“I’ll get the milk.”
John turned in the doorway. "Now you're just mocking me.”
Sherlock rose from the chair. “No, truly. I could use some fresh air.” He reached for his coat.
“Since when?” John moved back into the room.
“John, I am very capable of going to the market.”
“You know where it is, then?”
Sherlock shrugged into his coat. “I did eat before we lived together. Who do you think did the shopping?”
“I don’t know, Lestrade?”
“Ha. As much as he fancies himself my handler, he has never even bought me a biscuit.”
“Well, if you’re serious,” John walked to the fireplace and picked up a remote control, “I’m going to watch a bit of the game.”
“Any game, really. It’s all in the watching.” He settled in his chair and realized there was no television in the room. “Sherlock, where’s the television?”
Sherlock walked to the door and turned back to John. “I gave it to Mrs. Hudson. We weren’t using it.”
John sighed. “Well, then, buy me a television while you’re out, will you? I’d like to watch the game.”
Sherlock wrapped his scarf around his neck. “So just milk, then.”
“And beans. Oh, and beer. I’d like to have a drink when I’m not watching the game.”
Sherlock smiled and headed down the stairs.
John shook his head. He could always watch the game on the computer.
Sherlock felt the press of the needle before he saw the men. He was able to turn his head so that the bulk of whatever was in the syringe landed in his shoulder, but enough of it found its way into his bloodstream that one push from the man behind him took him to a knee. He struggled, but three sets of hands (dark, rough, one long nail on index finger, one tattooed cross on pinky finger, two wedding rings, one chronic knuckle-cracker . . . I can’t feel my lips . . .) pulled him across the sidewalk and into a car (black, sedan, recently washed, SpongeBob Squarepants deodorizer on the rear view . . . what sense does it make for a squirrel to live in the sea?). He felt the seats against his back (leather, maybe) and a burst of intense pain in his knee when knuckle-cracker slammed the door into his leg. Another prick in his neck and he knew he got the whole syringe this time. The last thing he remembered was the guy whose lap his head was jammed against, leaning up to the driver (wedding ring, SpongeBob aficionado, garlic lover) and growling, “Ne kemi pranuar paketën.” He recognized Albanian, and something about a package, and then he recognized nothing at all.
Greg Lestrade had been sitting on a suspected drugs house in Brixton for two days. Well, sitting in a car a block away. He wished he had declined the assignment. He had a desk full of paperwork and three new detectives to terrorize. Instead, he’d told Donovan he’d take the stake-out so she could go to her cousin’s wedding in Abergavenny.
“It’s an in and out, Greg. Shouldn’t be more than twelve hours. MI5 will do all the heavy lifting. They just need us for back-up – it’s the Albanians.”
That was forty-eight hours ago. He emptied his fourth cup of coffee of the morning and pulled out his mobile. Oh sure, he knew all about the Albanians. He had just wrapped up a particularly nasty run-in with a faction in Essex. Arrested a scary bastard named Isuf Budo who ran upwards of a dozen brothels and drug houses in the southeast of London. They’d finally gotten a tip on the case which had led them to Essex where they’d busted a pretty substantial sex-trafficking operation and as a bonus, Sherlock had stumbled onto sixty kilos of heroin in the basement of the house next door.
Lestrade had been happy for the boost in his arrest stats, but knew Sherlock had been rattled by the discovery. He and John had emerged from the basement, legs dusted with white powder and of course, Donovan couldn’t help but get her digs in.
“Hey, freak, how much you snort before you called us?” to which Anderson chimed in with, “Sherlock, it wasn’t that long ago we were dragging you out of places like this.”
He had shooed them away, but saw Sherlock’s shoulders stiffen at the comments. He watched John look from Sherlock to Anderson, and then to him. He shrugged and shook his head and became very busy in the business of securing two crime scenes. When he looked up, they were gone. He wondered if Sherlock had told John anything about his past drug habits. Anderson could be a pain in his arse, but he wasn’t lying. Time was, it’d be him in the basement, looking for Sherlock. Usually sent there by Mycroft Holmes, to save his brother another time, another police report misplaced for the good of Queen and country. He was glad those days were over.
His phone rang in his hand and he saw John’s number. “Lestrade.”
“Greg, it’s John.”
“Hiya John, what can I do for you?”
“Have you seen Sherlock?”
Greg sat up straight. He hated that question. He hadn’t been asked that question, in that particular way, in quite a long time. And never from John. If anyone ever knew where Sherlock Holmes was, it was John Watson. “I’m on a case, John. Haven’t seen him since Essex. What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s probably ridiculous, but he went out for milk yesterday and he hasn’t come back. I would normally just wait him out, you know how he can be . . .”
“Yeah, I do. He on a case?”
“But you said he went out for milk – I just thought that was code for something.”
“No, he really went out for milk.”
“I know, and I wouldn’t even be bothering you, but he dropped his mobile at the front door and I know he’s done that before as well, but I don’t know . . .”
“You’ve got a hinky feeling about it.”
Greg sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Like when you enter a building and it doesn’t feel right – may be quiet as a church, but you know there’s something not quite right.”
“Yeah, it’s hinky. This feels very hinky.”
Greg leaned his head against the steering wheel. “Let me get someone to cover me here, and I’ll be right over.”
“Thanks Greg, it’s probably nothing.”
“Yeah, but when it comes to Sherlock – probably is really shite odds.”
“And John, you’d better call Mycroft.”
Sherlock felt himself being lifted. And then dropped. And then kicked. He curled into himself to get away from the blows, and tried to fight through the haze in his mind. He needed to figure out this problem. He’d obviously been kidnapped. It obviously had something to do with the drugs in Essex. He was obviously in a basement. He could feel the damp cement against his back. The boot that caught him just under his ribs was leather. Big – size 11 ½ at least. He rolled to his left and bumped against a table leg. He felt himself pulled from the floor and shoved in a chair. He cracked open an eye. Yes, basement. Three men. Two of the same ones from the car – Knuckle-Cracker and SpongeBob. The new man was older, better dressed. Smelled like haddock. He opened his other eye and saw a kit on the table. A spoon, packets of what . . . heroin, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine? He hoped it was the former, not the latter. As deep as he had crawled into his addiction, he had always stopped at meth – the seductive Christina. He struggled against the arms that had him held fast to the chair. He tried to catalogue every detail of the room, every inch of his captors. He needed to figure out what part of London he was in, if he was still in London at all.
“Nothing you’ve said so far has convinced me.” Mycroft sat in Sherlock’s chair, legs crossed. “My brother has merely slipped down the rabbit hole again. And I for one am not inclined to follow him this time.”
Greg stood in the doorway with his sixth cup of coffee. “I’d agree with you, if John wasn’t so sure.”
“It’s hinky, Mycroft.” John held up Sherlock’s phone. “Mrs. Hudson found his phone on the doorstep.”
“Hinky?” Mycroft smiled. “Colourful use of slang doesn’t change the fact that my brother is-“
“-was,” Greg corrected.
“Was a drug addict. Who will find his way home, eventually.”
John leaned forward in the chair. “Mycroft, I’m going to look for him, with or without your help.”
Greg nodded to Mycroft over John’s head. He knew John had no idea what he was getting himself into. He’d spent the better part of a month once, going from back room to flop house to drug den, looking for Sherlock. But he also believed John when he said this wasn’t just Sherlock bored with life and heading out for some “milk.”
“Can you at least do a basic search, Mycroft? John and I will do the rest. Just throw out a net, see what you catch.”
Mycroft rose from the chair. “I will give you Anthea and access to my data for an hour.”
John stood. “Seriously, an hour?”
“Oh, you’ll discover that an hour is more than sufficient. If he’s out on a bender, you’ll find him.” Mycroft walked to the door. “I’ll be in touch.”
Mycroft left and John walked over to the computer. “Nothing on the blog. Or his website. Where the fuck is he?”
Greg wondered the exact same thing. On his way to Baker Street, he had called in and gotten arrest reports from the last 48 hours downloaded to his phone. Nothing unusual. He called James Kinsey from the drugs unit and gave him notice to look for Sherlock in the usual haunts. Kinsey had been helpful in the past – a good man with excellent discretion. He hoped they’d have some results soon. He wasn’t going to be able to keep John here for much longer. And he didn’t like the idea of taking him out to look for Sherlock. John had no idea what he’d be getting into. And Sherlock would probably have him sacked, arrested, and hanged if he told him.
He remembered the exchange he’d witnessed at Baker Street on the first case they’d worked together. Sherlock had roared up the stairs, full of righteous indignation because Greg had tossed the flat and found the pink suitcase. Sherlock had accused him of breaking in. He’d given it back both barrels.
“And you can’t withhold evidence. And I didn’t break into your flat.” Greg remained calm, sitting comfortably in Sherlock’s chair.
Sherlock was furious. “Well, what do you call this then?”
“It’s a drugs bust.”
John whipped around and stared at Greg. “Seriously?! This guy, a junkie? Have you met him?"
“John . . .” At least Sherlock had the decency to look sheepish.
John didn’t understand. “I’m pretty sure you could search this flat all day, you wouldn’t find anything you could call recreational.”
Sherlock stood face to face with John. “John, you probably want to shut up now.”
John looked at Sherlock. “Yeah, but come on . . . no.”
Greg was sure that was the last conversation they’d had on the subject. For some reason, Sherlock Holmes had still failed to share a fairly substantial part of his past with John, and Greg was not going to be the one to spill those beans. Yet.
Right now it was the elder Holmes brother he was worried about. Mycroft had breezed in and out just a little too fast, just a little too . . . breezy. He understood if he was tired of this game – waiting for Sherlock to fall off the wagon, over a cliff. Hell, they’d both been tired. But this was different. This was . . .
“You hungry?” He walked over to the computer, where John sat hunched, staring at the screen.
“Uh, no – yeah, yeah, I could eat.”
“Think I’ll walk down to the Chinese – maybe steal a smoke.” Greg put on his coat.
“Yeah. Yeah.” John never looked up from the screen.
Greg nodded to no one and headed down the stairs. When he got out on the sidewalk, he pulled out his phone and thumbed down through his contacts to a number he hadn’t used in a long time.