“It wasn’t the sous chef.”
Sherlock made the pronouncement as he strode out of the restaurant office and back into the kitchen where John and Lestrade stood around the body of the murdered chef, Karlo Vale.
Lestrade bit, as he always did. “How can you be sure?”
“The knife slid laterally when it impacted the spine.” He gestured at the ragged four-inch-long slice cutting to the right of the spinal ridge. “The lung wasn’t the intended target but was punctured accidentally. Even in the heat of passion, a well-trained sous chef like Alex Moyes would have had the strength and skill to drive the knife between the vertebrae rather than glancing off, or would have attacked a vital organ directly. Also, it wasn’t his knife.”
John and Lestrade both glanced down into the knife set unrolled and open on one of the prep tables. “But the knife is missing from his set.”
Sherlock reached over the corpse to pull down a heavy chef’s knife from the rack over the work surface. “This is Moyes’ knife. You can tell by the grip,” he offered it to them to examine. “It’s newer and better cared for. This knife never saw the inside of a dishwasher. Unlike the murder weapon.” Now he held the hilt against the grip of the knife sticking out of the victim’s back. The murder weapon was faded and covered in miniscule cracks. “Whoever did this grabbed the first knife at hand and then to disguise his actions took Alex Moyes’ knife from the set and put it in place of the murder weapon.”
“So, who did it?” Leave it to John to ask the pertinent question.
“The business partner. Martin Torres. Judging by the past due notices on the rent and from several high end vendors, business hasn’t been good. Vale didn’t want to compromise on the quality, he and Torres fought about it, and in the heat of the moment, Torres took the knife to him.”
“Can you prove it?”
Sherlock glared at Lestrade. “You should be able to, now that you know whose prints to look for on that knife. Really, Detective Inspector, must I do everything?”
“We wouldn’t want that.” There was no venom in Lestrade’s words, though. He gestured to the waiting forensic techs who moved in to claim the weapon and other evidence while Sherlock stripped off the latex gloves he’d been wearing and replaced them with his leather ones. “It’s a shame, really. He was good. You ever eaten here?”
Even as John shook his head, Sherlock snorted.
“Oh, right, I forget you don’t eat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, of course I eat.” He ignored John’s pointed look. “I just don’t see the point of making a production out of satisfying a bodily necessity that needs to be repeated multiple times a day when the product of your efforts will be gone within twenty minutes of completion.”
John ducked his head to hide a smirk. “I think if Sherlock could get all his nutrition from supplements, he’d give up eating all together.”
“All the more for us, then. Thanks again for coming down.”
Sherlock nodded at the dismissal and stalked out of the restaurant with his usual alacrity, John close on his heels. He waited until they were settled in their cab, snow melting down the back of his neck, to air his grievance. “I enjoy eating.”
John seemed surprised, but as he tended to do when surprised, he actually thought about Sherlock’s words. “That’s true. When you can be bothered to eat, when you aren’t on a case or in the middle of a project or just in a strop, you do enjoy eating. But be honest, that’s not very often, is it?”
They both looked up from their reading to see Mrs. Hudson in their kitchen, setting a small casserole covered in a dishtowel down on their stove. John rose, sparing Sherlock the need to. “What have you got there?”
She waved a hand dismissively. “Just a bit of fish pie. I felt homey and domestic, so I thought I’d cook something. You know how it is. There’s not much point cooking for yourself. But with you two, I always have someone to cook for.”
Sherlock watched John take the towel off the crockery and inhale, his eyes closed to savor the scent. “It smells wonderful, Mrs. Hudson, thank you. Will you join us for tea, then?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to intrude—” She was suddenly dithery and blushing. Embarrassed? Doubtful. He and John weren’t doing anything that would make her uncomfortable. Unexpected attention, then. She hadn’t expected to be in the spotlight with her gift.
“You wouldn’t be intruding at all, would she, Sherlock?”
He knew the tone in John’s voice, the brook no arguments, mind your manners voice he used to keep Sherlock’s more egregious social conduct in check. Resisting a sigh, Sherlock folded his paper and set it aside. “Not at all. It hardly seems right to turn the mistress of the feast away from her own meal. John, I think there might be a white wine in the cupboard that would go well, don’t you?”
John’s smile was gratifying even as Mrs. Hudson blushed more crimson.
Cooking wasn’t difficult. It was just chemistry, really. Dull chemistry, where the solution has already been found and the cook was merely reproducing the results. Repeatable. Redundant.
Nevertheless, Sherlock was determined to persevere.
He’d settled on a chicken biryani recipe he’d found online. He’d carefully prepared all the ingredients ahead of time, bowls of chopped onions, tomato, chicken accented by smaller dishes of dried spices and fresh herbs in neat lines across the tabletop. He already had the pot on the stove heating a few tablespoons of oil. One by one he dropped in cardamom, cinnamon, bay and peppercorn until the whole flat was infused with the exotic scent of it. Then he added the rice, coating it with the fragrant oil before he added chicken stock, covered the pot and set it aside to absorb. Then he turned his attention to the chicken. Sauté the onions, add the tomato, then more spices. Cardamom again, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cayenne. John liked spicy food, should Sherlock add more than the recipe called for?
Variables. He hadn’t accounted for the variabilities of taste, of dietary restriction, ingredient availability, even seasonality.
It had never occurred to him that cooking to please someone else was a factor.
With the sudden frisson of excitement usually reserved for his more noxious experiments, he threw himself into the recipe with renewed vigor.
John got home from work right on schedule, just as Sherlock was taking the biryani out of the oven. “Something smells good,” he called as he hung up his coat. “A new takeaway place?”
Sherlock refrained from a smirk. “I cooked.”
There was silence from the other room. Sherlock ignored it and poured the wine.
John was in the lounge doorway now, looking flabbergasted. If nothing else, the entire exercise was worth his reaction now.
“I’ve said before, it’s not that difficult. Basic chemistry. Any dolt can cook. Do you want to eat?”
“That’s a ridiculous question. If you cooked, then I definitely want to eat.” He hesitated. “It’s not some kind of experiment, is it? I’m not going to find anything nasty when I take a bite?”
“Would I waste this much time if there were? Honestly, John, if I wanted to do you in, it would be easier to tamper with the tea bags.”
“And now I’ll never take tea without a hint of fear ever again.”
Now Sherlock grinned. “Sit down. It’s getting cold.”
John sat, unfolding his napkin in his lap. “I didn’t know we had napkins.”
“We don’t.” Sherlock spooned the savory mix of rice, spice, vegetables and meat onto John’s plate. “I borrowed them from Mrs. Hudson.”
“Going all out.” John leaned forward to smell the food the way he had with Mrs. Hudson’s fish pie, his face relaxing in the same expression of pleasure. “It smells wonderful.”
Sherlock didn’t blush the way Mrs. Hudson had, but he certainly understood now what had caused it. Praise from John always improved his mood. “Don’t judge it until you taste it.”
Being well-mannered, John waited for Sherlock to serve himself before he picked up his fork. Sherlock took the first taste. Not bad. Certainly better than the greasy, heavy rice they got delivered. The rice was plump and fragrant, the layers of flavor between the meat and spices complex enough to be interesting. Yes, not bad at all.
John’s reaction was more visceral. “Oh my God,” he groaned. “Sherlock, this is magnificent.”
Sherlock poked at his own food. “You really think so?”
“Oh, yes.” John took another bite, chewing ecstatically. “What’s it going to take to get you to do this more often? No complaints about the shopping? First call on the hot water? You name it. Because this,” he took another bite, “this is worth it.”
Sherlock basked in the praise, but hid it from John behind another bite of his own. “We’ll see. I still say it’s more trouble than it’s worth. We’ll just have to eat again in a few hours.”
John paused, then set his flatware down and leaned forward on the table. “Thank you, Sherlock. I know this took a lot of time and effort on your part, and I appreciate it.”
His sincerity was as surprising as always. “John.”
“Shut up and eat your food.”
John laughed and picked up his fork again.