It makes your blog look like Shakespeare.  He’s an idiot, and he has anger management issues.  I’m sure he did whatever he’s accused of.”

“Sherlock, every single lead in the Moriarty case is dead.  You said so yourself.  Lestrade has nothing for you to do.  Just go!  He says he’ll pay.”

“I don’t care.”

“Well, I do.  I have a job now so I can pay my part of the rent.  Where is yours?”

“A bit hypocritical coming from the man who asked me to lend him money… ten days ago?”

“Didn’t even know you heard that.”

“Well, I did.  And I refuse to follow up on someone’s petty case just because they might pay me.”

John started to pick up the breakfast dishes with bad grace, and grabbed Sherlock’s unfinished mug of coffee, for good measure.  He dumped them in the sink, and then went to brush his teeth.

“I’m going to the surgery,” he called over his shoulder.

“No you’re not; you’re going into the bathroom.”

John rolled his eyes.  He tried again as he put on his coat.

“Going to the surgery, and if you find you’re bored enough to blow up my beer again… or to blow up anything, really… just go to Minsk.”

“Mmm.”

It didn’t sound terribly promising.

John should have known that getting Sherlock to follow his advice would be more trouble than it was worth.  Sherlock had gone to Minsk.  So John had had an evening to himself, to blog, and watch telly, and generally live a normal life without the imminent fear of explosion, or poisoning, or any other uniquely Sherlockian danger.  Not that the normal life was his cup of tea, but it was a nice holiday.

But to come home from the surgery the next day to find an even more bored Sherlock shooting holes in the wall, and to wake up the next morning to find that his flat (and flatmate) might have been blown up, and then to help Sherlock solve four cases four days in a row to prevent innocent people from being blown up, all the while fearing that Sherlock was being turned into a monster… or at least something less than a man.  That was more excitement that he had ever wanted.

And to find himself standing outside a pool strapped to a bomb, listening as Moriarty confirmed his suspicions—confirmed that Sherlock was to be the crown jewel in his collection of geniuses; confirmed that John was the final pawn in a complex game that Moriarty had been playing for months?

He could hear someone talking on the other side of the door.  He couldn't make out the words, but he recognized the voice.  Idiot!

And then in his ear:  “Remember.  Only what I tell you to say, or my snipers shoot.  Now go!”

For a  moment he closed his eyes and breathed deeply.  He had faced death before without a tremor, but now—now his left hand shook.  And he knew why.  This wasn’t about his own life.  This was about Sherlock’s soul.  He wanted to believe that his friend could be a good man.  And the not knowing…  He clenched his hand into a tight fist where it quivered in his coat pocket.

One of Moriarty’s men opened the door for him, and he stepped out, and Sherlock’s face at that moment said everything that Sherlock might never be humble enough to say in words.  John’s hand stilled and he looked directly at Sherlock.  He could see the battlefield.

And the voice came again.

Evening."

goldvermilion87: (Default)


Middlegame II




When John got back from the homeless shelter, he found Sherlock lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling.  As it was very late, he went straight to bed.

The next morning he was finishing his tea and reading his paper when something caught his eye.

“Sherlock!”

Sherlock, still on the couch as he had been when John went to bed, didn’t respond.

“Sherlock, this is important.  What was the name of that Doctor—the one you knew who was on the list?”

Still nothing.

“A Dr. Ian Garvie has been exposed for fabricating results in some chemistry something or other.”

“What?  Let me see that.”  Sherlock jumped off the couch and grabbed the paper out of his hands. He read it quickly and threw it down.

“Why?  Why would he do that?  Why…”  John watched as he typed furiously into his phone, and then dialed a number.  He held it to his ear for a long time before he spoke.  “Dr. Garvie.  Sherlock Holmes here. I need to speak to you.  I’m coming up right now.” He shoved his phone back into his pocket.  “I’m sure we’ll be there overnight, so you might as well pack a change of clothes, John.”

 

 

Sherlock did not speak to John at all for the first half of the train trip, but he kept muttering to himself.

John didn’t mind, as it gave him time to think about last night.  He kept getting glimpses into Sherlock’s past and if he were as smart as Sherlock, he would have been able piece them together.  Perhaps the Garvies would give him more of a clue.  Or maybe…

“It’s not as if I’m intentionally keeping it a secret.”

“What?”

“If you’re so interested in my sordid past you could ask.”

“Since you put it so nicely…”

“It’s better than your distracting thinking.”

“Okay.  So who are the Garvies, and what happened there when we were talking to Olga?”

“What happened with Olga is precisely what you thought it was.  She and I both share a chronic boredom with the world in general because we are too intelligent for most of the stupid people around us.  We have even, as you seemed to find it so hard to believe the day after I met you, both gone to the same source for escape.  There are two very important differences between Olga and me, however.  Firstly, I have never cared what people think about me, and secondly, I was able to find something to do with my mind that was better than the cocaine.  Besides, she didn’t stand a chance.  It has been far too long since it happened, so we will never be able to prove it, but it is likely someone was orchestrating events—‘M,’ at a guess.”

“Moriarty?”

“Not unlikely.”

“And why is he letting you know now?  Taunting you maybe?”

“I’m filling you in, John. Don’t interrupt with your amateurish speculations.  The Garvies are, as I said, a couple I knew in University.  Dr. Ian Garvie was my tutor, and a great biochemist.  Mrs. Garvie had no children, and like many women her age, she seemed to feel the need to treat every one of her husband’s students as her child.  I was no exception to that rule.  When I decided to leave Pembroke before completing my degree, the Garvies both strongly recommended that I not do so, and I have not spoken to them since.”

“And the leaving had nothing to do with drugs.”

“The drugs were part of the solution, not the problem.  The problem was that there was nothing to challenge me anymore.”

“I see.  And the reason that you haven’t spoken to them since then?”

“I haven’t been back to Cambridge.”

John raised his eyebrows.  “And Dr. Garvie’s research?”

“I already told you—he is a biochemist.”

“The paper said his falsified research was in cancer treatment?”

“That’s not what he did when I studied under him, though his research was in pharmacology.”

“Odd that he should have changed so late in his career.”

“That’s where the money is,” Sherlock snapped.  And he didn’t open his mouth again for the duration of the trip.

 

 

In the month since he had moved in with Sherlock, John had seen Sherlock angry, supercilious, bored, cheerful, relaxed, and once very punchy.  He had never seen him positively uncomfortable.

Dr. Ian Garvie seemed like a pleasant man.  Certainly stressed.  But he seemed overjoyed to see Sherlock, and pleased to meet John.

“My dear boy!  It’s been ten years!   Helena was just talking about you… oh… last week.  Your brother told us you were doing much better than when we last saw you, but she’ll be glad to see it with her own eyes.  And John, you’re a detective as well?”

“He’s my doctor.  What did you say about my brother?”

“Oh, he gives us information about you from time to time.  First time I met him, he wanted me to provide the information… funny man.  But after you disappeared, he was willing to let us know how you were doing whenever I contacted him.  Anyway…  Pleased to meet you, John.”  Dr. Garvie laughed as he shook John’s hand.  “He needs his own doctor now?  I can believe that!  But any real friend of Sherlock’s is a friend of mine.  Please do come in.”  He brought them into a little kitchen and he had almost finished boiling some water for tea before Sherlock worked himself up to say something.

“Dr. Garvie…”

“You know, you can call me Ian now.  You’re not my student anymore.”

“Yes… well… Dr. Garvie, we’re not here for a social call… though of course it’s…”

“I know why you’re here, Sherlock.  And I’m sorry it’s so… well, tables turned, eh?”

“Perhaps… But I need to know, Dr. Garvie.  You received my email two days ago?”

“I have a huge backlog what with everything that has happened.   I didn’t…”

“Your name was on a list.  Every person on that list has died or been ruined somehow.  And we need to know how.  What’s going on?  Why did you falsify your research?”

“Well, Sherlock. You see… it’s Helena.”

“You’d blame your wife!”

“No, Sherlock. Let me explain.  I’ve been… well, you know my work.  We’ve been experimenting for years, and there was always a chance that it would have some application in cancer research, but we never had the results with animals that we’d need to fund clinical tests.  And then Helena… she… she has brain cancer, Sherlock!  The doctor hasn’t given her even a year, and I thought… I don’t know what I thought.  I was desperate.  I still am desperate!  So I modified the results of those experiments on rats.  I thought I’d persuade the Medical Research Council to fund me.  But it didn’t. I just lost my job, my reputation, everything.  And in a few months I’ll lose my wife.  I can’t…”

Sherlock looked, if possible, even more lost. So John tried to step in.

“When did you find out about your wife, Dr. Garvie?”

“About a year and a half ago.  She was getting headaches and dizziness and finally she went to London to see Dr. Prinz and…”

“Who?”

“Dr. Prinz, a neurospecialist in London.”

“Dr. Ralph Prinz?”

“Yes.”

“Sherlock!”

“That’s it, John!  The connection!  This is brilliant!”

Garvie looked shocked, and John felt a bit disgusted.

“Sherlock!”

Sherlock looked up from where he’d been typing furiously into his phone.  “What?  This is good news for Dr. Garvie, too!”

Garvie finally spoke.  “Sherlock? What’s happening?”

“Prinz has recently been involved in a scandal himself.  He misdiagnosed a brain aneurism, which, according to John, must have been done intentionally.  And his patient was another man on the list.  It all fits!”

“So you think that he intentionally misdiagnosed Helena.”

“We cannot be certain until we get a second opinion on Mrs. Garvie’s condition, but I strongly suspect that you will find nothing.”

“I…  Helena should be home at any minute.  I have to tell her.  I have to…”

At that moment a car pulled up to the house, and Garvie hurried out to meet his wife.

“Sherlock?”

“Hm?”

“Are you sure?  This could be unconnected…”

“There are too many connections for this to be coincidence.  Both on Howard’s list; both ruined.  If Mrs. Garvie doesn’t have a brain tumor, we’ll know for sure.  Maybe not enough for Lestrade and his imbeciles.  But I’ll know.”

“I wasn’t thinking about that, Sherlock.  I mean for the Garvies.  You’re getting their hopes up.”

“I’m sure that they’ll find she is perfectly healthy.”

John wasn’t particularly pleased, but he stopped talking, as the Garvies were coming back into the room.

Mrs. Garvie ran up to Sherlock, and hugged and kissed him.  “Sherlock!  I was beginning to think I’d never see you again.  But look at you!  So thin!  You need to eat.  Ian, why didn’t you give them anything to eat?”

“I made tea, dear.  I haven’t had a chance to…”

“Well I’ll whip something up in a minute.  And who is your friend, Sherlock?”

“John Watson, my flatmate.  John, this is Mrs. Garvie.”

“So lovely to meet you, John.  How is it living with Sherlock?  He’s a dear boy, but I suppose he is just as rude and careless as ever?”

John grinned.

 

 

“Hello?…  Yes… Yes!  We’ll be there tomorrow morning.”

After Garvie had explained the situation to his wife, and they had scheduled another appointment with a different brain specialist, Mrs. Garvie had followed up on her promise, and provided them with a wonderful supper.  But someone had called Sherlock just when Mrs. Garvie went into the kitchen for her bread and butter pudding—the one she said Sherlock loved.

John watched Sherlock until he hung up his phone.

“What was that?”

“Lestrade.  A document was sent to Scotland Yard—very similar to the one we found on Howard’s hard drive, but more detailed.  It was sent to the Yard as per his will.  We’ll have to go back to London immediately.”

“Lestrade couldn’t just email it?”

“No, it’s a physical document.  I need to see it to get as much information as possible.”

“But Sherlock!”  Mrs. Garvie was just putting the pudding on the table, while her husband set out some plates and forks.  “I thought you said you would stay the night!”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Garvie, but this is important.  We have to see it as soon as we possibly can.  And we’ll just make the next train if we call for a car now.”

“Nonsense!  Ian will drive you to the station, if you must go.  And I’ll send this home with you.”

When she handed John the tin with the pudding, she kissed his cheek.  “Do take care of him, John. And make sure he eats!”

 

 

“There wasn’t really any reason to leave.”

“Lestrade had new information.”

“It would have waited until the morning.”

“Time is of the essence.”

“Sherlock…”

“The Garvies will phone me with the results of her new tests, John  Staying there longer would have made no difference.”

“Hm.”

John spent the rest of the ride trying to decide whether their strange interaction with the Garvies was proof that Sherlock really had managed to destroy every human feeling in himself… or proof that he was trying not to care.  When he arrived at home, he was still completely undecided.

John and Sherlock were in the living room at Baker Street.  It had been four days since they visited the Garvies, and (probably due to Mycroft, John thought, though Sherlock would never admit it) their suspicions had been confirmed—Mrs. Garvie did not have a brain tumor of any kind, much less a malignant brain cancer. In the interim, Sherlock had been restless and bored enough to accept an odd case for a (very rich) family friend who owned a pleasure cruiser.

Now Sherlock was lying on the sofa with his eyes closed, and John was sitting at the table, staring at the list that meant nothing to him.

Jefferson Hope
Martin Mills
Mark Howard
Olga Kuznetsova
Ian Garvie
Naomi Piers

That is to say, it didn’t mean nothing.  But it didn’t show him where they were going, or what they were doing.   And Sherlock was being as unhelpful as ever.  

He had just pushed the list aside, and was starting to think of a clever title for a blog post about the boat case…”Terror on the Tilly Briggs” seemed melodramatic… Suddenly, Sherlock sat up.

“John!”

“What?”

“The doctors are the key!  Get me the addresses of the three doctors who treated Mrs. Garvie—Prinz, RasGupta, and Darian.  We need to talk to them.”

John was so relieved to be doing anything, that he only rolled his eyes at Sherlock’s arrogant tone of command.   He stopped as he opened his laptop, though.

“Sherlock, what about Naomi Piers?  Shouldn’t we be more worried about her?”

“I have that under control, you just look up those doctors.”

About thirty seconds later John looked up again.

“Sherlock!”

“Hmm?”

“He’s… RasGupta—he’s dead.”

“When?”

“Yesterday.  He…  looks like a car-jacking, actually.  He was killed and his car was taken away.”

“Hah!  And the others dead too, I suppose.  If only I had interviewed them personally sooner!”

“No… well, yes, Darian died yesterday as well.  Heart attack, they’re saying.  But not Prinz.”

Sherlock had already dialed his mobile.  “It’s me.  Dr. Ralph Prinz.  You have to bring him in now… No, I already told you we have additional evidence… You know I’m right…  that won’t… nevermind.”  He slammed the phone off and dialed another number.  “Tell him if he doesn’t tell me the whereabouts of Prinz, I won’t be helping MI-5 ever again…  No, he can’t make me…  Good!”

John looked at him quizzically.

“Mycroft’s assistant.”  His phone buzzed, and he looked at the incoming message.  “Aha!  Come on, John!”  And they were off.

 

 

“So, where are we going now?”

“We have to find Prinz before he’s dead. Lestrade won’t bring him in, so we have to question him ourselves.”

“Ah.”

“I have your gun. You might need it.”

John took the handgun from Sherlock, but before he concealed it, he stared at it. He’d carried it on several escapades with Sherlock over the past few weeks—he’d even taken it out and threatened someone during that bizarre case with the melting laptop. But he had not pulled the trigger since he’d killed Hope.

Killed Hope, and saved Sherlock from the serial killer and from himself.

That night the name “Moriarty” had been forgotten during an entertaining conversation over late-night Chinese.   And John wished he could still forget it.  But this case was… well, it was too easy: So many answers were falling into Sherlock’s lap! Sherlock had been practically handed two lists, and one of the people who showed up on both of them, Olga Kuznetsova, wasn’t even the victim of a crime… just a weird picture of what Sherlock could have become.  Someone was behind it all, and that someone had to be the Moriarty who sponsored Hope—a person who would sponsor a serial killer.

He tucked the gun into his belt, and looked up to find that Sherlock was staring at him.

“Sherlock, I’ve been thinking, and…”

“John. I’m not an idiot. I know this is for my benefit.”

“And that you might be next on the list? That he might destroy you, too?”

“I’m sure he’ll try.” Then Sherlock grinned. “It should be fun!”

Sherlock had started typing something into his phone. He didn’t even seem to notice that John wasn’t smiling back.

 

 

About thirty minutes later, after a hurried argument in which John suggested that another housebreaking might not be their best option, and was quickly overruled, he and Sherlock were creeping through a back garden.  Sherlock led the way in through the kitchen door to Prinz’s bedroom, pulled the curtains and shutters closed carefully, and then flipped the light on.  Prinz jumped up and stared back and forth from John with the gun trained on his head, to Sherlock, lounging with his arms crossed in a corner of the room.  John wondered for a moment if he was going to make a run for the door, when Sherlock drawled, “I wouldn’t run, Prinz. Not if I were you.”

“Wha-what?  Who?”  And John was almost impressed that a man just startled out of his sleep could pull himself together the way Prinz did.  “Who are you?  And what are you doing here?  I’ll call the police!”

“I wouldn’t do that either, Prinz.   We are the police.  Detective Inspector Lestrade.”  John rolled his eyes, as Sherlock produced a badge.

“And he is?”

“I’m his doctor.”

“A doctor?  With a gun?”

“He’s also a crack shot, Prinz.”

“Well, Lestrade…”

“Detective Inspector to you, Prinz.”

“And you can call me Dr. Prinz, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, but I do mind.  I save honorifics for people I respect.”

“Well…” Prinz glanced at John’s gun, “…Detective Inspector, explain to me precisely what is going on.”

“We are bringing you in to Scotland Yard for malpractice in the cases of Jefferson Hope and Helena Garvie—false diagnoses.  That’s a serious offense, and it’s led to death and ruin for quite a few people.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I want to speak to my solicitor.”

“I think you do know what I’m talking about, Prinz.  As did RasGupta and Darian.”

“We are respected medical professionals!  These accusations are outrageous!”

“Don’t lie to me.  I think I mentioned that my colleague is a crack shot.”

Prinz glared.

“And furthermore, I’m afraid you used the wrong tense just a moment ago.  RasGupta and Darian were respected medical professionals.”

“What?”

“They both died yesterday.  Doesn’t that strike you as strange?”

“Th-they did?”

“Yes, they did.  If I were you, I would think of police custody as police protection, and come quietly.”

Prinz sank back down onto the bed.  John could see that he was shaking.

“Now if you’ll just sit there, Prinz, I am going to take a quick look through the house.  Please do excuse me.”

Sherlock walked out of the room, and John could hear doors opening and closing.  Prinz turned to him.

“You’re quite the ornament to the profession, aren’t you, Doctor?  From medical doctor to hired thug?”

John just glared at him.

“Is this what the Hippocratic oath means to you young doctors now?  In my day we had standards.”

“I wouldn’t say anything about standards if I were you, Dr. Prinz.”

“What are you… ?”

Sherlock appeared in the doorway holding a laptop.  “Getting to know each other?   Excellent.  Well, I’ll be taking this computer, and then we’ll all be going down to New Scotland Yard.  I hope we won’t have to handcuff you, Prinz?  That would be a bit difficult to explain to the cabbie.”

John thought for a moment that they would have to handcuff Prinz… or wait for the proper police.  But Sherlock spoke again.

“We could just leave you here without protection, Prinz.”

Prinz started to stalk towards the door, and Sherlock smiled and turned to John.

“I don’t think you’ll be needing that Browning, Dr. Watson.  But keep a hold on it, just in case.”

“Sherlock, I really can’t…”

“I have unearthed a serious case of medical fraud.  If it becomes a problem for the Yard, I have contacts who will be able to deal with it.  Don’t complain.”

Lestrade rolled his eyes.

“Also, we saved his life, and he knows that the moment he is out of police custody, he is a dead man, so I don’t think you’ll get much trouble from him now.  Just put him under police protection… but don’t let him go.”

“And that’s all?  After all that, you just want us to babysit him?”

“Yes.  John and I are going home.”

“Okay, Sherlock.  I want to know everything that’s going on in that head of yours.”

Sherlock made the face John was growing all too familiar with—the face that said Sherlock was hiding something, but you needn’t ask.  “What?  You need to ask more politely if you want to know that.  We have a taxi waiting and the meter’s running.”

 

 

About a day later John was doing the washing up, when Sherlock snapped the lid of Prinz’s laptop shut.  “Idiot!”

“You didn’t find anything, then?”

“No.  Prinz was a complete idiot   He downloaded a virus to his computer.”

“On purpose?”

“I don’t think so.  He probably received it in an email.”

“That happens all the time.”

“To idiots!”

“I’ve had…”

“How could he have done it?  Every scrap of information is gone.”

“Can’t you recover anything?”

“Even I cannot deduce the previous contents of a reformatted hard drive.”

John snorted.

“I could recover almost anything, otherwise.  Why didn’t he pay attention?”

“Well… maybe he could tell you more himself?  Why did he do this?  What was his motivation?”

“There is only one possible motivation, and that is an outside source of money.  There isn’t much glory to be had in diagnosing one more aneurism.  He had nothing to gain from telling those people that they had aneurisms—any fees would have been far outweighed by the risk as well as the cost of fabricating X-rays and the like.  These doctors must have been paid to make false diagnoses—paid very well—but I find no irregularities in his banking, and any information he might have had about other accounts on his computer is gone!”

“And you think they were paid by that-that Moriarty—the one who paid Hope.”

“They must have been.”

“So then question him!”

“No.  He was dead this morning. I’ll…”

“Dead?  Sherlock, how do you know?”

“Lestrade texted me.   Preliminary coroner’s report is that it was heart failure, with no explicable cause.  I convinced Lestrade to order extra toxicology screenings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing came through.  It’s Moriarty, though.  I’m sure of it!”

“Yeah.”

“Still, I expected he wouldn’t last the week.  He was clearly an idiot, and I doubt we could have learned anything more from him.”

John sighed.  He couldn’t think of anything to say to that. “Well, what next?”

“Naomi Piers.  I have to find out who she is.  The name sounds familiar.  Where have I heard it?”

“You’ve heard it because she’s all over the papers and the news and the radio.  I assumed you knew.  She sang that new cover of ‘MacArthur Park’ that they’ve been playing.”

“John, you know I don’t pay attention to the radio.”

“You can’t have missed it.  This song… I have no idea why three people have released singles of it…  ‘someone left the cake out in the rain…’  Almost embarrassing… But I could probably sing the whole thing, I’ve heard it so many times:  ‘Spring was never… waiting…  something about a striped pair of…’”

“Thank you, John.  But I’m sure that we can dispense with the impromptu pop inanity.  More to the point, there is no way that she is the next victim on the list.   Moriarty is targeting exceptional minds, and she is… a model and a singer and…” Sherlock was typing furiously at his computer, “She has recently gone to a retreat in Switzerland along with 25 other fabulously wealthy idiots and Alphonse Mondial, one of these charlatans with their drugs… expanding your mind.  Complete and utter nonsense…  You need brains first.”

“You don’t know that Naomi Piers…”

“Naomi Piers?” Mrs. Hudson had just walked in through the opened door.  “Was that a murder, then?  I wish you were working for her about something else, I’d ask you to get her autograph for my niece but it’s too late now.  No use crying over spilt milk I always say.  But still, such a shame. “

“Mrs. Hudson, what are you on about?”

“You didn’t hear?  Naomi Piers died just last night.  They didn’t say what it was, so I thought maybe you were investigating it and it was a murder.”

“Yes we are, Mrs. Hudson, and it is.   John, tea?”

“We’re out of milk.”

“Coffee,  then.”

“Oh, don’t worry, dear.  I’m so forgetful.  I just came up to ask if you wanted the rest of my milk since I’m leaving in a few hours to visit my sister for a few days. “

“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Hudson.  How long will you be gone?”

“Just three days.  But the milk might spoil.”

“Where does your sis—“

“John!  Tea!”  John glared at Sherlock and remained seated, but when he saw that Mrs. Hudson was already on her way back down the stairs, he got up and started the electric kettle.

 

 

“Maybe someone else got to her before Moriarty did?”

“No.  Who would have a motivation to kill her?”

“She’s quite popular right now.  Maybe an insane fan?”

“John, fans do not kill their idols.”

“John Lennon, Sherlock?  Strawberry Fields Forever? You don’t remember that?”

“No.”

“Well, they do.”

“John, this wasn’t an insane fan.  This was a carefully plotted and calculated murder.  Insanity would not lead to twenty-seven people overdosing on an experimental drug by the precise amount necessary to kill them—no more and no less.”

“True.”  John stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes.  “Money!”

“Mondial wanted her money.  And he’s dead as well.”

“Yes, but what if her estate stood to benefit from her death.”

“Killing the golden goose?  She’s only had one hit single so far, and now that you’ve forced me to listen to it, I don’t think that there is any way it will make money for much longer.  It’s the music video that makes it popular—or people are even more stupid than I used to think.  But there will be other beautiful women to dance half naked and sell other songs.  No one intelligent enough to do that would think there was something to gain from Naomi Piers before she’d at least cut a few more albums.”

“Hm.”

About forty-five minutes later John looked up from the sports section of the morning paper at the sound of a loud complaint from Sherlock.

“It’s no use!”

“Wh-what?”

“There are no leads.  That Prinz was an idiot… we’ve gotten everything we could from Dr. Garvie, not to mention Miller and Howard…  We’re back to where we started.  He has to make the next move.”

“You’re saying he’s beat you, then?”

“What?  No!  Of course not.  But I cannot work without evidence, and I need more evidence, and there’s none to be had right now.”  Sherlock had been pacing back and forth for a while, but he flopped onto the sofa.

John watched him for a few minutes, and tried to think of something to say that would stop Sherlock pouting.  He might look about twelve, but he sometimes he acted about six…  “Has anyone else brought you a case recently?  One of these, maybe?”

“No. One missing diamond, but it’s too boring.”

“Diamond? I bet they’re willing to pay.”

“No.  It’s quite simple.  I know exactly where it is, but I have no desire to get myself mixed up with one ring of jewel thieves who have stolen from another.”

At least Sherlock had some principles.  “So you’ve told them ‘no’?”

“Not yet.  I will eventually.”

“Good.  Well, then…”  John took his cup of tea into the kitchen, and when he put the leftover beans back in the refrigerator, he noticed that there wasn’t much left.  “I think I’ll just get the shopping?”

Sherlock had got up, and was standing idly in front of the bookcase.

“Pick me up a thirty caplet box of vitamins and minerals for pregnancy.”

 It took John about five seconds to decide absolutely that he was not going to ask…


Endgame
goldvermilion87: (Default)


Middlegame II




When John got back from the homeless shelter, he found Sherlock lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling.  As it was very late, he went straight to bed.

The next morning he was finishing his tea and reading his paper when something caught his eye.

“Sherlock!”

Sherlock, still on the couch as he had been when John went to bed, didn’t respond.

“Sherlock, this is important.  What was the name of that Doctor—the one you knew who was on the list?”

Still nothing.

“A Dr. Ian Garvie has been exposed for fabricating results in some chemistry something or other.”

“What?  Let me see that.”  Sherlock jumped off the couch and grabbed the paper out of his hands. He read it quickly and threw it down.

“Why?  Why would he do that?  Why…”  John watched as he typed furiously into his phone, and then dialed a number.  He held it to his ear for a long time before he spoke.  “Dr. Garvie.  Sherlock Holmes here. I need to speak to you.  I’m coming up right now.” He shoved his phone back into his pocket.  “I’m sure we’ll be there overnight, so you might as well pack a change of clothes, John.”

 

 

Sherlock did not speak to John at all for the first half of the train trip, but he kept muttering to himself.

John didn’t mind, as it gave him time to think about last night.  He kept getting glimpses into Sherlock’s past and if he were as smart as Sherlock, he would have been able piece them together.  Perhaps the Garvies would give him more of a clue.  Or maybe…

“It’s not as if I’m intentionally keeping it a secret.”

“What?”

“If you’re so interested in my sordid past you could ask.”

“Since you put it so nicely…”

“It’s better than your distracting thinking.”

“Okay.  So who are the Garvies, and what happened there when we were talking to Olga?”

“What happened with Olga is precisely what you thought it was.  She and I both share a chronic boredom with the world in general because we are too intelligent for most of the stupid people around us.  We have even, as you seemed to find it so hard to believe the day after I met you, both gone to the same source for escape.  There are two very important differences between Olga and me, however.  Firstly, I have never cared what people think about me, and secondly, I was able to find something to do with my mind that was better than the cocaine.  Besides, she didn’t stand a chance.  It has been far too long since it happened, so we will never be able to prove it, but it is likely someone was orchestrating events—‘M,’ at a guess.”

“Moriarty?”

“Not unlikely.”

“And why is he letting you know now?  Taunting you maybe?”

“I’m filling you in, John. Don’t interrupt with your amateurish speculations.  The Garvies are, as I said, a couple I knew in University.  Dr. Ian Garvie was my tutor, and a great biochemist.  Mrs. Garvie had no children, and like many women her age, she seemed to feel the need to treat every one of her husband’s students as her child.  I was no exception to that rule.  When I decided to leave Pembroke before completing my degree, the Garvies both strongly recommended that I not do so, and I have not spoken to them since.”

“And the leaving had nothing to do with drugs.”

“The drugs were part of the solution, not the problem.  The problem was that there was nothing to challenge me anymore.”

“I see.  And the reason that you haven’t spoken to them since then?”

“I haven’t been back to Cambridge.”

John raised his eyebrows.  “And Dr. Garvie’s research?”

“I already told you—he is a biochemist.”

“The paper said his falsified research was in cancer treatment?”

“That’s not what he did when I studied under him, though his research was in pharmacology.”

“Odd that he should have changed so late in his career.”

“That’s where the money is,” Sherlock snapped.  And he didn’t open his mouth again for the duration of the trip.

 

 

In the month since he had moved in with Sherlock, John had seen Sherlock angry, supercilious, bored, cheerful, relaxed, and once very punchy.  He had never seen him positively uncomfortable.

Dr. Ian Garvie seemed like a pleasant man.  Certainly stressed.  But he seemed overjoyed to see Sherlock, and pleased to meet John.

“My dear boy!  It’s been ten years!   Helena was just talking about you… oh… last week.  Your brother told us you were doing much better than when we last saw you, but she’ll be glad to see it with her own eyes.  And John, you’re a detective as well?”

“He’s my doctor.  What did you say about my brother?”

“Oh, he gives us information about you from time to time.  First time I met him, he wanted me to provide the information… funny man.  But after you disappeared, he was willing to let us know how you were doing whenever I contacted him.  Anyway…  Pleased to meet you, John.”  Dr. Garvie laughed as he shook John’s hand.  “He needs his own doctor now?  I can believe that!  But any real friend of Sherlock’s is a friend of mine.  Please do come in.”  He brought them into a little kitchen and he had almost finished boiling some water for tea before Sherlock worked himself up to say something.

“Dr. Garvie…”

“You know, you can call me Ian now.  You’re not my student anymore.”

“Yes… well… Dr. Garvie, we’re not here for a social call… though of course it’s…”

“I know why you’re here, Sherlock.  And I’m sorry it’s so… well, tables turned, eh?”

“Perhaps… But I need to know, Dr. Garvie.  You received my email two days ago?”

“I have a huge backlog what with everything that has happened.   I didn’t…”

“Your name was on a list.  Every person on that list has died or been ruined somehow.  And we need to know how.  What’s going on?  Why did you falsify your research?”

“Well, Sherlock. You see… it’s Helena.”

“You’d blame your wife!”

“No, Sherlock. Let me explain.  I’ve been… well, you know my work.  We’ve been experimenting for years, and there was always a chance that it would have some application in cancer research, but we never had the results with animals that we’d need to fund clinical tests.  And then Helena… she… she has brain cancer, Sherlock!  The doctor hasn’t given her even a year, and I thought… I don’t know what I thought.  I was desperate.  I still am desperate!  So I modified the results of those experiments on rats.  I thought I’d persuade the Medical Research Council to fund me.  But it didn’t. I just lost my job, my reputation, everything.  And in a few months I’ll lose my wife.  I can’t…”

Sherlock looked, if possible, even more lost. So John tried to step in.

“When did you find out about your wife, Dr. Garvie?”

“About a year and a half ago.  She was getting headaches and dizziness and finally she went to London to see Dr. Prinz and…”

“Who?”

“Dr. Prinz, a neurospecialist in London.”

“Dr. Ralph Prinz?”

“Yes.”

“Sherlock!”

“That’s it, John!  The connection!  This is brilliant!”

Garvie looked shocked, and John felt a bit disgusted.

“Sherlock!”

Sherlock looked up from where he’d been typing furiously into his phone.  “What?  This is good news for Dr. Garvie, too!”

Garvie finally spoke.  “Sherlock? What’s happening?”

“Prinz has recently been involved in a scandal himself.  He misdiagnosed a brain aneurism, which, according to John, must have been done intentionally.  And his patient was another man on the list.  It all fits!”

“So you think that he intentionally misdiagnosed Helena.”

“We cannot be certain until we get a second opinion on Mrs. Garvie’s condition, but I strongly suspect that you will find nothing.”

“I…  Helena should be home at any minute.  I have to tell her.  I have to…”

At that moment a car pulled up to the house, and Garvie hurried out to meet his wife.

“Sherlock?”

“Hm?”

“Are you sure?  This could be unconnected…”

“There are too many connections for this to be coincidence.  Both on Howard’s list; both ruined.  If Mrs. Garvie doesn’t have a brain tumor, we’ll know for sure.  Maybe not enough for Lestrade and his imbeciles.  But I’ll know.”

“I wasn’t thinking about that, Sherlock.  I mean for the Garvies.  You’re getting their hopes up.”

“I’m sure that they’ll find she is perfectly healthy.”

John wasn’t particularly pleased, but he stopped talking, as the Garvies were coming back into the room.

Mrs. Garvie ran up to Sherlock, and hugged and kissed him.  “Sherlock!  I was beginning to think I’d never see you again.  But look at you!  So thin!  You need to eat.  Ian, why didn’t you give them anything to eat?”

“I made tea, dear.  I haven’t had a chance to…”

“Well I’ll whip something up in a minute.  And who is your friend, Sherlock?”

“John Watson, my flatmate.  John, this is Mrs. Garvie.”

“So lovely to meet you, John.  How is it living with Sherlock?  He’s a dear boy, but I suppose he is just as rude and careless as ever?”

John grinned.

 

 

“Hello?…  Yes… Yes!  We’ll be there tomorrow morning.”

After Garvie had explained the situation to his wife, and they had scheduled another appointment with a different brain specialist, Mrs. Garvie had followed up on her promise, and provided them with a wonderful supper.  But someone had called Sherlock just when Mrs. Garvie went into the kitchen for her bread and butter pudding—the one she said Sherlock loved.

John watched Sherlock until he hung up his phone.

“What was that?”

“Lestrade.  A document was sent to Scotland Yard—very similar to the one we found on Howard’s hard drive, but more detailed.  It was sent to the Yard as per his will.  We’ll have to go back to London immediately.”

“Lestrade couldn’t just email it?”

“No, it’s a physical document.  I need to see it to get as much information as possible.”

“But Sherlock!”  Mrs. Garvie was just putting the pudding on the table, while her husband set out some plates and forks.  “I thought you said you would stay the night!”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Garvie, but this is important.  We have to see it as soon as we possibly can.  And we’ll just make the next train if we call for a car now.”

“Nonsense!  Ian will drive you to the station, if you must go.  And I’ll send this home with you.”

When she handed John the tin with the pudding, she kissed his cheek.  “Do take care of him, John. And make sure he eats!”

 

 

“There wasn’t really any reason to leave.”

“Lestrade had new information.”

“It would have waited until the morning.”

“Time is of the essence.”

“Sherlock…”

“The Garvies will phone me with the results of her new tests, John  Staying there longer would have made no difference.”

“Hm.”

John spent the rest of the ride trying to decide whether their strange interaction with the Garvies was proof that Sherlock really had managed to destroy every human feeling in himself… or proof that he was trying not to care.  When he arrived at home, he was still completely undecided.

John and Sherlock were in the living room at Baker Street.  It had been four days since they visited the Garvies, and (probably due to Mycroft, John thought, though Sherlock would never admit it) their suspicions had been confirmed—Mrs. Garvie did not have a brain tumor of any kind, much less a malignant brain cancer. In the interim, Sherlock had been restless and bored enough to accept an odd case for a (very rich) family friend who owned a pleasure cruiser.

Now Sherlock was lying on the sofa with his eyes closed, and John was sitting at the table, staring at the list that meant nothing to him.

Jefferson Hope
Martin Mills
Mark Howard
Olga Kuznetsova
Ian Garvie
Naomi Piers

That is to say, it didn’t mean nothing.  But it didn’t show him where they were going, or what they were doing.   And Sherlock was being as unhelpful as ever.  

He had just pushed the list aside, and was starting to think of a clever title for a blog post about the boat case…”Terror on the Tilly Briggs” seemed melodramatic… Suddenly, Sherlock sat up.

“John!”

“What?”

“The doctors are the key!  Get me the addresses of the three doctors who treated Mrs. Garvie—Prinz, RasGupta, and Darian.  We need to talk to them.”

John was so relieved to be doing anything, that he only rolled his eyes at Sherlock’s arrogant tone of command.   He stopped as he opened his laptop, though.

“Sherlock, what about Naomi Piers?  Shouldn’t we be more worried about her?”

“I have that under control, you just look up those doctors.”

About thirty seconds later John looked up again.

“Sherlock!”

“Hmm?”

“He’s… RasGupta—he’s dead.”

“When?”

“Yesterday.  He…  looks like a car-jacking, actually.  He was killed and his car was taken away.”

“Hah!  And the others dead too, I suppose.  If only I had interviewed them personally sooner!”

“No… well, yes, Darian died yesterday as well.  Heart attack, they’re saying.  But not Prinz.”

Sherlock had already dialed his mobile.  “It’s me.  Dr. Ralph Prinz.  You have to bring him in now… No, I already told you we have additional evidence… You know I’m right…  that won’t… nevermind.”  He slammed the phone off and dialed another number.  “Tell him if he doesn’t tell me the whereabouts of Prinz, I won’t be helping MI-5 ever again…  No, he can’t make me…  Good!”

John looked at him quizzically.

“Mycroft’s assistant.”  His phone buzzed, and he looked at the incoming message.  “Aha!  Come on, John!”  And they were off.

 

 

“So, where are we going now?”

“We have to find Prinz before he’s dead. Lestrade won’t bring him in, so we have to question him ourselves.”

“Ah.”

“I have your gun. You might need it.”

John took the handgun from Sherlock, but before he concealed it, he stared at it. He’d carried it on several escapades with Sherlock over the past few weeks—he’d even taken it out and threatened someone during that bizarre case with the melting laptop. But he had not pulled the trigger since he’d killed Hope.

Killed Hope, and saved Sherlock from the serial killer and from himself.

That night the name “Moriarty” had been forgotten during an entertaining conversation over late-night Chinese.   And John wished he could still forget it.  But this case was… well, it was too easy: So many answers were falling into Sherlock’s lap! Sherlock had been practically handed two lists, and one of the people who showed up on both of them, Olga Kuznetsova, wasn’t even the victim of a crime… just a weird picture of what Sherlock could have become.  Someone was behind it all, and that someone had to be the Moriarty who sponsored Hope—a person who would sponsor a serial killer.

He tucked the gun into his belt, and looked up to find that Sherlock was staring at him.

“Sherlock, I’ve been thinking, and…”

“John. I’m not an idiot. I know this is for my benefit.”

“And that you might be next on the list? That he might destroy you, too?”

“I’m sure he’ll try.” Then Sherlock grinned. “It should be fun!”

Sherlock had started typing something into his phone. He didn’t even seem to notice that John wasn’t smiling back.

 

 

About thirty minutes later, after a hurried argument in which John suggested that another housebreaking might not be their best option, and was quickly overruled, he and Sherlock were creeping through a back garden.  Sherlock led the way in through the kitchen door to Prinz’s bedroom, pulled the curtains and shutters closed carefully, and then flipped the light on.  Prinz jumped up and stared back and forth from John with the gun trained on his head, to Sherlock, lounging with his arms crossed in a corner of the room.  John wondered for a moment if he was going to make a run for the door, when Sherlock drawled, “I wouldn’t run, Prinz. Not if I were you.”

“Wha-what?  Who?”  And John was almost impressed that a man just startled out of his sleep could pull himself together the way Prinz did.  “Who are you?  And what are you doing here?  I’ll call the police!”

“I wouldn’t do that either, Prinz.   We are the police.  Detective Inspector Lestrade.”  John rolled his eyes, as Sherlock produced a badge.

“And he is?”

“I’m his doctor.”

“A doctor?  With a gun?”

“He’s also a crack shot, Prinz.”

“Well, Lestrade…”

“Detective Inspector to you, Prinz.”

“And you can call me Dr. Prinz, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, but I do mind.  I save honorifics for people I respect.”

“Well…” Prinz glanced at John’s gun, “…Detective Inspector, explain to me precisely what is going on.”

“We are bringing you in to Scotland Yard for malpractice in the cases of Jefferson Hope and Helena Garvie—false diagnoses.  That’s a serious offense, and it’s led to death and ruin for quite a few people.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I want to speak to my solicitor.”

“I think you do know what I’m talking about, Prinz.  As did RasGupta and Darian.”

“We are respected medical professionals!  These accusations are outrageous!”

“Don’t lie to me.  I think I mentioned that my colleague is a crack shot.”

Prinz glared.

“And furthermore, I’m afraid you used the wrong tense just a moment ago.  RasGupta and Darian were respected medical professionals.”

“What?”

“They both died yesterday.  Doesn’t that strike you as strange?”

“Th-they did?”

“Yes, they did.  If I were you, I would think of police custody as police protection, and come quietly.”

Prinz sank back down onto the bed.  John could see that he was shaking.

“Now if you’ll just sit there, Prinz, I am going to take a quick look through the house.  Please do excuse me.”

Sherlock walked out of the room, and John could hear doors opening and closing.  Prinz turned to him.

“You’re quite the ornament to the profession, aren’t you, Doctor?  From medical doctor to hired thug?”

John just glared at him.

“Is this what the Hippocratic oath means to you young doctors now?  In my day we had standards.”

“I wouldn’t say anything about standards if I were you, Dr. Prinz.”

“What are you… ?”

Sherlock appeared in the doorway holding a laptop.  “Getting to know each other?   Excellent.  Well, I’ll be taking this computer, and then we’ll all be going down to New Scotland Yard.  I hope we won’t have to handcuff you, Prinz?  That would be a bit difficult to explain to the cabbie.”

John thought for a moment that they would have to handcuff Prinz… or wait for the proper police.  But Sherlock spoke again.

“We could just leave you here without protection, Prinz.”

Prinz started to stalk towards the door, and Sherlock smiled and turned to John.

“I don’t think you’ll be needing that Browning, Dr. Watson.  But keep a hold on it, just in case.”

“Sherlock, I really can’t…”

“I have unearthed a serious case of medical fraud.  If it becomes a problem for the Yard, I have contacts who will be able to deal with it.  Don’t complain.”

Lestrade rolled his eyes.

“Also, we saved his life, and he knows that the moment he is out of police custody, he is a dead man, so I don’t think you’ll get much trouble from him now.  Just put him under police protection… but don’t let him go.”

“And that’s all?  After all that, you just want us to babysit him?”

“Yes.  John and I are going home.”

“Okay, Sherlock.  I want to know everything that’s going on in that head of yours.”

Sherlock made the face John was growing all too familiar with—the face that said Sherlock was hiding something, but you needn’t ask.  “What?  You need to ask more politely if you want to know that.  We have a taxi waiting and the meter’s running.”

 

 

About a day later John was doing the washing up, when Sherlock snapped the lid of Prinz’s laptop shut.  “Idiot!”

“You didn’t find anything, then?”

“No.  Prinz was a complete idiot   He downloaded a virus to his computer.”

“On purpose?”

“I don’t think so.  He probably received it in an email.”

“That happens all the time.”

“To idiots!”

“I’ve had…”

“How could he have done it?  Every scrap of information is gone.”

“Can’t you recover anything?”

“Even I cannot deduce the previous contents of a reformatted hard drive.”

John snorted.

“I could recover almost anything, otherwise.  Why didn’t he pay attention?”

“Well… maybe he could tell you more himself?  Why did he do this?  What was his motivation?”

“There is only one possible motivation, and that is an outside source of money.  There isn’t much glory to be had in diagnosing one more aneurism.  He had nothing to gain from telling those people that they had aneurisms—any fees would have been far outweighed by the risk as well as the cost of fabricating X-rays and the like.  These doctors must have been paid to make false diagnoses—paid very well—but I find no irregularities in his banking, and any information he might have had about other accounts on his computer is gone!”

“And you think they were paid by that-that Moriarty—the one who paid Hope.”

“They must have been.”

“So then question him!”

“No.  He was dead this morning. I’ll…”

“Dead?  Sherlock, how do you know?”

“Lestrade texted me.   Preliminary coroner’s report is that it was heart failure, with no explicable cause.  I convinced Lestrade to order extra toxicology screenings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing came through.  It’s Moriarty, though.  I’m sure of it!”

“Yeah.”

“Still, I expected he wouldn’t last the week.  He was clearly an idiot, and I doubt we could have learned anything more from him.”

John sighed.  He couldn’t think of anything to say to that. “Well, what next?”

“Naomi Piers.  I have to find out who she is.  The name sounds familiar.  Where have I heard it?”

“You’ve heard it because she’s all over the papers and the news and the radio.  I assumed you knew.  She sang that new cover of ‘MacArthur Park’ that they’ve been playing.”

“John, you know I don’t pay attention to the radio.”

“You can’t have missed it.  This song… I have no idea why three people have released singles of it…  ‘someone left the cake out in the rain…’  Almost embarrassing… But I could probably sing the whole thing, I’ve heard it so many times:  ‘Spring was never… waiting…  something about a striped pair of…’”

“Thank you, John.  But I’m sure that we can dispense with the impromptu pop inanity.  More to the point, there is no way that she is the next victim on the list.   Moriarty is targeting exceptional minds, and she is… a model and a singer and…” Sherlock was typing furiously at his computer, “She has recently gone to a retreat in Switzerland along with 25 other fabulously wealthy idiots and Alphonse Mondial, one of these charlatans with their drugs… expanding your mind.  Complete and utter nonsense…  You need brains first.”

“You don’t know that Naomi Piers…”

“Naomi Piers?” Mrs. Hudson had just walked in through the opened door.  “Was that a murder, then?  I wish you were working for her about something else, I’d ask you to get her autograph for my niece but it’s too late now.  No use crying over spilt milk I always say.  But still, such a shame. “

“Mrs. Hudson, what are you on about?”

“You didn’t hear?  Naomi Piers died just last night.  They didn’t say what it was, so I thought maybe you were investigating it and it was a murder.”

“Yes we are, Mrs. Hudson, and it is.   John, tea?”

“We’re out of milk.”

“Coffee,  then.”

“Oh, don’t worry, dear.  I’m so forgetful.  I just came up to ask if you wanted the rest of my milk since I’m leaving in a few hours to visit my sister for a few days. “

“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Hudson.  How long will you be gone?”

“Just three days.  But the milk might spoil.”

“Where does your sis—“

“John!  Tea!”  John glared at Sherlock and remained seated, but when he saw that Mrs. Hudson was already on her way back down the stairs, he got up and started the electric kettle.

 

 

“Maybe someone else got to her before Moriarty did?”

“No.  Who would have a motivation to kill her?”

“She’s quite popular right now.  Maybe an insane fan?”

“John, fans do not kill their idols.”

“John Lennon, Sherlock?  Strawberry Fields Forever? You don’t remember that?”

“No.”

“Well, they do.”

“John, this wasn’t an insane fan.  This was a carefully plotted and calculated murder.  Insanity would not lead to twenty-seven people overdosing on an experimental drug by the precise amount necessary to kill them—no more and no less.”

“True.”  John stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes.  “Money!”

“Mondial wanted her money.  And he’s dead as well.”

“Yes, but what if her estate stood to benefit from her death.”

“Killing the golden goose?  She’s only had one hit single so far, and now that you’ve forced me to listen to it, I don’t think that there is any way it will make money for much longer.  It’s the music video that makes it popular—or people are even more stupid than I used to think.  But there will be other beautiful women to dance half naked and sell other songs.  No one intelligent enough to do that would think there was something to gain from Naomi Piers before she’d at least cut a few more albums.”

“Hm.”

About forty-five minutes later John looked up from the sports section of the morning paper at the sound of a loud complaint from Sherlock.

“It’s no use!”

“Wh-what?”

“There are no leads.  That Prinz was an idiot… we’ve gotten everything we could from Dr. Garvie, not to mention Miller and Howard…  We’re back to where we started.  He has to make the next move.”

“You’re saying he’s beat you, then?”

“What?  No!  Of course not.  But I cannot work without evidence, and I need more evidence, and there’s none to be had right now.”  Sherlock had been pacing back and forth for a while, but he flopped onto the sofa.

John watched him for a few minutes, and tried to think of something to say that would stop Sherlock pouting.  He might look about twelve, but he sometimes he acted about six…  “Has anyone else brought you a case recently?  One of these, maybe?”

“No. One missing diamond, but it’s too boring.”

“Diamond? I bet they’re willing to pay.”

“No.  It’s quite simple.  I know exactly where it is, but I have no desire to get myself mixed up with one ring of jewel thieves who have stolen from another.”

At least Sherlock had some principles.  “So you’ve told them ‘no’?”

“Not yet.  I will eventually.”

“Good.  Well, then…”  John took his cup of tea into the kitchen, and when he put the leftover beans back in the refrigerator, he noticed that there wasn’t much left.  “I think I’ll just get the shopping?”

Sherlock had got up, and was standing idly in front of the bookcase.

“Pick me up a thirty caplet box of vitamins and minerals for pregnancy.”

 It took John about five seconds to decide absolutely that he was not going to ask…


Endgame
goldvermilion87: (Default)



Middlegame I





“Eureka!”

The shout jolted John awake from the doze he’d fallen into watching late night telly, and he blinked at Sherlock.  “What?  What happened?”

“I’ve found it.”

“Well, if you’re not about to run down Baker Street starkers, could you not shout?”

“What?”  Sherlock stared at him like he had grown two heads.

“Never mind.  What did you find?”

“Our blackmailer.  His name is  Mark Howard.  And he lives in Clerkenwell.  John!  We are going housebreaking tonight.”

“We?  What makes you think that I would… I’m not a criminal, you know!”

“There is the small matter of a dead serial killer.”

“That was different.”

“Yes, a difference between life and several years in prison.”

“No it was different because…”

“This is more dangerous.”

Let it never be said, John thought, remembering Simms, that loud American medic, that I don’t “know when I’m licked.”

 

 

John suppressed a sigh as he realized he was not surprised to learn that Sherlock had a complete set of housebreaking tools in a box in his bedroom.

“So, what is our plan?”

“Your plan is to follow my directions, and keep watch.”

“Sherlock, if I’m going to help you break into a house, I will know why and how.”

“I need to access Mark Howard’s computer.  I want to find out who else he is blackmailing or has blackmailed.  I need you to come so that you can keep guard while I search the files.”

“But that doesn’t make sense!  He’ll hear us and wake up.  Besides, if he knows we stole the information, he could stop any case we tried to make against him.”

“But he won’t be at home.”

“How can you know?”

“I contacted Joe Agostino from Joe’s Towing and Repairs.  He owes me a favor—I helped him find his dog once.”

“You helped someone find a dog?”

“I was extremely bored at the time.  It was a good exercise in deduction.  He is going to tow Howard’s car from the carpark at his work building.  He will then inform Howard that he has the car, and that he will charge Howard per hour until he retrieves it.  Howard will go to get his car only to discover that Joe is out.  He will eventually get his car back, but he will not be home before two in the morning.”

“And we’ll be able to hack into his computer that quickly?”

I will, yes.  Anyway, you need to wear all black clothes and your trainers.”

“My trainers are white.”

“No, they’re not.  I re-colored them while you were making tea.”

“You did WHAT?”

“Black permanent marker.  They look much better now.”

 

 

“Sherlock, I think I hear a car.”

“Cars do drive down streets regularly.”

“Yes, but what if it’s Howard’s car?”

“Joe will keep him occupied.”

John was standing in the doorway of Howard’s home office.  Sherlock was at his computer, trying to hack into the main account. He looked up suddenly, and cocked his head as if listening.

“John!  He’s on his way into his house.  Here!  Into this closet!”

John and Sherlock squeezed into the small closet, and Sherlock had just pulled the door closed when the office door was pushed farther open and there was the snick of a light switch.

John wasn’t good at deciphering sounds.  He heard someone sitting in a seat, and some random noises of movement (which Sherlock could probably identify).  Then he heard a voice.

 “Ah!  Ms. Brewer!  How kind of you to join me!”

“This is not a kindness.”

“No?  And what is it, then?”

John did recognize the snap of a gun’s safety being released.  Then the man spoke again.

“You can kill me, but it’s too late for you.  I’ve already contacted your boss.”

Theresa’s voice was incredibly cold.  “I know that.  This isn’t about me.  He contacted me.  Yes, you should be frightened.  He told me about you—about all the other women you’ve ruined—and I won’t let it happen again.  I’ll take you down with me.”

A shot rang out.  Sherlock opened the door of the closet.  The first thing John saw as he tumbled into the room was Mark lying on the ground—definitely dead.

And then he saw Theresa.  She had startled and turned towards them, but she was still holding the gun tightly in her quivering hand.  And she had pointed it at her own head.

“Theresa!  No!”

She fixed Sherlock with a look of cold fury, and pulled the trigger.  She fell to the floor, and her limbs began twitching.

John ran forward and pulled the gun out of her hand.  He could see that she wasn’t dead yet.  He grabbed the scarf from around her neck and pressed it to her wound.  “Hold on, Theresa.  Just a few more minutes!  You’ll be fine.”  But he knew he was talking nonsense.   She was dying and there was nothing he could do about it.

And just as he was about to allow himself to become maudlin, Sherlock shouted again.  “Why would she do that?  How could she be so stupid!”

“Shut up and do something!  Call 999!”

“I’ve already texted Lestrade.”

“That’s not the same thing!”

“Someone else will have called by now.  There were gunshots.”

“Sherlock!  Just do it!”

Sherlock looked like he was about to argue when John dropped the scarf and sat back on the floor.  “It’s too late.”

 “Idiot!  Who was she talking about?  Who was ‘he’?  If she hadn’t…”

“Sherlock!  This woman just died… killed herself.  And it might be our fault, and you’re concerned about…”

“Yes, of course, but this is important.  Now we’ll be able to look at Howard’s computer in peace.  Besides, I think I hear the cavalry now.”

John stared at Theresa for a few moments, and then got up to stand near Sherlock as the police charged in.

“Drop that gun!  I want your hands where I can see them!”

John did as he was told but blinked at Sherlock in confusion.  Sherlock was rolling his eyes and looking completely bored as an officer cuffed his hands.

“We’re not the criminals, sergeant.  I’m waiting for Detective Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard.”

“You’re not waiting.  You’re coming down to the station with us.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  I’m Sherlock Holmes.  This is my associate Dr. John Watson.  You can ask Detective Inspector Lestrade.  He’ll tell you who we are.”

 “I don’t care who you are.  You were breaking and entering, and there’s two dead bodies here…”

John allowed the officer nearest him cuff him.  “Sherlock, maybe you shouldn’t…”

“Be quiet, John.   I work for the police, and…”

“Come with me.”   Sherlock was still arguing with the first officer while the second herded John out the door.  As he sat in the back of the car driving toward the station, he sustained himself with the thought of a nice cup of tea just as soon as Sherlock straightened this mess out.

 

 

When John trudged up the stairs twelve hours later, he walked straight to his chair and dropped into it with his eyes closed.

“Where have you been all this time?”  He opened his eyes.  Sherlock was sitting at the table in front of an unfamiliar desktop.

“Islington Police Station.”

“The whole time?  What were you doing there?”

John tried to collect himself enough to answer.  “Well… fingerprinting, a GSR test, and an interview… paperwork, processing…  Hang on!  Weren’t you there, too?  How…”

“I refused to leave until Lestrade came.  He straightened everything out.  Had a bit of trouble getting Howards’s computer, though.   Bureaucracy!”

“Yes.  Same bureaucracy I had to deal with, actually.  You couldn’t have asked Lestrade to get me off, too?”

“I had to get this computer.  It’s important to the case.”

John felt as if he should be angry at Sherlock.  But other matters seemed more pressing.  He really wanted that cup of tea… and to get changed into something more comfortable than his dirty jeans and the one-size-fits-all shirt he’d been given after his shirt was bagged as evidence…  And he was so very tired.  He’d sit and rest for just a few more minutes.

When John next opened his eyes, the sun was up.  11:30, according to his watch.  John shivered a bit.  He wished he’d at least thought to pick up the blanket hanging over the arm of the sofa before he fell asleep, but it was too late now.

He stood up to stretch and walked over to Sherlock who was still in front of the computer.  It didn’t look as if he’d moved all night.

 “So, how’s it going?”

“How’s what going?”

“The case.  Haven’t you been on that computer since yesterday?”

“Yes.”

“And what did you find?”

“A lot, actually.”

“And?”

“Oh, you want to hear about it?’

“Sherlock…”

“Well, first of all, I’ve found a connection between the last three cases.”

“Really? That’s a bit… conspiracy theory-ish, don’t you think?”

“No.  It’s quite obvious and clear cut.  It’s the game, John—the game Hope was playing.”

“Mindsweeper?”

“Yes.  That’s the connection!  All these men played Mindsweeper.  I’ve been keeping an eye on it, because I noticed some irregularities in the game website, not to mention the fact that it is oddly addictive.  If I weren’t as intelligent as I am, I could see how I might have not stopped playing last night when I got to level eight.”

“You got to level eight!  That’s incredibly difficult.  None of the guys ever got that high… and they played for months!”

“Quite simple game, really, once you’ve got the hang of one or two basic principles.  Anyway, this game is not produced by any regular online gaming corporation.  It’s independently created and run.  And, it had a social networking aspect years before Facebook was invented—Myspace for geniuses.”

“None of the guys ever…”

“Why does it not surprise me that your friends were unintelligent?  The social networking aspect only opens up once you have completed level six.”

“So it’s a sort of online club for Mindsweeper champions?”

“Precisely.  Now, Mark Howard, our blackmailer, has not played Mindsweeper in years—he beat the game entirely.  But he kept up with quite a few of the others who frequented the social networking site.  And he was goaded into this blackmailing scheme.”

“You can’t just be goaded into something like that by people you’ve met online!”

“Apparently you can.  I’ve been reading the conversations they had, and what seems to have started as camaraderie, and an ‘us versus the world’ association turned into one-upmanship.  They all had genius IQs, but they all wanted to be the best.  It was quite childish, really.”

“I’m sure.”

“So for Mark, getting blackmail information about those women was a way to prove himself to the others.  A silly game.  And an even sillier one when you know what I know.”

“And that is?”

“There was only one person in that social networking group who interacted with Mark on the issue.  He was goaded by one person with multiple online personas.”

“So you think… ?”

“Someone was trying to make him do this.  And it was the same person who convinced Hope he had an aneurism and Miller to start stealing identities.”

“How can you know?  Just because they played the same game?”

“Because all three were in close contact with one or more alter egos of this mysterious Mindsweeper aficionado.  And because the other two are on this list.”

John came and looked over Sherlock’s shoulder.  Sure enough, there was a file entitled “M.”  It contained four names:  Jefferson Hope, Mark Miller, Olga Kuznetsova, and Ian Garvie.

John glared at the list.  If these crimes were all committed by one person who targeted the intelligent—geniuses, really—couldn’t he be after Sherlock, too?  It was such a vague feeling, that he hardly dared admit it to himself, much less bring it up to Sherlock, but such odd coincidences…   Of course, Sherlock had never played Mindsweeper until that evening, so the criminal couldn’t know about him… but then, he didn’t know if Kuznetsova or Garvie had either…

“Who are these other two people?”

“One I’ve never heard of, but the other I know personally.”

“What?”

“Ian Garvie was a professor at Cambridge, and my tutor in biochemistry.”

“Really?”  John sniggered at the thought of Sherlock listening closely to… anyone.

“Surely you don’t think that I was born with knowledge of chemistry!”

“No, but… well, I didn’t think you could say said something like ‘tutor’ and ‘mentor’ seriously.  Did you actually learn from him?  You actually visited your tutor?”

“Don’t be an idiot, John.  Even someone as brilliant as I am has to start somewhere.  And Dr. Garvie is extraordinarily intelligent by any standards.  He’s also a good man.  He and his wife used to invite me to their house… and he tried very hard to convince me not to… but anyway… you would like him, John.  You have a lot in common.”

“Thank you!  I didn’t know you thought I was extraordinarily intelligent.”

Sherlock glared at him impatiently, all traces of sentimentality swallowed up in sudden irritation.  “That is not something you two have in common. I am going to email Dr. Garvie to assess the situation, and in the meantime we need to find Olga Kuznetsova.”

 

 

“John, what are you doing?”

“Wha… Oh, Sherlock. Sorry I didn’t hear you come in.”

“That’s no wonder, considering I could hear your headphones down at the bottom of the stairs.”

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to fear for the safety of our dishes, and the safety of your future bride, should you dance at your wedding.”

“Oh…”

“And should you really be singing about being shot through the heart?”

“What do you mean… Oh! Was I? I was!”

“Well, you can finish washing those dishes some other time.  I’ve found Olga Kuznetsova.  We’re going to see her.”

“Where is she?”

“Westminster.  Bring your gun with you.   She’s been sleeping rough, and taking drugs.”

 

 

When they got out of the taxi, John nearly gagged.

He had become used to the squalor and misery found in the slums of Kabul and Baghrab, but it was jarring to find similar conditions in the back alleys of modern, cosmopolitan London.

Sherlock led him down a filthy alleyway to a corner where some torn boxes stood in a heap.

“Olga!”

A woman got up from behind the mess.  She gave the impression of being very old, but John’s doctor’s eyes showed him that she was no older than Sherlock—more likely a few years younger—but aged prematurely by hunger, rough living, and certainly, as Sherlock had said, drugs.  Her arms were bruised, and her whole body was shaking.

“What can I do for you?”   Her voice was harsh, but John was almost certain that she was trying to look… seductive?

“You know perfectly well that we would never have been your clientele, Olga.”  Sherlock’s cold confirmation was possibly more jarring than the information itself.

“What do you want, then?”

“I want to know your history.  I know that you are from Vyazemsky, Khabarovsk Krai, Russia and that you had a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1999, but you dropped out of the school in 2001.  I could tell you the progress of your degradation from there by looking at you, but I want to hear it from your own lips.  And I want you to tell me why.”

John was torn between disgust at Sherlock’s callousness and admiration for his ability to read people, as Olga pulled herself up straight, and her trembling settled to a degree.

“My name is Olya Kuznetsova.  I am from Vyazemsky, as you say.  I am the only person in my village to receive a scholarship like this. I am a great violinist.  And I might have chaired any orchestra here in England.  I had teachers in Russia.  But I taught myself.  I watched Oistrakh and Kogan on film until I could understand how they played.  I practiced day in and day out for years. And I am a great violinist.”

“Then why are you here?”

Olga’s head dropped  “I… I don’t know.”

“You must know.  You must have asked yourself and played your mistakes over in your head hundreds of times.”

“They all hated me.  All those English boys and girls.  They were jealous.  They didn’t want me to succeed.  They wanted this to happen.”

“But that isn’t why you’re here now, is it?”

Olga stared at Sherlock for a few minutes.  And then she launched into a stream of words.

“I wanted to be like them.  I wanted them to like me.  I did not practice as much as I used to. Instead I went out.  To the clubs and the bars.  I was also very beautiful, but I had never cared until then.  But I did become very popular… and also I lost my scholarship.  I did not have the money to return home, or the courage to tell my mama and papa what I had done.  They would be ashamed and disappointed.

“I found a job, of course, but it was not like playing my violin.  It was dull and I could no longer stand it.  I started taking drugs… and you know what happened.  Don’t you, Mr… ?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”

Sherlock flexed his left hand as he looked back at her. Suddenly he shoved both hands into his pockets and turned toward the road

“I can see that you’re itching to do something, John.  The nearest hostel is St. Mungo’s.  You could walk there or take a cab.  Olga will go with you.”

“I am a great violinist, Sherlock Holmes.”

“So am I, Olya.” And he walked back towards the main road.

John watched in confusion as Sherlock disappeared around the corner… But then he turned back to Olga.  “So, St. Mungo’s, then?”

“I will go with you to this shelter.  But I have been there before, and here I am again.”

“Hmm.”

As they walked to a nearby cab stand, John turned to her.

“Olga, did you play the game Mindsweeper when you were younger?”

“What is that game?”

“It’s a computer game.”

“I do not play games on the computer.”

So much for not worrying about Sherlock.



Middlegame III
goldvermilion87: (Default)



Middlegame I





“Eureka!”

The shout jolted John awake from the doze he’d fallen into watching late night telly, and he blinked at Sherlock.  “What?  What happened?”

“I’ve found it.”

“Well, if you’re not about to run down Baker Street starkers, could you not shout?”

“What?”  Sherlock stared at him like he had grown two heads.

“Never mind.  What did you find?”

“Our blackmailer.  His name is  Mark Howard.  And he lives in Clerkenwell.  John!  We are going housebreaking tonight.”

“We?  What makes you think that I would… I’m not a criminal, you know!”

“There is the small matter of a dead serial killer.”

“That was different.”

“Yes, a difference between life and several years in prison.”

“No it was different because…”

“This is more dangerous.”

Let it never be said, John thought, remembering Simms, that loud American medic, that I don’t “know when I’m licked.”

 

 

John suppressed a sigh as he realized he was not surprised to learn that Sherlock had a complete set of housebreaking tools in a box in his bedroom.

“So, what is our plan?”

“Your plan is to follow my directions, and keep watch.”

“Sherlock, if I’m going to help you break into a house, I will know why and how.”

“I need to access Mark Howard’s computer.  I want to find out who else he is blackmailing or has blackmailed.  I need you to come so that you can keep guard while I search the files.”

“But that doesn’t make sense!  He’ll hear us and wake up.  Besides, if he knows we stole the information, he could stop any case we tried to make against him.”

“But he won’t be at home.”

“How can you know?”

“I contacted Joe Agostino from Joe’s Towing and Repairs.  He owes me a favor—I helped him find his dog once.”

“You helped someone find a dog?”

“I was extremely bored at the time.  It was a good exercise in deduction.  He is going to tow Howard’s car from the carpark at his work building.  He will then inform Howard that he has the car, and that he will charge Howard per hour until he retrieves it.  Howard will go to get his car only to discover that Joe is out.  He will eventually get his car back, but he will not be home before two in the morning.”

“And we’ll be able to hack into his computer that quickly?”

I will, yes.  Anyway, you need to wear all black clothes and your trainers.”

“My trainers are white.”

“No, they’re not.  I re-colored them while you were making tea.”

“You did WHAT?”

“Black permanent marker.  They look much better now.”

 

 

“Sherlock, I think I hear a car.”

“Cars do drive down streets regularly.”

“Yes, but what if it’s Howard’s car?”

“Joe will keep him occupied.”

John was standing in the doorway of Howard’s home office.  Sherlock was at his computer, trying to hack into the main account. He looked up suddenly, and cocked his head as if listening.

“John!  He’s on his way into his house.  Here!  Into this closet!”

John and Sherlock squeezed into the small closet, and Sherlock had just pulled the door closed when the office door was pushed farther open and there was the snick of a light switch.

John wasn’t good at deciphering sounds.  He heard someone sitting in a seat, and some random noises of movement (which Sherlock could probably identify).  Then he heard a voice.

 “Ah!  Ms. Brewer!  How kind of you to join me!”

“This is not a kindness.”

“No?  And what is it, then?”

John did recognize the snap of a gun’s safety being released.  Then the man spoke again.

“You can kill me, but it’s too late for you.  I’ve already contacted your boss.”

Theresa’s voice was incredibly cold.  “I know that.  This isn’t about me.  He contacted me.  Yes, you should be frightened.  He told me about you—about all the other women you’ve ruined—and I won’t let it happen again.  I’ll take you down with me.”

A shot rang out.  Sherlock opened the door of the closet.  The first thing John saw as he tumbled into the room was Mark lying on the ground—definitely dead.

And then he saw Theresa.  She had startled and turned towards them, but she was still holding the gun tightly in her quivering hand.  And she had pointed it at her own head.

“Theresa!  No!”

She fixed Sherlock with a look of cold fury, and pulled the trigger.  She fell to the floor, and her limbs began twitching.

John ran forward and pulled the gun out of her hand.  He could see that she wasn’t dead yet.  He grabbed the scarf from around her neck and pressed it to her wound.  “Hold on, Theresa.  Just a few more minutes!  You’ll be fine.”  But he knew he was talking nonsense.   She was dying and there was nothing he could do about it.

And just as he was about to allow himself to become maudlin, Sherlock shouted again.  “Why would she do that?  How could she be so stupid!”

“Shut up and do something!  Call 999!”

“I’ve already texted Lestrade.”

“That’s not the same thing!”

“Someone else will have called by now.  There were gunshots.”

“Sherlock!  Just do it!”

Sherlock looked like he was about to argue when John dropped the scarf and sat back on the floor.  “It’s too late.”

 “Idiot!  Who was she talking about?  Who was ‘he’?  If she hadn’t…”

“Sherlock!  This woman just died… killed herself.  And it might be our fault, and you’re concerned about…”

“Yes, of course, but this is important.  Now we’ll be able to look at Howard’s computer in peace.  Besides, I think I hear the cavalry now.”

John stared at Theresa for a few moments, and then got up to stand near Sherlock as the police charged in.

“Drop that gun!  I want your hands where I can see them!”

John did as he was told but blinked at Sherlock in confusion.  Sherlock was rolling his eyes and looking completely bored as an officer cuffed his hands.

“We’re not the criminals, sergeant.  I’m waiting for Detective Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard.”

“You’re not waiting.  You’re coming down to the station with us.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  I’m Sherlock Holmes.  This is my associate Dr. John Watson.  You can ask Detective Inspector Lestrade.  He’ll tell you who we are.”

 “I don’t care who you are.  You were breaking and entering, and there’s two dead bodies here…”

John allowed the officer nearest him cuff him.  “Sherlock, maybe you shouldn’t…”

“Be quiet, John.   I work for the police, and…”

“Come with me.”   Sherlock was still arguing with the first officer while the second herded John out the door.  As he sat in the back of the car driving toward the station, he sustained himself with the thought of a nice cup of tea just as soon as Sherlock straightened this mess out.

 

 

When John trudged up the stairs twelve hours later, he walked straight to his chair and dropped into it with his eyes closed.

“Where have you been all this time?”  He opened his eyes.  Sherlock was sitting at the table in front of an unfamiliar desktop.

“Islington Police Station.”

“The whole time?  What were you doing there?”

John tried to collect himself enough to answer.  “Well… fingerprinting, a GSR test, and an interview… paperwork, processing…  Hang on!  Weren’t you there, too?  How…”

“I refused to leave until Lestrade came.  He straightened everything out.  Had a bit of trouble getting Howards’s computer, though.   Bureaucracy!”

“Yes.  Same bureaucracy I had to deal with, actually.  You couldn’t have asked Lestrade to get me off, too?”

“I had to get this computer.  It’s important to the case.”

John felt as if he should be angry at Sherlock.  But other matters seemed more pressing.  He really wanted that cup of tea… and to get changed into something more comfortable than his dirty jeans and the one-size-fits-all shirt he’d been given after his shirt was bagged as evidence…  And he was so very tired.  He’d sit and rest for just a few more minutes.

When John next opened his eyes, the sun was up.  11:30, according to his watch.  John shivered a bit.  He wished he’d at least thought to pick up the blanket hanging over the arm of the sofa before he fell asleep, but it was too late now.

He stood up to stretch and walked over to Sherlock who was still in front of the computer.  It didn’t look as if he’d moved all night.

 “So, how’s it going?”

“How’s what going?”

“The case.  Haven’t you been on that computer since yesterday?”

“Yes.”

“And what did you find?”

“A lot, actually.”

“And?”

“Oh, you want to hear about it?’

“Sherlock…”

“Well, first of all, I’ve found a connection between the last three cases.”

“Really? That’s a bit… conspiracy theory-ish, don’t you think?”

“No.  It’s quite obvious and clear cut.  It’s the game, John—the game Hope was playing.”

“Mindsweeper?”

“Yes.  That’s the connection!  All these men played Mindsweeper.  I’ve been keeping an eye on it, because I noticed some irregularities in the game website, not to mention the fact that it is oddly addictive.  If I weren’t as intelligent as I am, I could see how I might have not stopped playing last night when I got to level eight.”

“You got to level eight!  That’s incredibly difficult.  None of the guys ever got that high… and they played for months!”

“Quite simple game, really, once you’ve got the hang of one or two basic principles.  Anyway, this game is not produced by any regular online gaming corporation.  It’s independently created and run.  And, it had a social networking aspect years before Facebook was invented—Myspace for geniuses.”

“None of the guys ever…”

“Why does it not surprise me that your friends were unintelligent?  The social networking aspect only opens up once you have completed level six.”

“So it’s a sort of online club for Mindsweeper champions?”

“Precisely.  Now, Mark Howard, our blackmailer, has not played Mindsweeper in years—he beat the game entirely.  But he kept up with quite a few of the others who frequented the social networking site.  And he was goaded into this blackmailing scheme.”

“You can’t just be goaded into something like that by people you’ve met online!”

“Apparently you can.  I’ve been reading the conversations they had, and what seems to have started as camaraderie, and an ‘us versus the world’ association turned into one-upmanship.  They all had genius IQs, but they all wanted to be the best.  It was quite childish, really.”

“I’m sure.”

“So for Mark, getting blackmail information about those women was a way to prove himself to the others.  A silly game.  And an even sillier one when you know what I know.”

“And that is?”

“There was only one person in that social networking group who interacted with Mark on the issue.  He was goaded by one person with multiple online personas.”

“So you think… ?”

“Someone was trying to make him do this.  And it was the same person who convinced Hope he had an aneurism and Miller to start stealing identities.”

“How can you know?  Just because they played the same game?”

“Because all three were in close contact with one or more alter egos of this mysterious Mindsweeper aficionado.  And because the other two are on this list.”

John came and looked over Sherlock’s shoulder.  Sure enough, there was a file entitled “M.”  It contained four names:  Jefferson Hope, Mark Miller, Olga Kuznetsova, and Ian Garvie.

John glared at the list.  If these crimes were all committed by one person who targeted the intelligent—geniuses, really—couldn’t he be after Sherlock, too?  It was such a vague feeling, that he hardly dared admit it to himself, much less bring it up to Sherlock, but such odd coincidences…   Of course, Sherlock had never played Mindsweeper until that evening, so the criminal couldn’t know about him… but then, he didn’t know if Kuznetsova or Garvie had either…

“Who are these other two people?”

“One I’ve never heard of, but the other I know personally.”

“What?”

“Ian Garvie was a professor at Cambridge, and my tutor in biochemistry.”

“Really?”  John sniggered at the thought of Sherlock listening closely to… anyone.

“Surely you don’t think that I was born with knowledge of chemistry!”

“No, but… well, I didn’t think you could say said something like ‘tutor’ and ‘mentor’ seriously.  Did you actually learn from him?  You actually visited your tutor?”

“Don’t be an idiot, John.  Even someone as brilliant as I am has to start somewhere.  And Dr. Garvie is extraordinarily intelligent by any standards.  He’s also a good man.  He and his wife used to invite me to their house… and he tried very hard to convince me not to… but anyway… you would like him, John.  You have a lot in common.”

“Thank you!  I didn’t know you thought I was extraordinarily intelligent.”

Sherlock glared at him impatiently, all traces of sentimentality swallowed up in sudden irritation.  “That is not something you two have in common. I am going to email Dr. Garvie to assess the situation, and in the meantime we need to find Olga Kuznetsova.”

 

 

“John, what are you doing?”

“Wha… Oh, Sherlock. Sorry I didn’t hear you come in.”

“That’s no wonder, considering I could hear your headphones down at the bottom of the stairs.”

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to fear for the safety of our dishes, and the safety of your future bride, should you dance at your wedding.”

“Oh…”

“And should you really be singing about being shot through the heart?”

“What do you mean… Oh! Was I? I was!”

“Well, you can finish washing those dishes some other time.  I’ve found Olga Kuznetsova.  We’re going to see her.”

“Where is she?”

“Westminster.  Bring your gun with you.   She’s been sleeping rough, and taking drugs.”

 

 

When they got out of the taxi, John nearly gagged.

He had become used to the squalor and misery found in the slums of Kabul and Baghrab, but it was jarring to find similar conditions in the back alleys of modern, cosmopolitan London.

Sherlock led him down a filthy alleyway to a corner where some torn boxes stood in a heap.

“Olga!”

A woman got up from behind the mess.  She gave the impression of being very old, but John’s doctor’s eyes showed him that she was no older than Sherlock—more likely a few years younger—but aged prematurely by hunger, rough living, and certainly, as Sherlock had said, drugs.  Her arms were bruised, and her whole body was shaking.

“What can I do for you?”   Her voice was harsh, but John was almost certain that she was trying to look… seductive?

“You know perfectly well that we would never have been your clientele, Olga.”  Sherlock’s cold confirmation was possibly more jarring than the information itself.

“What do you want, then?”

“I want to know your history.  I know that you are from Vyazemsky, Khabarovsk Krai, Russia and that you had a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1999, but you dropped out of the school in 2001.  I could tell you the progress of your degradation from there by looking at you, but I want to hear it from your own lips.  And I want you to tell me why.”

John was torn between disgust at Sherlock’s callousness and admiration for his ability to read people, as Olga pulled herself up straight, and her trembling settled to a degree.

“My name is Olya Kuznetsova.  I am from Vyazemsky, as you say.  I am the only person in my village to receive a scholarship like this. I am a great violinist.  And I might have chaired any orchestra here in England.  I had teachers in Russia.  But I taught myself.  I watched Oistrakh and Kogan on film until I could understand how they played.  I practiced day in and day out for years. And I am a great violinist.”

“Then why are you here?”

Olga’s head dropped  “I… I don’t know.”

“You must know.  You must have asked yourself and played your mistakes over in your head hundreds of times.”

“They all hated me.  All those English boys and girls.  They were jealous.  They didn’t want me to succeed.  They wanted this to happen.”

“But that isn’t why you’re here now, is it?”

Olga stared at Sherlock for a few minutes.  And then she launched into a stream of words.

“I wanted to be like them.  I wanted them to like me.  I did not practice as much as I used to. Instead I went out.  To the clubs and the bars.  I was also very beautiful, but I had never cared until then.  But I did become very popular… and also I lost my scholarship.  I did not have the money to return home, or the courage to tell my mama and papa what I had done.  They would be ashamed and disappointed.

“I found a job, of course, but it was not like playing my violin.  It was dull and I could no longer stand it.  I started taking drugs… and you know what happened.  Don’t you, Mr… ?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”

Sherlock flexed his left hand as he looked back at her. Suddenly he shoved both hands into his pockets and turned toward the road

“I can see that you’re itching to do something, John.  The nearest hostel is St. Mungo’s.  You could walk there or take a cab.  Olga will go with you.”

“I am a great violinist, Sherlock Holmes.”

“So am I, Olya.” And he walked back towards the main road.

John watched in confusion as Sherlock disappeared around the corner… But then he turned back to Olga.  “So, St. Mungo’s, then?”

“I will go with you to this shelter.  But I have been there before, and here I am again.”

“Hmm.”

As they walked to a nearby cab stand, John turned to her.

“Olga, did you play the game Mindsweeper when you were younger?”

“What is that game?”

“It’s a computer game.”

“I do not play games on the computer.”

So much for not worrying about Sherlock.



Middlegame III
goldvermilion87: (Default)


Opening




“You solved Lestrade’s case, then?”

John was following Sherlock up the steps to the flat, carrying the bag of takeaway.

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, it’s only been two hours and you’re back for tea.”

“Brilliant observation, Doctor.  Would you like to tell me the color of the coat I’m wearing as well?”

“It didn’t go well, then.”

“Of course it went well.  It took me minutes to see what Lestrade and his dimwits could not.  I examined the corpse, and tomorrow morning I am going to Regent’s Park to confirm my deductions.”

“Regent’s Park?”

“Yes.  There was a dead body there.”

“Where I run every day!?”

“Lucky for you, you don’t bring a dog.”

“Just tell me what happened!”

“Are you making tea?”

“Yes.”

“The police have found a body buried in Regent’s Park, about thirty-five meters from the edge of the lake.  You’ve walked past it every day since you moved here.  It’s really remarkable how blind you people are.  It’s almost as if you’re trying to be…”

“Okay, okay.  Get on with it.”

“Yesterday, right around the time of your morning stroll…”

“Run.”

“During your morning stroll, a Miss Alison Waite’s West Highland Terrier ran off the path and started digging furiously until he unearthed a human hand.  The body was identified as that of a man most recently known as Randall Osterling, though he was born Roy Paul—a minor hit-man for the Russian mob, who was put under witness protection after he gave information that led to the arrest and imprisonment of six very important mobsters.”

“They got him, then.”

“Randall Osterling, formerly known as Roy Paul, was declared to be burned to death in a stolen car two years ago.”

“Identity thief, then?

“John, you must learn how to suit your theories to your facts, not the other way around. It is just as likely to be some unfortunate enemy of Mycroft’s government whose death was used to protect Roy Paul.  What is most likely, however, is that the Russian mob killed the man they were after, and the government assumed that the body was Paul’s when he disappeared at about the same time.”

“I don’t see that it’s any better than my…”

“That is because you do not observe.  Once I had learned the story from Lestrade, I went to the morgue to examine the body.  As I expected, there was a peculiar odor.  I must go to Regent’s Park in the morning to confirm my hypothesis.  I am going to my room to play my violin.  I want to think in peace for a few hours.”

“Sherlock, what hypothesis?”

But Sherlock had already closed the door to his room.

 

 

John wished he had thought of some clever insult to snap at Sherlock after he flashed that bloody ID badge at the policeman in charge of the crime scene in the park.  Something along the lines of “surely the world’s only consulting detective could deduce that the sergeant knew DI Lestrade quite well” might have worked, but he’d taken too long to think of it.  Besides, Sherlock would have had a cutting answer.  And frankly, after being dragged out of bed far too early for someone who had been kept awake until five o’clock AM by a shrieking violin, a quick trip to New Scotland Yard in handcuffs wouldn’t have made the morning that much worse.  At least if it had been inconvenient for John, it would have been inconvenient for Sherlock, too.

But John’s irritation was quickly fading as he watched Sherlock whirl around the scene, mystifying all the policemen there.  In fact, he was beginning to feel smug, because he had been following Sherlock to crime scenes for only three weeks, and he could already interpret much of what Sherlock was doing (looking for prints in the ground, smelling for chemicals…) better than any of the policemen.  Then Sherlock reached a hand out to him without even turning to look.

“Tic Tac box.”

“What?”

“I want your Tic Tac box.”

“What?  Why?”

“I need to take a sample of this dirt.”

“But… but I just bought it.”

“Get another.  Hand it over.”

John tried to think as he slowly took the nearly full box out of his coat pocket.  There had to be a reason that…

“You can’t use this.  The mint on the container will contaminate your sample!”

“Nonsense.  I’ll take that into consideration when I run my tests.”

“But—” and Sherlock had grabbed the box out of his hand and dumped them all on the ground.

“Sherlock!  You could have at least let me have a few before…”

“Perfect!  Take this.  Get a cab.  I’ll be there in two minutes.”

John looked at the box of dirt in his hand, and walked back towards the road.

 

 

“It’s exactly as I thought!”

John was beginning to get bored after three hours of trying to amuse himself while Sherlock measured and mixed and occasionally barked out an order.  He wanted to go home, but it would take him over an hour if he didn’t take a cab, and Sherlock might summon him back at any moment.  Besides, for all his other faults, Sherlock did generally pay the cab fare.

“What is it?”

“This is wolf urine.”

“Why…”

“People use it in America to repel animals from crops or gardens.”

“Ah.”

“But this is a particular kind.  Klein Laboratories, a small venture in Idaho, has been working on a urine that will repel or attract wolves using wolf pheromones.  They’ve been working on it for eight years now, but so far the only useful thing it’s done is attract a West Highland Terrier.”

“And how did you know…?”

“A case last year.  Some Klein Laboratories products were being put into cheap cologne that was advertised as having wolf pheromones.  A gang member from America was using it, and the scent was all over a crime scene.  I thought I recognized the smell, but I had to test this chemically to be sure.  Do you know that your mouth is hanging open?  And you’re absolutely correct, you should try a new brand of mouthwash.”

John shook his head.  “Okay.  So, the American gang member…”

“No, no.  That is how I recognized the scent.  It was put on the dirt so that a dog would dig up the dead body.  Someone wanted the body to be found.”

“By you?”

“No, by the police.”

“Oh… but you knew the chemical… so couldn’t it have been meant for you?”

“That is coincidence. You need to learn to distinguish between patterns and coincidence.  It’s very important in my line of work.”

“So, who wants the police to find the body?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?  But when Lestrade’s forensics experts get him the identity of the original victim, it will be someone with deep political connections,  just as I said at first.”

 

 

“What do you mean Martin Mills isn’t … You know I would never call you unless I had to, Mycroft … No it isn’t!” Sherlock hung up his phone and glared at nothing in particular.

“What was that?”

“Lestrade just texted that the man who was killed in 2008 was Martin Mills.  But my brother says that he has no political connections.”

“You were wrong, then?”

“No, my brother is not as omniscient as he would like to believe.  I will have to look into Mills’s background myself.”

“Well, before you try and justify yourself, don’t you think you could do something more for that woman with the blackmail problem… Thomasina?”

“Theresa Brewer was involved in illegal insider trading.  She’s up for promotion now, and if her employers are made aware of it, she will lose her job, and probably never be hired by a respectable firm again.  But we know she did what she’s being blackmailed about.  I told her that her case was of no interest to me, and don’t worry—she would never have been interested in you.”

“I wasn’t…”

“Yes you were.”

“That doesn’t change…”

Sherlock opened John’s laptop and started typing.  “If you care so much, why don’t you try and do something about it?  Let me think in peace.”

John made a mental note to add a password to his account, grabbed his computer, and started for his room.  “I will!”

 

 

Four hours later, John thought his eyes were going to burn out of their sockets from staring at the computer screen, and he really hadn’t had any ideas better than googling.  Besides, even he knew that googling “blackmail” and “insider trading” wasn’t any good.  He kept trying to think of new ideas, if for no other reason than to show Sherlock that he cared about helping Theresa, but he had to admit that he was relieved when Sherlock called him downstairs.

“Mills was an identity thief.”  Sherlock looked brilliantly smug.

“That’s what I said three days ago.”

“Yes, well, you had no evidence for it at the time.”

“Doesn’t make me less right, or you less wrong for thinking…”

“Actually, it does.  A crime without evidence may as well not have happened.  Now listen:  Mills ran an internet café in central London.  He collected information from his customers over the wireless network.  Quite simple, really.  He made a mistake when he stole Roy Paul’s identity, though, because the mob was tracking him.  For that he has paid a very high price. The interesting question is who would want us to find out about him now?   But that can wait until we finish this case with Hope.  I am going to start looking into the case files for anything regarding this “Moriarty” figure, as well as for any connections between Scotland Yard cold case files and Hope.”

“Here, John.  Take a look at these files.  Tell me anything you notice.”

John picked up one of the three files that Sherlock had handed to him.  Srivarsha Pradeep, age 29.  He could see from the picture that she’d been strangled.  He put it aside.  Treating military casualties did not give him the stomach for this.  Next, Alison Wright-Takashi, 47.  He tried not to look at the picture, as he read the report.  Also strangled.  Evidence of rape.  Married with two children ages ten and twelve at the time of her death.  A Vice-President of Barnet-Jones Industries.   Body found in a skip on Marshgate Lane… John felt as if he should know where that was.  He looked at the last.  Catherine Needham, age 35.  Also strangled.  Worked in Marketing for Harit Energy (UK).  Unmarried.  Body found in the carpark near her workplace in Borehamwood.

“What am I looking for?”

“Connections.”

“I don’t see any.”

“Try.”

“Well.  Three women.  Died in similar circumstances.  That’s all I see.  They’re different ages, different races, even, so it doesn’t seem like serial murders…”

“No.  There is much more.  We have three women, all of whom were raped and then murdered before their bodies were disposed of.  They were all raped and killed in the place where their bodies were left, and all three came there willingly.  Furthermore, all three were up for some sort of promotion in their companies when they were murdered.”

“That hardly seems to connect their deaths.”

“But their companies are connected.”

“What?  One woman worked at some industry company, and the other at an energy company!”

“Yes, and Srivarsha Pradeep, whose file you didn’t bother to read, worked for JM Heppler.”

“Who’s that?”

“Not ‘who’ but ‘What.’  JM Heppler is a well-known chemical company.”

“Oh.  That still doesn’t…”

“JM Heppler and Harit Energy are subsidiaries of Barnet-Jones.”

“I see.  But does that mean it was the same killer?  A serial killer?”

“Perhaps.  It is obvious that either the same man killed them, or three men of a very similar build.  That’s what I noticed immediately.  I’m surprised that you didn’t, doctor.”

“I don’t specialize in garroting.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.  For now, though, we keep looking into these women’s pasts for a connection.”

 

 

“Mr. Takashi, I need you to tell me everything that you didn’t tell the police.  How had your wife been behaving in the days leading up to her murder?”

“How do you mean…”

“Was anything different?”

“I…”

“She was under a tremendous amount of pressure.  Maybe she was embezzling funds… blackmailing her boss… You must have noticed something! Think!”

“I don’t…”

“She was doing something differently, Mr. Takashi, wasn’t she.  Tell me!  What was she doing differently?”

“I didn’t notice anything.  And frankly…” He glared at Sherlock.  “…I don’t see that it’s any business of yours, anyway.”

“Yes.  I’m a Detective Inspector.”  Sherlock waved the badge in front of Takashi’s face.

“Let me see that.”  He grabbed it out of Sherlock’s hand.  “‘Gregory Lestrade.’ Didn’t he call you ‘Sherlock’ when you came in?”

“Sorry,” John mumbled.

“It doesn’t matter.  I will find out whether you tell me or not.”

“Then find out.  But you’re leaving now.”

Sherlock gave him a scathing look and swept out of the room.  John lingered for a moment.  “Sorry… erm… pressure of work.  He’s not usually…”

Takashi glared at him.

“Bye.”  And he caught up with Sherlock just as he flagged down a the cab.

“Sherlock, you can’t just bully people like that.  That man was the victim’s husband, not a suspect. He’s probably still grieving!”

“If I don’t track down the person responsible for his wife’s murder, soon other husbands will be grieving.  Even you should be able to see that.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to be a complete git.”

“He knew something, John.  You saw him—the way he snapped at me as soon as he’d collected himself.  He wasn’t acting like a grieving man.  He was acting like a guilty man—a man who had something to hide.”

“But you were implying that his wife was somehow responsible for her own death.  It was a defense mechanism, maybe?”

“Yes, but a defense mechanism because he had something to hide.  There is a difference between the two  reactions.  I’ve interviewed enough people to know.”

“You do this often?”

“Rarely without success.  But then I don’t usually have you there to make a mess of it.”

“Yeah…”

“But I do have enough information now.  He has something to hide.  And I have discovered that both Catherine Needham and Srivarsha Pradeep had committed indiscretions that they were very afraid would be revealed before they were promoted.”

“When did you find that out?”

“I found information on Catherine by searching some social networking sites.  The things people say when they believe they have secured their Myspace accounts…  It shouldn’t really be surprising, I suppose…  And I met several of Srivarsha’s friends at Soho Solo last night.”

“You were at a club last night?  You could have brought me.”

“The clientele is very young…”

“I’m not that much older than…”

“… and fashionable.  You would never have fit in.”

Sometimes John wondered why he even tried…

 

 

When the taxi pulled up to 221 Baker Street John noticed a woman smoking a cigarette while she paced in front of the door.  The wet blotches of makeup under her eyes were obvious enough that even John could deduce that she had been crying recently.  It was Theresa Brewer.

Sherlock walked over to her with a sympathetic smile.

“Ah!  Ms. Brewer…”

“You!  You…” she dropped the cigarette to the ground and glared at Sherlock through her puffy red eyes.

“Ms. Brewer, you seem to be distressed.  Please come up to the flat.  Perhaps we could get you a cup of tea?  Is there anything we can do to help?”

Theresa looked at least as taken aback as John felt.

“I… I…”

“Tea, then.  We do not buy our tea from Harrods as you do,  but you don’t mind PG Tips.  And John does make excellent tea.”

John rolled his eyes, led the way into the flat, and started making the tea.  He could hear Sherlock and Theresa’s conversation from the kitchen.

“Can I take your coat, Ms. Brewer?   And John will get you some biscuits.  John?”

“Yes, I heard.”

“Now, tell me what happened.”

“This… this morning.  I received this letter with the post last night…”

“May I have it, please?”

“…And when I went in to work, and they knew. About… about the insider trading… and they… they fired me.  I was so young when I… and now I won’t be able to find another job… and… and… I’m lucky they won’t press charges and…”

John walked back into the living room.  Theresa was sniffling into a man’s handkerchief.  (John hadn’t realized that Sherlock carried a handkerchief, much less offered it to damsels in distress.)  Sherlock was ignoring her in favor of the letter she had handed to him.

John coughed a little.  “Sherlock.”

Sherlock looked up, and shaped his face into a look of (very convincing) concern.  “How did this happen?”

The damsel in distress disappeared.  Theresa jumped out of the chair and started shouting.  “How did this happen?  I came to you and told you everything!  You know perfectly well what happened.  I didn’t give in to this wretch’s blackmail, because I thought that you would be able to tell me who was doing it!  I should have paid him… and not wasted my time hoping that you would be able to help me.”

“I did not accept your case, Ms. Brewer, so you were indeed wasting your time.  Furthermore, I did not force you to do anything illegal seven years ago.  But you would not have paid him.  You would have been raped and then murdered, and someone would have found your body in a skip somewhere a day or two later.”

“Wh-what?”

“Yes.  So, if you’ll just let me keep this letter, I’d appreciate it if you’d show yourself out.  I have quite a few things to do today.”

At that Theresa grew suddenly calm, but white as a sheet.

“I’ll take that, please,” she said in a dangerous voice, and grabbed the letter from him.  “And I can do that myself.” (John had been about to get her coat for her.)  She put on the coat, and turned around.

“Thank you for destroying my life, Sherlock Holmes.  I hope you’re satisfied.”

“As I said…”

“No.  Goodbye!”  She slammed the door and was gone.

John stood stunned.  He thought even Sherlock looked thoughtful.  After a few minutes he heard the kettle turn off, and he went to brew two cups of tea.

“So that wasn’t very… good.”  He handed a cup to Sherlock, who was staring thoughtfully at the floor.  “Sherlock?”

“Hm?  What?  What wasn’t good?”

“Theresa coming in here like that?  Losing her job?”

“Oh, that.  Perhaps.  Doesn’t matter.”

“What?  What are you talking about?  Didn’t you hear what she said?  She’s been ruined.  And you might have helped her.”

“John, stop being so dramatic.  She lost her job because of something foolish she’d done.  That’s justice.”

“It was years ago.  She was young.”

“People must pay for the decisions they make when they’re young.”

“What would you know about it?  Not everyone’s brother is the government.”

“My brother wasn’t always the government.”

“What? What does that…”

“The point is, John, that we now know the connection between Srivarsha Pradeep, Alison Wright-Takashi, and Catherine Needham.  And Theresa Brewer is the key.”

“How is that?”

“You remember that I told you that they all worked under the same umbrella company?”

“Yes.”

“Theresa Brewer did as well—she worked in the same company as Alison Wright-Takashi—Barnet-Jones.  I should have seen it earlier!  The practical connection between those companies—one of them anyway—is that Computer Tech Plus provides tech support to all three of them.  Between the information I was able to glean from that letter and their employee records, I will be able to identify the blackmailer easily.”


Middlegame II
goldvermilion87: (Default)


Opening




“You solved Lestrade’s case, then?”

John was following Sherlock up the steps to the flat, carrying the bag of takeaway.

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, it’s only been two hours and you’re back for tea.”

“Brilliant observation, Doctor.  Would you like to tell me the color of the coat I’m wearing as well?”

“It didn’t go well, then.”

“Of course it went well.  It took me minutes to see what Lestrade and his dimwits could not.  I examined the corpse, and tomorrow morning I am going to Regent’s Park to confirm my deductions.”

“Regent’s Park?”

“Yes.  There was a dead body there.”

“Where I run every day!?”

“Lucky for you, you don’t bring a dog.”

“Just tell me what happened!”

“Are you making tea?”

“Yes.”

“The police have found a body buried in Regent’s Park, about thirty-five meters from the edge of the lake.  You’ve walked past it every day since you moved here.  It’s really remarkable how blind you people are.  It’s almost as if you’re trying to be…”

“Okay, okay.  Get on with it.”

“Yesterday, right around the time of your morning stroll…”

“Run.”

“During your morning stroll, a Miss Alison Waite’s West Highland Terrier ran off the path and started digging furiously until he unearthed a human hand.  The body was identified as that of a man most recently known as Randall Osterling, though he was born Roy Paul—a minor hit-man for the Russian mob, who was put under witness protection after he gave information that led to the arrest and imprisonment of six very important mobsters.”

“They got him, then.”

“Randall Osterling, formerly known as Roy Paul, was declared to be burned to death in a stolen car two years ago.”

“Identity thief, then?

“John, you must learn how to suit your theories to your facts, not the other way around. It is just as likely to be some unfortunate enemy of Mycroft’s government whose death was used to protect Roy Paul.  What is most likely, however, is that the Russian mob killed the man they were after, and the government assumed that the body was Paul’s when he disappeared at about the same time.”

“I don’t see that it’s any better than my…”

“That is because you do not observe.  Once I had learned the story from Lestrade, I went to the morgue to examine the body.  As I expected, there was a peculiar odor.  I must go to Regent’s Park in the morning to confirm my hypothesis.  I am going to my room to play my violin.  I want to think in peace for a few hours.”

“Sherlock, what hypothesis?”

But Sherlock had already closed the door to his room.

 

 

John wished he had thought of some clever insult to snap at Sherlock after he flashed that bloody ID badge at the policeman in charge of the crime scene in the park.  Something along the lines of “surely the world’s only consulting detective could deduce that the sergeant knew DI Lestrade quite well” might have worked, but he’d taken too long to think of it.  Besides, Sherlock would have had a cutting answer.  And frankly, after being dragged out of bed far too early for someone who had been kept awake until five o’clock AM by a shrieking violin, a quick trip to New Scotland Yard in handcuffs wouldn’t have made the morning that much worse.  At least if it had been inconvenient for John, it would have been inconvenient for Sherlock, too.

But John’s irritation was quickly fading as he watched Sherlock whirl around the scene, mystifying all the policemen there.  In fact, he was beginning to feel smug, because he had been following Sherlock to crime scenes for only three weeks, and he could already interpret much of what Sherlock was doing (looking for prints in the ground, smelling for chemicals…) better than any of the policemen.  Then Sherlock reached a hand out to him without even turning to look.

“Tic Tac box.”

“What?”

“I want your Tic Tac box.”

“What?  Why?”

“I need to take a sample of this dirt.”

“But… but I just bought it.”

“Get another.  Hand it over.”

John tried to think as he slowly took the nearly full box out of his coat pocket.  There had to be a reason that…

“You can’t use this.  The mint on the container will contaminate your sample!”

“Nonsense.  I’ll take that into consideration when I run my tests.”

“But—” and Sherlock had grabbed the box out of his hand and dumped them all on the ground.

“Sherlock!  You could have at least let me have a few before…”

“Perfect!  Take this.  Get a cab.  I’ll be there in two minutes.”

John looked at the box of dirt in his hand, and walked back towards the road.

 

 

“It’s exactly as I thought!”

John was beginning to get bored after three hours of trying to amuse himself while Sherlock measured and mixed and occasionally barked out an order.  He wanted to go home, but it would take him over an hour if he didn’t take a cab, and Sherlock might summon him back at any moment.  Besides, for all his other faults, Sherlock did generally pay the cab fare.

“What is it?”

“This is wolf urine.”

“Why…”

“People use it in America to repel animals from crops or gardens.”

“Ah.”

“But this is a particular kind.  Klein Laboratories, a small venture in Idaho, has been working on a urine that will repel or attract wolves using wolf pheromones.  They’ve been working on it for eight years now, but so far the only useful thing it’s done is attract a West Highland Terrier.”

“And how did you know…?”

“A case last year.  Some Klein Laboratories products were being put into cheap cologne that was advertised as having wolf pheromones.  A gang member from America was using it, and the scent was all over a crime scene.  I thought I recognized the smell, but I had to test this chemically to be sure.  Do you know that your mouth is hanging open?  And you’re absolutely correct, you should try a new brand of mouthwash.”

John shook his head.  “Okay.  So, the American gang member…”

“No, no.  That is how I recognized the scent.  It was put on the dirt so that a dog would dig up the dead body.  Someone wanted the body to be found.”

“By you?”

“No, by the police.”

“Oh… but you knew the chemical… so couldn’t it have been meant for you?”

“That is coincidence. You need to learn to distinguish between patterns and coincidence.  It’s very important in my line of work.”

“So, who wants the police to find the body?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?  But when Lestrade’s forensics experts get him the identity of the original victim, it will be someone with deep political connections,  just as I said at first.”

 

 

“What do you mean Martin Mills isn’t … You know I would never call you unless I had to, Mycroft … No it isn’t!” Sherlock hung up his phone and glared at nothing in particular.

“What was that?”

“Lestrade just texted that the man who was killed in 2008 was Martin Mills.  But my brother says that he has no political connections.”

“You were wrong, then?”

“No, my brother is not as omniscient as he would like to believe.  I will have to look into Mills’s background myself.”

“Well, before you try and justify yourself, don’t you think you could do something more for that woman with the blackmail problem… Thomasina?”

“Theresa Brewer was involved in illegal insider trading.  She’s up for promotion now, and if her employers are made aware of it, she will lose her job, and probably never be hired by a respectable firm again.  But we know she did what she’s being blackmailed about.  I told her that her case was of no interest to me, and don’t worry—she would never have been interested in you.”

“I wasn’t…”

“Yes you were.”

“That doesn’t change…”

Sherlock opened John’s laptop and started typing.  “If you care so much, why don’t you try and do something about it?  Let me think in peace.”

John made a mental note to add a password to his account, grabbed his computer, and started for his room.  “I will!”

 

 

Four hours later, John thought his eyes were going to burn out of their sockets from staring at the computer screen, and he really hadn’t had any ideas better than googling.  Besides, even he knew that googling “blackmail” and “insider trading” wasn’t any good.  He kept trying to think of new ideas, if for no other reason than to show Sherlock that he cared about helping Theresa, but he had to admit that he was relieved when Sherlock called him downstairs.

“Mills was an identity thief.”  Sherlock looked brilliantly smug.

“That’s what I said three days ago.”

“Yes, well, you had no evidence for it at the time.”

“Doesn’t make me less right, or you less wrong for thinking…”

“Actually, it does.  A crime without evidence may as well not have happened.  Now listen:  Mills ran an internet café in central London.  He collected information from his customers over the wireless network.  Quite simple, really.  He made a mistake when he stole Roy Paul’s identity, though, because the mob was tracking him.  For that he has paid a very high price. The interesting question is who would want us to find out about him now?   But that can wait until we finish this case with Hope.  I am going to start looking into the case files for anything regarding this “Moriarty” figure, as well as for any connections between Scotland Yard cold case files and Hope.”

“Here, John.  Take a look at these files.  Tell me anything you notice.”

John picked up one of the three files that Sherlock had handed to him.  Srivarsha Pradeep, age 29.  He could see from the picture that she’d been strangled.  He put it aside.  Treating military casualties did not give him the stomach for this.  Next, Alison Wright-Takashi, 47.  He tried not to look at the picture, as he read the report.  Also strangled.  Evidence of rape.  Married with two children ages ten and twelve at the time of her death.  A Vice-President of Barnet-Jones Industries.   Body found in a skip on Marshgate Lane… John felt as if he should know where that was.  He looked at the last.  Catherine Needham, age 35.  Also strangled.  Worked in Marketing for Harit Energy (UK).  Unmarried.  Body found in the carpark near her workplace in Borehamwood.

“What am I looking for?”

“Connections.”

“I don’t see any.”

“Try.”

“Well.  Three women.  Died in similar circumstances.  That’s all I see.  They’re different ages, different races, even, so it doesn’t seem like serial murders…”

“No.  There is much more.  We have three women, all of whom were raped and then murdered before their bodies were disposed of.  They were all raped and killed in the place where their bodies were left, and all three came there willingly.  Furthermore, all three were up for some sort of promotion in their companies when they were murdered.”

“That hardly seems to connect their deaths.”

“But their companies are connected.”

“What?  One woman worked at some industry company, and the other at an energy company!”

“Yes, and Srivarsha Pradeep, whose file you didn’t bother to read, worked for JM Heppler.”

“Who’s that?”

“Not ‘who’ but ‘What.’  JM Heppler is a well-known chemical company.”

“Oh.  That still doesn’t…”

“JM Heppler and Harit Energy are subsidiaries of Barnet-Jones.”

“I see.  But does that mean it was the same killer?  A serial killer?”

“Perhaps.  It is obvious that either the same man killed them, or three men of a very similar build.  That’s what I noticed immediately.  I’m surprised that you didn’t, doctor.”

“I don’t specialize in garroting.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.  For now, though, we keep looking into these women’s pasts for a connection.”

 

 

“Mr. Takashi, I need you to tell me everything that you didn’t tell the police.  How had your wife been behaving in the days leading up to her murder?”

“How do you mean…”

“Was anything different?”

“I…”

“She was under a tremendous amount of pressure.  Maybe she was embezzling funds… blackmailing her boss… You must have noticed something! Think!”

“I don’t…”

“She was doing something differently, Mr. Takashi, wasn’t she.  Tell me!  What was she doing differently?”

“I didn’t notice anything.  And frankly…” He glared at Sherlock.  “…I don’t see that it’s any business of yours, anyway.”

“Yes.  I’m a Detective Inspector.”  Sherlock waved the badge in front of Takashi’s face.

“Let me see that.”  He grabbed it out of Sherlock’s hand.  “‘Gregory Lestrade.’ Didn’t he call you ‘Sherlock’ when you came in?”

“Sorry,” John mumbled.

“It doesn’t matter.  I will find out whether you tell me or not.”

“Then find out.  But you’re leaving now.”

Sherlock gave him a scathing look and swept out of the room.  John lingered for a moment.  “Sorry… erm… pressure of work.  He’s not usually…”

Takashi glared at him.

“Bye.”  And he caught up with Sherlock just as he flagged down a the cab.

“Sherlock, you can’t just bully people like that.  That man was the victim’s husband, not a suspect. He’s probably still grieving!”

“If I don’t track down the person responsible for his wife’s murder, soon other husbands will be grieving.  Even you should be able to see that.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to be a complete git.”

“He knew something, John.  You saw him—the way he snapped at me as soon as he’d collected himself.  He wasn’t acting like a grieving man.  He was acting like a guilty man—a man who had something to hide.”

“But you were implying that his wife was somehow responsible for her own death.  It was a defense mechanism, maybe?”

“Yes, but a defense mechanism because he had something to hide.  There is a difference between the two  reactions.  I’ve interviewed enough people to know.”

“You do this often?”

“Rarely without success.  But then I don’t usually have you there to make a mess of it.”

“Yeah…”

“But I do have enough information now.  He has something to hide.  And I have discovered that both Catherine Needham and Srivarsha Pradeep had committed indiscretions that they were very afraid would be revealed before they were promoted.”

“When did you find that out?”

“I found information on Catherine by searching some social networking sites.  The things people say when they believe they have secured their Myspace accounts…  It shouldn’t really be surprising, I suppose…  And I met several of Srivarsha’s friends at Soho Solo last night.”

“You were at a club last night?  You could have brought me.”

“The clientele is very young…”

“I’m not that much older than…”

“… and fashionable.  You would never have fit in.”

Sometimes John wondered why he even tried…

 

 

When the taxi pulled up to 221 Baker Street John noticed a woman smoking a cigarette while she paced in front of the door.  The wet blotches of makeup under her eyes were obvious enough that even John could deduce that she had been crying recently.  It was Theresa Brewer.

Sherlock walked over to her with a sympathetic smile.

“Ah!  Ms. Brewer…”

“You!  You…” she dropped the cigarette to the ground and glared at Sherlock through her puffy red eyes.

“Ms. Brewer, you seem to be distressed.  Please come up to the flat.  Perhaps we could get you a cup of tea?  Is there anything we can do to help?”

Theresa looked at least as taken aback as John felt.

“I… I…”

“Tea, then.  We do not buy our tea from Harrods as you do,  but you don’t mind PG Tips.  And John does make excellent tea.”

John rolled his eyes, led the way into the flat, and started making the tea.  He could hear Sherlock and Theresa’s conversation from the kitchen.

“Can I take your coat, Ms. Brewer?   And John will get you some biscuits.  John?”

“Yes, I heard.”

“Now, tell me what happened.”

“This… this morning.  I received this letter with the post last night…”

“May I have it, please?”

“…And when I went in to work, and they knew. About… about the insider trading… and they… they fired me.  I was so young when I… and now I won’t be able to find another job… and… and… I’m lucky they won’t press charges and…”

John walked back into the living room.  Theresa was sniffling into a man’s handkerchief.  (John hadn’t realized that Sherlock carried a handkerchief, much less offered it to damsels in distress.)  Sherlock was ignoring her in favor of the letter she had handed to him.

John coughed a little.  “Sherlock.”

Sherlock looked up, and shaped his face into a look of (very convincing) concern.  “How did this happen?”

The damsel in distress disappeared.  Theresa jumped out of the chair and started shouting.  “How did this happen?  I came to you and told you everything!  You know perfectly well what happened.  I didn’t give in to this wretch’s blackmail, because I thought that you would be able to tell me who was doing it!  I should have paid him… and not wasted my time hoping that you would be able to help me.”

“I did not accept your case, Ms. Brewer, so you were indeed wasting your time.  Furthermore, I did not force you to do anything illegal seven years ago.  But you would not have paid him.  You would have been raped and then murdered, and someone would have found your body in a skip somewhere a day or two later.”

“Wh-what?”

“Yes.  So, if you’ll just let me keep this letter, I’d appreciate it if you’d show yourself out.  I have quite a few things to do today.”

At that Theresa grew suddenly calm, but white as a sheet.

“I’ll take that, please,” she said in a dangerous voice, and grabbed the letter from him.  “And I can do that myself.” (John had been about to get her coat for her.)  She put on the coat, and turned around.

“Thank you for destroying my life, Sherlock Holmes.  I hope you’re satisfied.”

“As I said…”

“No.  Goodbye!”  She slammed the door and was gone.

John stood stunned.  He thought even Sherlock looked thoughtful.  After a few minutes he heard the kettle turn off, and he went to brew two cups of tea.

“So that wasn’t very… good.”  He handed a cup to Sherlock, who was staring thoughtfully at the floor.  “Sherlock?”

“Hm?  What?  What wasn’t good?”

“Theresa coming in here like that?  Losing her job?”

“Oh, that.  Perhaps.  Doesn’t matter.”

“What?  What are you talking about?  Didn’t you hear what she said?  She’s been ruined.  And you might have helped her.”

“John, stop being so dramatic.  She lost her job because of something foolish she’d done.  That’s justice.”

“It was years ago.  She was young.”

“People must pay for the decisions they make when they’re young.”

“What would you know about it?  Not everyone’s brother is the government.”

“My brother wasn’t always the government.”

“What? What does that…”

“The point is, John, that we now know the connection between Srivarsha Pradeep, Alison Wright-Takashi, and Catherine Needham.  And Theresa Brewer is the key.”

“How is that?”

“You remember that I told you that they all worked under the same umbrella company?”

“Yes.”

“Theresa Brewer did as well—she worked in the same company as Alison Wright-Takashi—Barnet-Jones.  I should have seen it earlier!  The practical connection between those companies—one of them anyway—is that Computer Tech Plus provides tech support to all three of them.  Between the information I was able to glean from that letter and their employee records, I will be able to identify the blackmailer easily.”


Middlegame II
goldvermilion87: (Default)
 





“So… Ms. Braithwaite… Rosa… Can I call you Rosa?”

“I’d rather you didn’t, Mr. …?”

“Watson.  Dr. John Watson.”

“Yeah.  So how can I help you?”

“Oh.  I don’t need anything.  I’m just… waiting… for my colleague.”

“Good.”

The receptionist continued typing.  John coughed nervously.

“Sorry… erm, Ms. Braithwaite, you haven’t heard anything about that case from a few days ago?”

“Mr. Weston, this is New Scotland Yard.  I hear about cases all day long.”

“This one involved a taxi driver.”

“Who led the investigation?”

“Detective Inspector Lestrade.”

“Well, you’re going to have to ask him.  You need clearance to see records like that.”

“Yes, yes, of course.  Should’ve thought of that…”

The receptionist snorted and answered her phone.  John crossed his arms and stared at his feet until she ended the call.

“Ms. Braithwaite, I’m with Mr. Sherlock Holmes.  Maybe I could see the files?”

“Sherlock Holmes?  Do you know him?”

“Yes, he’s my flatmate actually.  Do you know him?”

“He’s in here all the time.  Gorgeous man!  But he’s too focused… needs companionship, so he don’t work himself to death.  Lonely, I said to Elaine the other day, and…”

“Yes… er… I’m sure, yes… but could I see the files?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Weston, but you’ll have to get permission from someone else, I can’t just…”

“John!  Come on!  Leaving!”  And Sherlock swept by in a whirlwind of coat.

“Yes.  I’m…” But just as he was about to leave, he felt a piece of paper shoved into his hand.

“It’s my number, Mr. Weston.  You couldn’t just give it to Sherlock, could you?”

John made a non-committal noise and rolled his eyes as he trotted to catch up to Sherlock.

“You can throw the number away, John.  I don’t want it, and clearly Mr. Weston didn’t make much of an impression.”

“Yeah, thanks.  Where are we going now?”

Sherlock had begun texting, and didn’t look up as he answered.  “I’m going home to continue the experiment I was working on before Lestrade interrupted with that ridiculously simple murder.  If he were halfway intelligent he would have texted me all the information I needed to solve it, and saved us a cab fare.  But by now I suppose I should expect to do everything myself.”

“Hm.”

“You are going to stop off at Tesco’s.  We need milk, more pasta sauce, bread, some of that tea that you like…”

“We have a whole tin of it.”

“Not anymore.”

“What did you…?”

“We also need beans.  That’s the last thing that you moaned about this morning before we left.  Oh, and I’d like some dark chocolate hobnobs.  Do be sure to get dark, not milk.”

“Are you sure that’s all?”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, John.  And you can get anything else you think you need.”

John just snorted and stared out the window, while Sherlock continued texting.  About ten minutes later John ventured, “Sherlock…”

“No, no one at the Yard suspects you, John.   Lestrade is brighter than some, and the wheels in his head have been turning, but I don’t think he’d say anything, even if he could make up his mind one way or the other.”

“Are you going to tell me how you did that?”

“Simple.  I could tell from your body language and snatches of the conversation that I overheard that your concern was the reason you were trying to chat up the secretary—that and your overactive libido.   Even your irritation with me for telling you what shopping we need hasn’t taken your mind off it.  You are perfectly convinced that you were right in what you did, but you are still afraid of the repercussions.   You really should trust me, though.  There is not enough evidence for them to deduce that it was you, despite obvious signs, and I am not going to enlighten them.  Not to mention the fact that the Met is unlikely to waste their precious resources on tracking down and prosecuting the man who saved my life.”

“Hah!”

“Just because Donovan and Anderson…”

“And Mason and O’Malley and Edmunds and Reilly…”

“I’ve never even heard of those people.  How do you know them?”

“Because I talked to them while you were busy shoving past.  It’s no wonder they hate you.”

“Well, they don’t want me dead.   They know they need me.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure…”

“Stop here!…  We’re at Tesco’s, John.  Do you think you can remember everything?”

“I’m sure I can…”

“I’m sending you the list.  And don’t forget—dark chocolate!”

John sighed and got out of the car.

He’d only been living with Sherlock Holmes for two weeks, and already the whatever-it-was that went on between Sherlock and Molly at Bart’s morgue was getting to him.  John had been startled by Sherlock’s rudeness to Molly the first time he met him, but he had completely forgotten about it until the next week when she gave them access to a dead body for another case, and Sherlock had been just as rude, if not cruel.

At the moment he was trying to decide who he was more annoyed with—Sherlock for being… Sherlock, or Molly for doing her level best to make him even more… Sherlocky than ever.

“Well, I… I got into… well the super wasn’t very… He…”  Molly finally looked up at Sherlock.  “He was very angry when I gave you those eyeballs.”

“Oh, Molly, you should have said something.  I’m so sorry.  I would never have asked if I thought it would be a bother for you.”  Point to Sherlock—the smarmy git!

“No! No, it’s no bother.  I… I just…”

“So you won’t mind if I take this liver home, then?”

“Well…”

“It could be our little secret, Molly.  I’ll bring it back personally tomorrow.”  How did Sherlock make that sound like a pickup line?

“I… I really can’t…”

Sherlock’s charm evaporated.  “This is rubbish. I’ll just examine the liver here.”  And match, Sherlock!

Molly stared at Sherlock and then rushed out of the room, mumbling something about coffee.  For a few moments, John wondered if he shouldn’t lecture Sherlock about the way he treated Molly.  On the one hand they were only flatmates and hadn’t even known each other for a month.  On the other, no one else was going to say anything.  Of course, saying something probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference anyway…

“Er… I’ll get some coffee too, then.  Okay?”

He caught up to Molly, who was walking down the hall.

“So… seen anything interesting since that cab driver—Jefferson Hope?”

“Which was that?”  When Molly turned, her nose looked a bit red.

“Oh a week or two back, now.  Gunshot wound to the heart and brain aneurism, I think.”

“I’m not sure which you mean.  We’ve had several gunshot wounds, but no brain aneurisms for months.”

“Are you sure?”

“I… I think so.”

“But he told Sherlock!  You’re absolutely positive there wasn’t…”

Molly stopped walking and turned to face him.  “Look, Dr.…”

“Watson.”

“Dr. Watson, You’ll probably have to go ask Maggie at the desk to check.”  And she stepped into her office and closed the door.

John walked back to the morgue where Sherlock was pouring something onto the liver.

“Sherlock?  Did you see the results of the autopsy for Hope?”

“What? No! Why should I have? I saw him die.”

“Yeah, but Molly just said something about no aneurism cases coming through here.”

“Did she do the autopsy?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, he died from a gunshot wound, so I don’t see the problem.  I’m going to be here for two hours at least.”

“Will you be back in time for tea?”

“I don’t know!  Now will you let me get on with this experiment?”

Sherlock was no help at all.  John decided to try Mike before he went home.

“Mike! I need to have a look at a coroner’s report.  Do you think you could get it for me?”

“When was it?”

“Just two weeks ago.  ‘Jefferson Hope’ is the name.”

“Well, let me see.  I should be able to access it in my office.  Come with me.  Why do you need to see it anyway?”

“You read that entry on my blog, right?  About Sherlock?”

“Yes.  One of the wildest stories I’ve ever heard.  If I didn’t know both of you, I don’t know if I’d believe it.”

“Well, it’s the serial killer.  I want to know how he died.”

“Just give me a minute.  I’ll pull it up.  Hope, you said?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s see—single gunshot to the heart. Would have died within seconds.”

“Does it say anything else, though?  About a brain aneurism?”

“No.  Should it?”

“You read the blog post.  Hope told Sherlock that he had a brain aneurism!”

“John, there was no indication of any abnormality of that sort. None at all.”

“Maybe they missed it?”

“I know Ron—Ron Whitefield, who did the autopsy.  Do you know him?  Can’t remember his year…  Anyway, he’s good at what he does, and he’s very thorough. I can promise you he wouldn’t overlook something like that.”

“Well, thanks, Mike.  I should be getting home.  Give my best to the wife.”

“And you give my best to your landlady, whoever she is.  She’s a brave woman.”

When John got home he boiled some water for pasta, considered making enough for two, remembered Sherlock’s behavior at the lab an hour earlier and made just enough for himself, and then started boiling the water again to make some for his flatmate.

He took his meal to his armchair and scanned through the television channels, but even the rare (now that he shared a flat with Sherlock) pleasure of watching what he wanted without any snide commentary was not enough to stop his worry.  Why would Hope say he was dying of an aneurism if he wasn’t?  Could Sherlock be wrong?  Sherlock certainly wouldn’t think so.  John laughed to himself at the thought of even suggesting that Sherlock had deduced the cab driver’s motivation incorrectly.  But if Sherlock was as infallible as he seemed to think, then Hope must have believed he had an aneurism… and that was a bit suspicious—more than a bit suspicious.  He would have to look into it further.  And should probably bring it up to his flatmate, and live with the consequences…

…his flatmate who had just stormed into the flat…

“There is no rational argument against my taking that liver home!  I might have made some progress on my research into the correlation between cirrhosis and acute alcohol poisoning, but now it’s sure to be completely ruined.  The dolt who booted me out of the morgue promised to take observations, but since he hasn’t even noticed that his son regularly steals small sums of money from him, he is unlikely to be of any use!”  He shoved his coat and scarf onto the hook with enough force to send the door flying shut.  “I mean, why can’t people be content to be idiots on their own time?  Allow the genius in their midst to accomplish something!”

Not in a good mood, then.  “I made you some pasta.  It’s in the pot on the stove.  Should still be warm.”

“And in the end, why all this care with dead bodies, anyway?  They are completely useless except to science… or maybe fertilizer.” John grimaced, but Sherlock didn’t seem to notice.  “Between my brother running the government and idiots running everything else, it’s a wonder we’re still alive.”

“You’re welcome,” John muttered as Sherlock swept past with his bowl of food, and grabbed the remote. They watched the telly in silence (excluding Sherlock’s huffs of annoyance every time he became bored with a channel) for about half an hour before John worked up the nerve to say something.

“Sherlock.”

“Hm?”

“I checked with Mike about Hope and he confirmed that there was no aneurism.”

“They must have missed it.”

“He also told me that he’s friends with the bloke who did the autopsy and he couldn’t have missed it.”

“It’s his friend.  Of course he’d say he couldn’t have missed it.”

“Sherlock.”

“Maybe there was no aneurism.  He might have been misdiagnosed.  He’s dead now.”

“People are not told that they might die any moment of a cerebral aneurism, unless the surgeon is sure.  I don’t like it.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“The aneurism was the reason he became a serial killer.”

“He became a serial killer because he was a would-be genius with a over-inflated ego.”

“Sherlock, this doesn’t make sense. If you won’t look into this, I’ll take it to someone who might not find it too boring!”

“Who will you take it to?  The Met?  Do you really want Lestrade to examine the details of the shooting more closely?”

“Oh.”

“So let it be.”

“Sorry!”

John stared after the shapely figure of the woman who had nearly run him over when he opened the door to 221 Baker Street, and then started up the stairs to the flat where she must have left Sherlock a moment before.  

“Lucky sod,” he muttered.

He found Sherlock at the table with his laptop.

“Who was that?”

“Client.  Theresa Brewer.  Blackmail.  Boring.”

The man had all the luck, and none of the sense to take advantage of it… Ah well.  John had other things to worry about.

“You have to look into this, Sherlock.  I was able to get some of Hope’s medical records through Mike, and there’s something very fishy about it.  Doctor Ralph Prinz, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, diagnosed him.  He wouldn’t have made that mistake.”

“And once again, John Watson is misled by his charmingly naive altruism.  People make mistakes, John.”

“Yes.  Everyone but you makes mistakes.  I know that.  But could you just turn off your computer for a moment and listen to me?  Do you know how many doctors it takes to diagnose a brain aneurism?  Three doctors, Sherlock!  You need a neurologist, a neurosurgeon and a neuro-radiologist.  All three of them would have to be mistaken—they would have had to see something that wasn’t there.  You know as well as I do that that isn’t likely.”

“Which takes us back to the coroner.”

“No.  I talked to him personally. He showed me photographs.  There was no aneurism.”

“Your harping on the matter is making my already painfully dull day even duller.  Are you almost finished?”

“No, I’m not.  Someone went to a lot of trouble, Sherlock! Do you have any idea how hard it would be to falsify these reports?”

“Malpractice happens all the time.” Sherlock still hadn’t taken his eyes off his laptop.

“By three respected specialists?”

“It is possible…”

“Oh, come on! What are the odds of that?”

John walked over and shut Sherlock’s laptop nearly on his hands.  “Sherlock!”

“All right, I’ll take a look at it, if only to shut you up.  What do you have?”

“I told you what I have.  Hope did not have an aneurism.  He was convinced by three well-respected doctors that he had an untreatable one.  So he decided to become a serial killer.  That’s a very odd chain of events.”

“Well, if you would allow me to open my computer again, I could start looking into his computer records.”

“How will you do that?”

“I log the IP address of each person who visits my website.  He said he’d been on it ‘loads of  times.’  Shouldn’t be too hard for me to track him back.’

“Can’t you just talk to Lestrade?”

“I’m going to need more than your hunch to convince him.  We may as well get some real work done before we invite tedious bureaucracy.”

Several hours later John was looking over Sherlock’s shoulder as he explained the data on Hope’s internet usage.

 “Here, you see?  This is when his wife left him and got custody of the two kids.”

 “What?”

 “There’s a lot of activity in early 2000 on these online games… Tetris, Javanoid, Mindsweeper… He calls himself a “proper genius” and he spends countless hours on this frivolity, just because his wife moved out!  Idiot.”

John chose to ignore the final sentence, and try and get Sherlock into a better mood.  “I remember that Mindsweeper game.  Only played it once or twice, though.  Some of the guys were pretty addicted, but I thought it was boring.”

“The only reason you thought it was boring is that you couldn’t get past the first level.”

“Or maybe there wasn’t a lot of down-time in Kosovo.”

“Excuses, John!”

On second thought, humoring Sherlock probably just made him worse…

“Anyway.  I can deduce a lot about him from the internet records I have accessed.  I’ve already shown you how I can see the trajectory of his life.  But I’ll need access to more.  I could call in a favor from the Home Secretary.  It would save time, but there is no urgency here.  I suppose I’ll have to call on Lestrade, instead.”

“That wouldn’t be that bad, would it?”

“Yes, it will, so you’d better be grateful.”

John meandered back towards Lestrade’s office.  He had been watching Sherlock argue, wheedle, pout, threaten, and otherwise try to convince Lestrade to help them with the taxi driver investigation for about thirty minutes, when Sherlock sent him off to get a cup of coffee “or at least stop gaping.”  If he interpreted the sounds coming from the office correctly, Lestrade still hadn’t budged.  John decided not to enter that particular war zone, and dropped into a seat near the slightly opened door instead.  He might not have psychosomatic pain in his right leg anymore, but his left was still sore from the months of limping on it.

He was just about to take another sip of his coffee, when he realized that Lestrade and Sherlock were discussing him, not Jefferson Hope.

“… making a point by bringing this doctor around, and all, but he’s not that bright, is he?  Don’t look at me like that, Sherlock.  I mean… maybe you’re right. I shouldn’t say that—injured war hero, ex-surgeon.  That’s not what I mean…   But why do you keep bringing him here?  He’s not a detective, and I don’t see that his obsession with the Hope case matters that much.”

“You know, Lestrade, sometimes your stupidity amazes even me.  But I should’ve expected it.  You’re too blind to see the simplest details on a corpse, so I couldn’t really expect you to properly observe a living person…  You should be able to see that John is an excellent medical man.  And I suppose it never occurred to you that his having been a doctor in active duty makes him particularly qualified to deal with dead bodies?  Hm?”

John heard Lestrade sigh.

“No, I didn’t think so.  Not to mention the fact that he has an intuitive grasp of detective work that none of you lot could hope to have in a million years.  His contributions have been invaluable to me over the past two weeks, so if you want me to keep helping you, you are going to stop insulting my friend, and trust my judgment.”

There was complete silence from the office for a few minutes, and John tried very hard not to breathe too loudly.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to have overheard that, and if Sherlock found out—and the chances that he wouldn’t were slim—he would be in deep trouble.

He heard Lestrade let out a long slow hiss of breath before he said, “Okay.  Here:  You help me with this witness protection case I’ve got on, and then I’ll see what I can do.  Will you do that, Sherlock?”

“Fine.  Give me the files.  I have two hours before tea.  I’ll have it sorted by then.”

“Since when do you have a set tea time?”

John snorted to himself at this.  Since when, indeed!  Sherlock hadn’t eaten at a decent time even once in the three weeks since they’d moved into the flat at Baker Street.

“Since my doc—John!”

Sherlock stopped in the doorway for a second to stare.  John was in trouble now, but there was nothing for it.  “So, Lestrade is going to help you?”

“You know perfectly well that he is, as you just heard him say as much. Why must people be so obsessed with repeating obvious facts?”

“We can’t all be as intelligent as you are.”

“It’s fortunate for you at least that you aren’t.  If your brain ever ran at the speed of mine you would have a headache, and go mad.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Do be quiet, John.  I have to look over these files, and I can’t have more people than absolutely necessary blundering around in their own thoughts while I’m trying to think, so you should go home.”

He couldn’t think of anything to say to that.  Maybe in a few months he’d be quicker on his feet.  But for now he was tired and he did want to go home.

“I’m ordering Chinese.  Can I get anything for you?”

“I never eat when I’m working.  Don’t be an idiot, John.”

He’d order an extra king prawn fried rice just in case.



Middlegame I
goldvermilion87: (Default)
 





“So… Ms. Braithwaite… Rosa… Can I call you Rosa?”

“I’d rather you didn’t, Mr. …?”

“Watson.  Dr. John Watson.”

“Yeah.  So how can I help you?”

“Oh.  I don’t need anything.  I’m just… waiting… for my colleague.”

“Good.”

The receptionist continued typing.  John coughed nervously.

“Sorry… erm, Ms. Braithwaite, you haven’t heard anything about that case from a few days ago?”

“Mr. Weston, this is New Scotland Yard.  I hear about cases all day long.”

“This one involved a taxi driver.”

“Who led the investigation?”

“Detective Inspector Lestrade.”

“Well, you’re going to have to ask him.  You need clearance to see records like that.”

“Yes, yes, of course.  Should’ve thought of that…”

The receptionist snorted and answered her phone.  John crossed his arms and stared at his feet until she ended the call.

“Ms. Braithwaite, I’m with Mr. Sherlock Holmes.  Maybe I could see the files?”

“Sherlock Holmes?  Do you know him?”

“Yes, he’s my flatmate actually.  Do you know him?”

“He’s in here all the time.  Gorgeous man!  But he’s too focused… needs companionship, so he don’t work himself to death.  Lonely, I said to Elaine the other day, and…”

“Yes… er… I’m sure, yes… but could I see the files?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Weston, but you’ll have to get permission from someone else, I can’t just…”

“John!  Come on!  Leaving!”  And Sherlock swept by in a whirlwind of coat.

“Yes.  I’m…” But just as he was about to leave, he felt a piece of paper shoved into his hand.

“It’s my number, Mr. Weston.  You couldn’t just give it to Sherlock, could you?”

John made a non-committal noise and rolled his eyes as he trotted to catch up to Sherlock.

“You can throw the number away, John.  I don’t want it, and clearly Mr. Weston didn’t make much of an impression.”

“Yeah, thanks.  Where are we going now?”

Sherlock had begun texting, and didn’t look up as he answered.  “I’m going home to continue the experiment I was working on before Lestrade interrupted with that ridiculously simple murder.  If he were halfway intelligent he would have texted me all the information I needed to solve it, and saved us a cab fare.  But by now I suppose I should expect to do everything myself.”

“Hm.”

“You are going to stop off at Tesco’s.  We need milk, more pasta sauce, bread, some of that tea that you like…”

“We have a whole tin of it.”

“Not anymore.”

“What did you…?”

“We also need beans.  That’s the last thing that you moaned about this morning before we left.  Oh, and I’d like some dark chocolate hobnobs.  Do be sure to get dark, not milk.”

“Are you sure that’s all?”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, John.  And you can get anything else you think you need.”

John just snorted and stared out the window, while Sherlock continued texting.  About ten minutes later John ventured, “Sherlock…”

“No, no one at the Yard suspects you, John.   Lestrade is brighter than some, and the wheels in his head have been turning, but I don’t think he’d say anything, even if he could make up his mind one way or the other.”

“Are you going to tell me how you did that?”

“Simple.  I could tell from your body language and snatches of the conversation that I overheard that your concern was the reason you were trying to chat up the secretary—that and your overactive libido.   Even your irritation with me for telling you what shopping we need hasn’t taken your mind off it.  You are perfectly convinced that you were right in what you did, but you are still afraid of the repercussions.   You really should trust me, though.  There is not enough evidence for them to deduce that it was you, despite obvious signs, and I am not going to enlighten them.  Not to mention the fact that the Met is unlikely to waste their precious resources on tracking down and prosecuting the man who saved my life.”

“Hah!”

“Just because Donovan and Anderson…”

“And Mason and O’Malley and Edmunds and Reilly…”

“I’ve never even heard of those people.  How do you know them?”

“Because I talked to them while you were busy shoving past.  It’s no wonder they hate you.”

“Well, they don’t want me dead.   They know they need me.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure…”

“Stop here!…  We’re at Tesco’s, John.  Do you think you can remember everything?”

“I’m sure I can…”

“I’m sending you the list.  And don’t forget—dark chocolate!”

John sighed and got out of the car.

He’d only been living with Sherlock Holmes for two weeks, and already the whatever-it-was that went on between Sherlock and Molly at Bart’s morgue was getting to him.  John had been startled by Sherlock’s rudeness to Molly the first time he met him, but he had completely forgotten about it until the next week when she gave them access to a dead body for another case, and Sherlock had been just as rude, if not cruel.

At the moment he was trying to decide who he was more annoyed with—Sherlock for being… Sherlock, or Molly for doing her level best to make him even more… Sherlocky than ever.

“Well, I… I got into… well the super wasn’t very… He…”  Molly finally looked up at Sherlock.  “He was very angry when I gave you those eyeballs.”

“Oh, Molly, you should have said something.  I’m so sorry.  I would never have asked if I thought it would be a bother for you.”  Point to Sherlock—the smarmy git!

“No! No, it’s no bother.  I… I just…”

“So you won’t mind if I take this liver home, then?”

“Well…”

“It could be our little secret, Molly.  I’ll bring it back personally tomorrow.”  How did Sherlock make that sound like a pickup line?

“I… I really can’t…”

Sherlock’s charm evaporated.  “This is rubbish. I’ll just examine the liver here.”  And match, Sherlock!

Molly stared at Sherlock and then rushed out of the room, mumbling something about coffee.  For a few moments, John wondered if he shouldn’t lecture Sherlock about the way he treated Molly.  On the one hand they were only flatmates and hadn’t even known each other for a month.  On the other, no one else was going to say anything.  Of course, saying something probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference anyway…

“Er… I’ll get some coffee too, then.  Okay?”

He caught up to Molly, who was walking down the hall.

“So… seen anything interesting since that cab driver—Jefferson Hope?”

“Which was that?”  When Molly turned, her nose looked a bit red.

“Oh a week or two back, now.  Gunshot wound to the heart and brain aneurism, I think.”

“I’m not sure which you mean.  We’ve had several gunshot wounds, but no brain aneurisms for months.”

“Are you sure?”

“I… I think so.”

“But he told Sherlock!  You’re absolutely positive there wasn’t…”

Molly stopped walking and turned to face him.  “Look, Dr.…”

“Watson.”

“Dr. Watson, You’ll probably have to go ask Maggie at the desk to check.”  And she stepped into her office and closed the door.

John walked back to the morgue where Sherlock was pouring something onto the liver.

“Sherlock?  Did you see the results of the autopsy for Hope?”

“What? No! Why should I have? I saw him die.”

“Yeah, but Molly just said something about no aneurism cases coming through here.”

“Did she do the autopsy?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, he died from a gunshot wound, so I don’t see the problem.  I’m going to be here for two hours at least.”

“Will you be back in time for tea?”

“I don’t know!  Now will you let me get on with this experiment?”

Sherlock was no help at all.  John decided to try Mike before he went home.

“Mike! I need to have a look at a coroner’s report.  Do you think you could get it for me?”

“When was it?”

“Just two weeks ago.  ‘Jefferson Hope’ is the name.”

“Well, let me see.  I should be able to access it in my office.  Come with me.  Why do you need to see it anyway?”

“You read that entry on my blog, right?  About Sherlock?”

“Yes.  One of the wildest stories I’ve ever heard.  If I didn’t know both of you, I don’t know if I’d believe it.”

“Well, it’s the serial killer.  I want to know how he died.”

“Just give me a minute.  I’ll pull it up.  Hope, you said?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s see—single gunshot to the heart. Would have died within seconds.”

“Does it say anything else, though?  About a brain aneurism?”

“No.  Should it?”

“You read the blog post.  Hope told Sherlock that he had a brain aneurism!”

“John, there was no indication of any abnormality of that sort. None at all.”

“Maybe they missed it?”

“I know Ron—Ron Whitefield, who did the autopsy.  Do you know him?  Can’t remember his year…  Anyway, he’s good at what he does, and he’s very thorough. I can promise you he wouldn’t overlook something like that.”

“Well, thanks, Mike.  I should be getting home.  Give my best to the wife.”

“And you give my best to your landlady, whoever she is.  She’s a brave woman.”

When John got home he boiled some water for pasta, considered making enough for two, remembered Sherlock’s behavior at the lab an hour earlier and made just enough for himself, and then started boiling the water again to make some for his flatmate.

He took his meal to his armchair and scanned through the television channels, but even the rare (now that he shared a flat with Sherlock) pleasure of watching what he wanted without any snide commentary was not enough to stop his worry.  Why would Hope say he was dying of an aneurism if he wasn’t?  Could Sherlock be wrong?  Sherlock certainly wouldn’t think so.  John laughed to himself at the thought of even suggesting that Sherlock had deduced the cab driver’s motivation incorrectly.  But if Sherlock was as infallible as he seemed to think, then Hope must have believed he had an aneurism… and that was a bit suspicious—more than a bit suspicious.  He would have to look into it further.  And should probably bring it up to his flatmate, and live with the consequences…

…his flatmate who had just stormed into the flat…

“There is no rational argument against my taking that liver home!  I might have made some progress on my research into the correlation between cirrhosis and acute alcohol poisoning, but now it’s sure to be completely ruined.  The dolt who booted me out of the morgue promised to take observations, but since he hasn’t even noticed that his son regularly steals small sums of money from him, he is unlikely to be of any use!”  He shoved his coat and scarf onto the hook with enough force to send the door flying shut.  “I mean, why can’t people be content to be idiots on their own time?  Allow the genius in their midst to accomplish something!”

Not in a good mood, then.  “I made you some pasta.  It’s in the pot on the stove.  Should still be warm.”

“And in the end, why all this care with dead bodies, anyway?  They are completely useless except to science… or maybe fertilizer.” John grimaced, but Sherlock didn’t seem to notice.  “Between my brother running the government and idiots running everything else, it’s a wonder we’re still alive.”

“You’re welcome,” John muttered as Sherlock swept past with his bowl of food, and grabbed the remote. They watched the telly in silence (excluding Sherlock’s huffs of annoyance every time he became bored with a channel) for about half an hour before John worked up the nerve to say something.

“Sherlock.”

“Hm?”

“I checked with Mike about Hope and he confirmed that there was no aneurism.”

“They must have missed it.”

“He also told me that he’s friends with the bloke who did the autopsy and he couldn’t have missed it.”

“It’s his friend.  Of course he’d say he couldn’t have missed it.”

“Sherlock.”

“Maybe there was no aneurism.  He might have been misdiagnosed.  He’s dead now.”

“People are not told that they might die any moment of a cerebral aneurism, unless the surgeon is sure.  I don’t like it.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“The aneurism was the reason he became a serial killer.”

“He became a serial killer because he was a would-be genius with a over-inflated ego.”

“Sherlock, this doesn’t make sense. If you won’t look into this, I’ll take it to someone who might not find it too boring!”

“Who will you take it to?  The Met?  Do you really want Lestrade to examine the details of the shooting more closely?”

“Oh.”

“So let it be.”

“Sorry!”

John stared after the shapely figure of the woman who had nearly run him over when he opened the door to 221 Baker Street, and then started up the stairs to the flat where she must have left Sherlock a moment before.  

“Lucky sod,” he muttered.

He found Sherlock at the table with his laptop.

“Who was that?”

“Client.  Theresa Brewer.  Blackmail.  Boring.”

The man had all the luck, and none of the sense to take advantage of it… Ah well.  John had other things to worry about.

“You have to look into this, Sherlock.  I was able to get some of Hope’s medical records through Mike, and there’s something very fishy about it.  Doctor Ralph Prinz, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, diagnosed him.  He wouldn’t have made that mistake.”

“And once again, John Watson is misled by his charmingly naive altruism.  People make mistakes, John.”

“Yes.  Everyone but you makes mistakes.  I know that.  But could you just turn off your computer for a moment and listen to me?  Do you know how many doctors it takes to diagnose a brain aneurism?  Three doctors, Sherlock!  You need a neurologist, a neurosurgeon and a neuro-radiologist.  All three of them would have to be mistaken—they would have had to see something that wasn’t there.  You know as well as I do that that isn’t likely.”

“Which takes us back to the coroner.”

“No.  I talked to him personally. He showed me photographs.  There was no aneurism.”

“Your harping on the matter is making my already painfully dull day even duller.  Are you almost finished?”

“No, I’m not.  Someone went to a lot of trouble, Sherlock! Do you have any idea how hard it would be to falsify these reports?”

“Malpractice happens all the time.” Sherlock still hadn’t taken his eyes off his laptop.

“By three respected specialists?”

“It is possible…”

“Oh, come on! What are the odds of that?”

John walked over and shut Sherlock’s laptop nearly on his hands.  “Sherlock!”

“All right, I’ll take a look at it, if only to shut you up.  What do you have?”

“I told you what I have.  Hope did not have an aneurism.  He was convinced by three well-respected doctors that he had an untreatable one.  So he decided to become a serial killer.  That’s a very odd chain of events.”

“Well, if you would allow me to open my computer again, I could start looking into his computer records.”

“How will you do that?”

“I log the IP address of each person who visits my website.  He said he’d been on it ‘loads of  times.’  Shouldn’t be too hard for me to track him back.’

“Can’t you just talk to Lestrade?”

“I’m going to need more than your hunch to convince him.  We may as well get some real work done before we invite tedious bureaucracy.”

Several hours later John was looking over Sherlock’s shoulder as he explained the data on Hope’s internet usage.

 “Here, you see?  This is when his wife left him and got custody of the two kids.”

 “What?”

 “There’s a lot of activity in early 2000 on these online games… Tetris, Javanoid, Mindsweeper… He calls himself a “proper genius” and he spends countless hours on this frivolity, just because his wife moved out!  Idiot.”

John chose to ignore the final sentence, and try and get Sherlock into a better mood.  “I remember that Mindsweeper game.  Only played it once or twice, though.  Some of the guys were pretty addicted, but I thought it was boring.”

“The only reason you thought it was boring is that you couldn’t get past the first level.”

“Or maybe there wasn’t a lot of down-time in Kosovo.”

“Excuses, John!”

On second thought, humoring Sherlock probably just made him worse…

“Anyway.  I can deduce a lot about him from the internet records I have accessed.  I’ve already shown you how I can see the trajectory of his life.  But I’ll need access to more.  I could call in a favor from the Home Secretary.  It would save time, but there is no urgency here.  I suppose I’ll have to call on Lestrade, instead.”

“That wouldn’t be that bad, would it?”

“Yes, it will, so you’d better be grateful.”

John meandered back towards Lestrade’s office.  He had been watching Sherlock argue, wheedle, pout, threaten, and otherwise try to convince Lestrade to help them with the taxi driver investigation for about thirty minutes, when Sherlock sent him off to get a cup of coffee “or at least stop gaping.”  If he interpreted the sounds coming from the office correctly, Lestrade still hadn’t budged.  John decided not to enter that particular war zone, and dropped into a seat near the slightly opened door instead.  He might not have psychosomatic pain in his right leg anymore, but his left was still sore from the months of limping on it.

He was just about to take another sip of his coffee, when he realized that Lestrade and Sherlock were discussing him, not Jefferson Hope.

“… making a point by bringing this doctor around, and all, but he’s not that bright, is he?  Don’t look at me like that, Sherlock.  I mean… maybe you’re right. I shouldn’t say that—injured war hero, ex-surgeon.  That’s not what I mean…   But why do you keep bringing him here?  He’s not a detective, and I don’t see that his obsession with the Hope case matters that much.”

“You know, Lestrade, sometimes your stupidity amazes even me.  But I should’ve expected it.  You’re too blind to see the simplest details on a corpse, so I couldn’t really expect you to properly observe a living person…  You should be able to see that John is an excellent medical man.  And I suppose it never occurred to you that his having been a doctor in active duty makes him particularly qualified to deal with dead bodies?  Hm?”

John heard Lestrade sigh.

“No, I didn’t think so.  Not to mention the fact that he has an intuitive grasp of detective work that none of you lot could hope to have in a million years.  His contributions have been invaluable to me over the past two weeks, so if you want me to keep helping you, you are going to stop insulting my friend, and trust my judgment.”

There was complete silence from the office for a few minutes, and John tried very hard not to breathe too loudly.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to have overheard that, and if Sherlock found out—and the chances that he wouldn’t were slim—he would be in deep trouble.

He heard Lestrade let out a long slow hiss of breath before he said, “Okay.  Here:  You help me with this witness protection case I’ve got on, and then I’ll see what I can do.  Will you do that, Sherlock?”

“Fine.  Give me the files.  I have two hours before tea.  I’ll have it sorted by then.”

“Since when do you have a set tea time?”

John snorted to himself at this.  Since when, indeed!  Sherlock hadn’t eaten at a decent time even once in the three weeks since they’d moved into the flat at Baker Street.

“Since my doc—John!”

Sherlock stopped in the doorway for a second to stare.  John was in trouble now, but there was nothing for it.  “So, Lestrade is going to help you?”

“You know perfectly well that he is, as you just heard him say as much. Why must people be so obsessed with repeating obvious facts?”

“We can’t all be as intelligent as you are.”

“It’s fortunate for you at least that you aren’t.  If your brain ever ran at the speed of mine you would have a headache, and go mad.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Do be quiet, John.  I have to look over these files, and I can’t have more people than absolutely necessary blundering around in their own thoughts while I’m trying to think, so you should go home.”

He couldn’t think of anything to say to that.  Maybe in a few months he’d be quicker on his feet.  But for now he was tired and he did want to go home.

“I’m ordering Chinese.  Can I get anything for you?”

“I never eat when I’m working.  Don’t be an idiot, John.”

He’d order an extra king prawn fried rice just in case.



Middlegame I

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