"This is my note.... Goodbye John."
He pulls the phone away from his ear and screams as he sees Sherlock step off the edge of the building. He’s sure he’s close enough to have heard the sickening thud of flesh meeting the ground, the crunch of bone and agonized last breath, but he’s unaware of anything. Not the bodies he brushes by, not the people who pull him away from testing the pulse at Sherlock’s limp wrist.
All he sees is red, pooling under the body’s head and the way it hurts to breathe.
He blinks once, twice, turns away and stands slowly. He’s aware of a lot, distantly. The feel of something warm and wet on his hand, the sirens and people speaking to him… it all registers in the back of his mind. He walks away, measured steps pacing towards the interior of the building, trying to gather the last of Sherlock's effects. He must soldier on.
Lestrade and his team find the first body 2 weeks later. Anderson can give no explanation for how the corpse can be completely exsaguinated, grey and limp as it hangs from the rafters in an abandoned rundown flat in Wood Green. The right hand is nonexistent, only the wristbones remained, stripped bare and gleaming white. They can hardly pull together an identification with how sliced open the body is, skin flayed from its face and chest.
"Lucky thing the left hand is in tact, sir. Rather fortunate we can pull fingerprints."
Lestrade breathes out hard and drops his head, one hand rubbing at his forehead. It's times like these where he feels the loss of Sherlock the most. Holmes may have been a pain in the ass, but he was brilliant. He would see something in the way the laces were tied on the body's shoes, or some speck of dust on its shoulders, and would be able to find the killer immediately. As it stands, Anderson is talking his way through the crime scene, trying to make up for the lack of Sherlock's intensity.
The matter is even more convoluted when Interpol comes to shut down the investigation and removes the body from the morgue upon receipt of the fingerprint analysis. Lestrade stares at his emptied desk except for a memo about the body. Armenian, hitman... Last address had been a flat along Baker Street.
Mrs. Hudson had been forthcoming upon first seeing the picture of the victim.
"Oh that lovely man! He came to fix my lights the day that Sherlock..." she drifted off, face hardening. "I haven't seen him since, Inspector."
Any further inquiries had been met with polite distance and cool eyes, devoid of any information. Lestrade couldn't even begin to investigate further, with no body and no trail. Any further questions to Mrs. Hudson had been lost in proffered cuppas and another dewy eyed reminiscence of Sherlock. He cast his eyes heavenward, trying to resign himself to knowing that it was no longer part of his division.
John, on the other hand, still tastes metal. When he sleeps, it is no longer the harsh grit of sand and rock that fills his mouth, no longer gunpowder and sun-cracked lips. Instead, he tastes blood. Feels it boiling hot as he stabs and slices into the Armenian again and again. He'd made it back from St. Bart's Hospital just in time to see the gun in the toolkit of the man working on Mrs. Hudson's foyer lights.
He'd been able to surprise him, only able to take him down from shock and a nearby vase.
John has no idea what Mrs. Hudson had seen in his face when he asked her to open the basement flat for him, and to give him the key. She hadn't argued, hadn't said a word.
It was amazing, really, what can be brought forth with just an ice pick and a scalpel held in the proper hands. In a strange way, John thought that Sherlock would have been proud. The man had so much to tell about Moriarty, about the long game that had been played. Moriarty had been more than a little insane, glibly telling his plan to the gathering of assassins he'd found to hunt Sherlock and his friends.
Three assassins, specially tasked. A sniper for John. A mole for Lestrade. The Armenian for Mrs. Hudson. If Sherlock didn't jump, if he'd tried to renege on his deal....
John had slowly sliced through Armenian's right hand with surgical precision. The gargle of blood and screams had made for a satisfying counterpoint while he meticulously separated tendons and ligaments, scalpel cleaning the edge of wrist bones until they gleamed and the Armenian had passed out. A trophy for later.
John closes his eyes, breathing deeply, as he goes through his workout routine, clearing his mind as he sinks into his body. Running, stretching muscles he forgets about and trying to wipe the sense-memory of blood soaking into his palms as he bled the Armenian dry. The basement has been bleached clean, no traces of the victim ever having been there. There's no evidence of him to be found at all, save a case board and portfolio. He thinks that is something he gained from Sherlock.
The Armenian had given up so much information, but John was only getting started. A few names, the ideal plan that had involved all of their deaths anyway. He has a general idea of what he needs to do; dossiers and pictures, as much information as he could gather without being obvious about his searching... John had learned stealth, after all. He'll start with the mole first, since he still had access to Lestrade.
Mrs. Hudson stops him on the stairs up to his room, some flowers in her hand. "I thought we could..." she trails off. John nods, following her with only a slight tremor to his hand as he holds her elbow to steady her.
At the cemetary, Mrs. Hudson's voice breaks as she steps away, promising to leave them alone for a moment so he can have a private moment. He doesn't bother trying to correct her anymore, allows her to believe as she will about what was between them. John waits, staring at the carved letters of the marker. He turns after a moment to make sure she's gone before he starts talking, as though He can hear.
"Um... you... you told me once that you weren't a hero," he begins, lingering over the words. "There were times where I didn't think you were human. But I'll tell you this: you were the best man and the most human..." he looks down at his hand, shaking, "human being that I've known and no one will convince me that you ever told me a lie. So.... there."
He stares off into the graveyard, unseeing, caressing the edge of the grave marker. "I was so alone and I owe you so much. Now please, there's just one more thing mate. One more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock. For me. Don't. Be. Dead." His voice breaks and he struggles not to weep. Even without Sherlock here, he can't break down in front of him. "Would you do that? Just for me. Will you just... stop it. Stop this."
He breathes deeply, trying to regain the composure he's long since lost, wiping his eyes with one hand as the other flexes at his side. He can feel himself reaching for a sidearm he no longer carries, for a cane he hasn't needed in 18 months. A moment passes and he sighs shakily, straightens to attention, nods his head and makes an abortive salute before turning sharply away.
Sherlock watches on the fringes of the graveyard and says nothing, all too aware of what John's thinking.
"He's going to get messy. You need to stop him before it happens again."
Sherlock doesn't look up from his newspaper, seated by the fireplace in the old family estate, reading about the unsolved murder. Mycroft isn't overexaggerating, he knows, but he's also not making an effort to stop John himself.
"The crown's interested in the deaths of wanted international criminals now?" he asks idly, flipping the page loudly to irk his brother.
"He will be caught, Sherlock. Either you stop him or..." Mycroft trails off, pursing his lips sourly and looking down his nose at his brother before striding off to pour himself a whiskey.
"Rather childish threat to make, Mycroft." A smile quirks one side of Sherlock's lips, although he only sees his brother on the periphery. It's probably a lot more serious than his brother is letting on, and he turns to actually look at his brother, making mental notes.
Corgi hairs, but fewer than usual.
The smell of gunpowder and ink, though more paper than Lestrade's office.
The slight tic of his brother's eye, a tell even stronger than the affectation he usually put on.
Sherlock sat slowly upright, folding his paper. Nothing needs to be said, really, but he needs to stall for time. "How close are they?"
"He can't do it again, Sherlock. He shouldn't have at all." Mycroft sits across from his brother, resting his elbows on his knees, fingers steepled in front of his lips. "Did you know?"
Sherlock quirks an eyebrow, standing to leave. "Better back off on the cakes, Mycroft. You've put on a stone." The lack of retort as the door closes behind him says more about their current predicament than either Holmes would care to admit.
"Doctor Watson?" A thin voice catches John's attention and he turns to find the underweight teenager, shabbily dressed in too big, dirty clothes, sitting against the side of a building. A yellow arm band tied around her left arm marks her as one of Sherlock's homeless network. The lot of them had taken to the decoration after the detective's death, as did a large portion of the general public. Several members of the network came to the clinic after hours where John would patch them up, no questions asked, and often send them off with a few extra quid.
The young woman is not one he has ever seen before, and he rises, quickly cataloging any wounds she may have. He can’t think of any save needing a bath and a good meal.
"I'm supposed to give you this." The girl rises to her feet and hands John a piece of torn, folded up scrap of paper.
John blinks and accepts the note as he pulls out his wallet; he knew how these transactions worked.
"Ta mate, but I've been paid," she smiles, revealing a missing front tooth, before walking away, quickly getting lost in the crowd.
John stands there, confusion filling his mind, before unfolding the paper.
Number 2 of 3
Todd Newton. Age 37. New Scotland Yard.
John stares at the name as well as what appeared to be a home address scrawled underneath in messy handwriting as the world suddenly narrows, a grip of panic filling his chest and clawing at his throat. Someone knew.
It was only after he makes it back to Baker Street and had poured a large tumbler of whiskey that John allows himself to take a deep breath and look at the paper once more. Todd Newton. The name rings a bell and it only takes a moment to remember the new constable that had started working at the Yard only shortly before That Day, assistant to Lestrade himself.
John begins collecting what he will need and every time he slips an unopened scalpel into his pocket or a line of tubing into his pack, he feels the crinkled edges of the note in his palm. His plans move along quickly after he begins working part time at St. George’s. The difficult part is finding the appropriate space. Sure, there are plenty of empty warehouse around town but to find one that is actually unoccupied? It's harder than it looks. Most places show signs of the homeless and it is the homeless that finally lead him to secluded boat house on the edge of the Thames, half shrouded in overgrowth.
The Network asks no questions, especially not from Sherlock Holmes' doctor.
A rented car, a week of surveillance, and a bottle of chloroform later, John has Todd Newton bound in the trunk of a car and absolute privacy.
"You know, during the Victorian era, surgeries were performed without anesthetics of any kind. Well, you might be able to get drunk first... if you were lucky." The laugh that escapes him is dripping with malice, reminding Newton how unlucky he can be. John circles the shining table as he watches the man, bound to its top, struggle against the straps. A slight chill permeates the air and John suppresses a shiver, his thin scrubs not offering warmth. Not that he wouldn’t be warm soon enough under the hot lights overhead.
With a felt-tip marker, John numbers off each of his limbs and now he steps up to the Newton's left leg which bore a large, thick number one. "So the surgeons were fantastically quick about their work. I read that there were surgeons who could remove a leg in thirty seconds. How long do you think it will take me?"
The man begins to scream through his gag, panicked gaze watching as John holds his leg down and carefully draws a dotted line above his knee. "That should do it," he smiles warmly, patting the leg, before turning and walking over to the table he had set up the day before. John grabs the white coat and slips on his face shield, apron and gloves.
He selects the utensils he will need and carefully lines them up on a tray, wheeling it over to his patient. He caresses them lightly, a workman proud of his tools, and holds aloft the shiny bone saw. Newton's screams increase in volume and pitch as he begins to struggle anew, sweat gleaming on his skin. Calmly, humming under his breath, John grabs a piece of rubber and quickly ties a tourniquet above the line on the man's leg, pulling it tight. It snaps satisfyingly loud against the pale skin and John grins.
John clamps his hand across the patient's thigh, placing the stopwatch next to the man's head. “Do keep an eye on this for us.” His eyes flash hot as he picks up his favorite knife and in one rapid movement makes his incision, cutting under the skin below the mole's knee and fileting upwards. The patient's screams no long sound human as John puts the knife away and grabs the saw and begins to cut.
The bone is dense and it isn’t long before John is covered in warm blood. He loses himself in the repetitive motion, all fading to white noise as he focuses single-mindedly on his task. It's soothing almost, the steady back and forth, and the thunk of the saw against the metal table almost takes him by surprise. John grabs the limb and tosses it on the floor before quickly starting to tie off the main artery of the thigh with a knot and cauterizing other smaller blood vessels. As the tourniquet is loosened, the flesh is stitched back over the stump with thick, black thread.
John reaches over to hit the stop watch, "Four minutes and fifteen seconds. Well, I am out of practice." He undoes the man's gag and begins his interrogation, noting with some glee the pallor of his prey.
By the time he makes it through the arms and around to the right leg, John's time is down to two minutes and forty two seconds and he has a name. The sniper: Sebastian Moran, former military, fathered an illegitimate child somewhere in the Middle East, current residence: Unknown.
John stops to change out the saline drip and check his patient's pulse. Light and thready, the early stages of shock are beginning to set in, but John still has plenty of time and blood for transfusions. He finds out exactly how many organs the body can carry on without, how much screaming a man can do with only one lung, the disbelief when someone is faced with their outer extremities no longer attached to their body. By the time he's done, it's as if he has bathed in blood, the smell of it filling his nostrils, and running down his arms in streams. He finally cuts out the man's eyes and quickly transfers them into a jar of preservative, snapping a pair of his gloves off thereafter with finality.
Newton is a quivering mess on the table, chest and abdomen open with most of his insides sitting in various pans and dishes. He is, however, alive for the moment. John wonders idly how he’ll react to the current drip drying up and shock setting in, now that he can no longer see his death coming. John removes his gear, picking up a wet rag and wiping the spurious blood and sweat from his face. The rest would be hidden under his coat.
John straightens his spine and his fist clenches involuntarily as he surveys the rest of the room laid out before him. He would come back tomorrow to dispose of the body and collect his trophies. The foresight of gloves made sure that he would leave no prints and the constant breaks to wipe his brow ensured no DNA would be found, once he's tossed everything into the hospital's incenerator. He quickly throws everything he had worn into his duffle and dons his coat, zipping it up to the neck. There is a stop he has to make before he goes home.
There's still blood dripping from under his sleeves when he arrives at Sherlock's gravestone, lightning making the world stand out in stark relief. A night like tonight, where the world rumbles as if it’s ending, ensures that he’s left in peace to whisper what he needs to tell Sherlock. He smiles, thinking how easily he could have taken his own life instead of the two he’s managed already.
It wouldn’t have been enough… not nearly enough. The only thing he can think that will be enough of a siren’s song is a pile of bodies, bloody and destroyed at his feet. He rubs his hand idly against the stone when he hears the footsteps.
"How long have you been following me?"