“Live and let live, that’s my motto.” Mrs. Hudson lifted the bottle of Jameson’s, but Kate shook her head and held her hand over her glass. It would have been the third of what could only be called liberal pours and she didn’t need to sit in Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen getting hammered, when she knew the real action was going on above their heads.
“Wish my grandmother could have been so open-minded.” Kate sighed, glancing at her watch, at the door. She could hear muffled voices and heavy footsteps coming from upstairs.
Mrs. Hudson poured a bit more whiskey into her own teacup. “Well, when you’ve seen what I’ve seen . . .”
“You mean with Sherlock?”
“Oh my, no. They’re dears, the both of them. Mind, Sherlock could do with more space in his head for manners, and less in the fridge for earlobes, but I wouldn’t have anyone else upstairs.”
Mrs. Hudson ignored her, lost in her own thoughts. “It was difficult, the years he was . . . gone. Didn’t think John ever would come out of it. And now he’s . . . life is full of surprises, isn’t it?” She looked up at Kate. “Though I’m sure you’ve heard a bit of that . . . nasty business . . . with Mary . . .”
Kate wondered how much whiskey it would take before Mrs. Hudson would tell her everything. Everything she knew at least. “Yes, that’s why I’m here. Partly . . .”
Mrs. Hudson frowned. “Yes, well, I shouldn’t be gossiping.”
“You’re not. You’re concerned for . . . the boys . . . and you want to help them. I want to help them too.”
Mrs. Hudson pushed away from the table and stood, pulling her sweater tightly around her. “You don’t even know them. And I know when I’m being interrogated – if I learned anything at all from my husband. But you’re a smart one. You’ll get it sorted out without my babbling on and on.”
Kate knew she had just been shut down by a pro. She was going to have to Google Mrs. Hudson when she got back to the hotel.
Her phone vibrated and she looked down. A text from Chloe.Perfect timing. She didn’t read it and turned back to Mrs. Hudson, who was smiling at her.
“Was that your special someone?”
“My girlfriend. Well, ex-girlfriend. Well, I’m not sure. We broke up before I came here. I think.” Kate couldn’t stop talking. Mrs. Hudson had sat back down and was nodding.
“She’s a cop too. Local, not RCMP like me. We met three years ago on a murder investigation. I never worked so hard to solve a case – I knew I couldn’t ask her out until we closed it. We moved in together a month later.”
“Well, John moved in the same day he met Sherlock. Though they weren’t . . . you know . . . until later.” She sipped her tea and laughed. “Later that night, if you judge by the noises coming from upstairs.” She shook her head. “Why John pretends otherwise, I’ll never understand.”
“Live and let live, eh?”
Kate heard voices in the stairwell – she stood and rushed out of Mrs. Hudson’s door and down the hallway. She didn’t want John leaving before she could talk to him.
She looked up and John was standing on the landing. He was turned round, looking up.
“World’s worst timing, Sherlock,” he shouted. “Too bloody late.” He turned and headed down the steps.
She stood at the bottom of the stairs to block his way, one hand on the bannister, the other against the wall. “We have to talk.”
“Get out of my way.”
“Not until we talk.” She wondered if he could smell the whiskey on her breath.
“John,” Sherlock said from the top of the stairs. “You’re acting irrationally.” His voice was low and shaky.
She kept her voice as calm as she could manage. “Actually, John, I think it’s perfectly rational to be angry, to want to confront Mary and make her tell you the truth.”
She was rewarded with a withering stare.
“Let me pass.” He huffed with frustration. “Now.”
“No. Look, no matter how pissed you are at him, at me, at Mary, you can’t go off like this. Are you trying to get me killed?” Melodramatic, she knew, but not totally farfetched. Sherlock had the scars to prove it.
“A bit low, don’t you think? Even for a copper?” He shook his head and sagged down on the steps.
She let go of the bannister. “We both know I can’t really stop you. Not forever. Probably not even for an hour. But we need to talk about what will happen if you show up and throw Moriarty in Mary’s face.”
“She’s my wife.”
“And you’re a self-righteous bastard who can’t make up his mind who he wants to be with. Your wife shoots your boyfriend and she’s still your wife. How does that work exactly?” She regretted the words the moment she said them. She was supposed to be calming him down, not pissing him off.
“He’s not my – it’s complicated.”
She threw up her hands. “God, how does he stand it?” She realized that Sherlock had gone very quiet. “Sherlock?”
When there was no answer, she leaned down and grabbed John by the arm. “You need to go upstairs and make sure he’s all right.”
She saw him hesitate, but he stood and turned back to face the stairs. “Sherlock?” he shouted. When Sherlock didn’t answer, he swore loudly and took the stairs two at a time. “Sherlock!”
He made it to the top a millisecond before she did.
“Goddammit,” she muttered when she saw.
Sherlock lay crumpled on his side on the floor outside the door, one side of his face painted the colour of blood. Only it wasn’t paint, was it?
John knelt down and leaned over Sherlock. He lifted one of Sherlock’s hands and felt for a pulse. She saw something like a ghost pass over John’s face.
“Should I call 911?” she asked him.
He looked confused. “Oh, you mean 999. No, not yet.” He lifted Sherlock’s head and felt for what was causing the bleeding. “He’s got a gash on the side of his head – more blood than real damage, I’d wager.”
Sherlock opened his eyes and squinted at John. “Decided to stay?” He tried to sit up, but John held him down with one hand against his shoulder.
“You’re going to have buy Mrs. Hudson a new carpet. What happened?”
He touched his forehead. “If the blood is any indication, it appears I’ve cut my head.”
“That’s the result. What happened?”
“I was standing and then I wasn’t. I must have hit my head on the door jamb on my way down.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Of course it bloody hurts. Everything hurts. Help me up.”
John took one arm and Kate ducked under the other shoulder and they carried/dragged a shaky Sherlock to the couch. John walked into the bathroom and came out with towels and a first aid kit.
“I bet you’ve got your money’s worth out of that.”
John ignored her and set the kit on the coffee table, opened it and busied himself with unwinding gauze and ripping pieces of tape. Kate saw that his hands were trembling and she knew they were as far from okay as possible.
Sherlock grabbed a pillow and curled himself around it. Kate stood watching, not quite sure of her role in this little domestic drama.
“Scissors, “John barked and held out his hand.
Kate jumped a bit at his tone. Looked down into the kit. No scissors.
Kate just stared at him. “Saying it twice won’t make them appear. Where do you keep scissors?”
“Left cupboard, third drawer down,” Sherlock voice was raspy. “Ouch, that hurts.”
“Hold still. I’m going to put in a stitch.”
“No, you are not.”
“Then it will get infected and you will die.” John pressed an alcohol swab against Sherlock’s head. “And you’ll have a scar.” John laid his hand on Sherlock’s chest.
Sherlock put his hand over John’s. “No scars, John.”
A smile slipped across John’s face. “What I thought. Now hold still.”
Kate rolled her eyes. If this were a novel, she’d toss it against the wall because it was too ridiculous. She turned and walked into the kitchen. Found the scissors under a box of microscope slides and a badge case. She opened the case. Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade. She wondered if Lestrade knew Sherlock had his credentials. She wondered why she didn’t walk downstairs, hail a cab, and catch the next flight out of Heathrow. Oh yeah, her career.
She walked back into the room and handed John the scissors. He took them and turned his attention to Sherlock. He quickly stitched the gash and covered it with gauze and tape. He shined a light into Sherlock’s eyes and grabbed his wrist, checking his pulse. Pressed the back of his hand against Sherlock’s forehead. “You’re warm. Maybe we should restart the antibiotics.”
“For god’s sake, John, just give me the shot.” Sherlock shifted uncomfortably on the couch.
“I can’t – I need you awake for a few hours. Nothing stronger than paracetamol.” John picked up the needle and the tape and put them back in the kit.
“I don’t have concussion. My brain is in stellar shape. Ask me anything.”
“Were you always such a complete ass, or did I never notice?”
“There is no good answer to that.”
“Sure there is. The fact you don’t know the answer only proves my point.”
“This is your childish way of punishing me, isn’t it? I won’t beg for it, you know.”
“Yes, you will.” John gave Sherlock a look that was almost a smile and Kate knew they weren’t talking about morphine any longer. Sherlock’s tumble on the landing and the blood and that long moment between scared to death and just scared had done what an hour of talking could never do.
“Let’s get through the next few hours. If you don’t show any signs of concussion, you’ll get the morphine. Otherwise, you’re going straight to A&E.”
Kate watched from what even she was now calling Sherlock’s chair. Dug her phone out of her pocket. Read the text.
“Fucking hell.” She stared at the screen. “Fucking, fucking son of a bitch . . .”
She looked up and saw both John and Sherlock staring at her. “Oh, sorry.”
“Bad news?” Sherlock held John’s hand away from his head. “Some hockey score not to your liking?”
Kate took a breath. “Sorry – it’s nothing.” If nothing was the fact that in some misguided grand gesture of . . . She looked at the screen again.
Heathrow – Air Canada 3112 – 9pm. Fancy a cuppa? Chloe had the worst timing. How was she supposed to solve this case, avoid an assassination and make up with her girlfriend? She shoved the phone back in her pocket. One thing at a time, Kate.
John walked into the kitchen, washed his hands. Reached under the sink and pulled out a bottle. Splashed some quickly into two glasses, walked over and sat opposite her in his chair.
Kate took the glass and held it in her hands. Stared at it. Looked up at John, who was looking at Sherlock, who was looking at her. Great. “So I guess this is the part where you two genius detectives tell me the plan.”
John frowned. “What plan?”
“The plan that lets me write up this mess in a way that doesn’t get me fired or killed by your wife.” She laid the glass on the table without taking a sip.
“Killed? Don’t you think you’re overreacting . . .” John leaned up in the chair.
Kate nodded toward Sherlock. “Am I overreacting?”
“Christ.” John drained his glass. “Sherlock, a little help here.”
“I need a shot. I will be happy to discuss how this works but only after a shot. I can’t think.”
“In an hour. And a half-dose. Take the edge off without putting you to sleep. Deal?”
“Half an hour.”
“Fine. Half an hour.”
They all stared at the clock on the mantle.
After ten minutes, John moved to sit by Sherlock on the couch, Kate went to the washroom, and Mrs. Hudson brought up a large tray of tiny sandwiches that looked as if they’d been made for, and possibly by, children.
After twenty minutes, Sherlock had nudged John off the couch so he could lie down, sideways facing the wall, his knees pulled up against his chest like a small boy.
After thirty minutes, Sherlock turned and held out one arm. “Now, John. All of it.” And with far less bravado, he added, “Please.”
“Yeah, all right.”
Fifteen minutes later, Sherlock felt well enough to use the toilet and change his blood-stained t-shirt. He walked back from the bedroom, leaning heavily against John, and settled into his chair. John grabbed a bottle of Evian from the fridge, opened it and set it on the table beside Sherlock.
“I’d rather have the brandy.” He pointed to Kate’s untouched glass.
“No bloody chance. You’re dehydrated and refuse to eat anything but the occasional biscuit, which is no doubt why you collapsed. So drink it.”
Sherlock raised one eyebrow and John added, “If you want your next dose anytime today.”
Sherlock drank. He wiggled the empty bottle at John, who took it from him and set it on the desk, and moved to his chair. Sherlock sighed and looked at Kate, who sat on the couch (which she was now beginning to think of as the balcony seats), and wished for a Diet Pepsi.
Sherlock sat straighter in his chair. “There are seven possible outcomes to this plan. Each with its own probability.”
“Sherlock,” John warned. “Don’t.”
“Only seven?” Kate looked at her watch. “Give ’em to me then.”
“John’s military background, although useful on countless occasions, can be an impediment during this initial planning stage.” Sherlock frowned and touched his forehead. “Do you think these stitches are too tight?”
“Maybe your head’s just too big,” John snapped.
Sherlock ignored him and continued. “He’s trained to look for the quick in and out. A coup de main, if you will. A swift and lethal response when a more measured approach is called for.”
“You’re talking about my wife.” John’s face reddened.
Sherlock never took his eyes off Kate. “My main objective was, and is, to keep John safe.”
“I’m sitting right here.”
“And there is precious little that I won’t do to obtain that objective.”
Kate squirmed under Sherlock’s stare. She felt like this was somehow all her fault. She didn’t like it. “And how’s that working out so far, eh?”
John stood and walked toward the kitchen.
“John,” Kate called after him. “I’m sorry, but come on – if I didn’t figure it out first, someone else will. Maybe someone already has and I’m doing you both a favour.”
“John, sit down,” Sherlock said.
John turned, his hands fisted at his side, his chest heaving. He spoke soft and low. “Unless one of you says something, anything that makes bloody sense, that actually points to a way out of this, I am going to see my wife.” He held up his hand as both Kate and Sherlock opened their mouths. “No, you don’t get to talk. It’s my life, Sherlock. My wife. I have to fix this somehow. My way. I have to . . .”
“It’s our life,” Sherlock said.
Both Kate and John looked at Sherlock.
“Our life, John. Plural. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge it. Mary never changed that. No matter how hard you pretended otherwise. You know my feelings.”
Kate rolled her eyes. She was going to die in London. Probably in this flat. Probably on this couch. Just because these two idiots kept confusing actual life threatening situations with the plot of a regency romance novel. She looked up and John had crossed the room and was standing above Sherlock’s chair.
“So what are we going to do?” John said quietly.
“I was trying to tell you.” Sherlock reached for John’s arm, but John twisted away and sat back down in his chair.
“So, tell me.”
Sherlock sighed. Rubbed his head. “First we must all agree that the most important part of this plan – any plan – is that Mary not know about Inspector-“
“Kate – please, just say Kate.”
“Must not know about Kate – her presence in London.” Sherlock sat up a bit straighter. “The second aspect is that you, John, must move back in with Mary.”
Both John and Kate stood and spoke at the same time.
“Are you bloody kidding me? You just said you wanted to keep me safe –“
“Really? This is your plan – Jesus, this is -“
Sherlock closed his eyes and continued speaking in a low voice. “It is imperative that Mary believes that her secrets are safe, that you have forgiven her.”
“Not bloody likely.” John spit out the words. “I can’t . . .”
“I will supply Kate with enough information for her investigation – I believe I can point her toward Moriarty’s source in her MP’s murder – so she can go home. She will leave any reference to Anna Ashcroft’s current whereabouts out of her report.”
Kate shook her head. “And what about you?” She looked at Sherlock. “And what about the next person who comes through that door with information about Mary? It’s going to happen sooner or later. What are you going to do then?”
Sherlock closed his eyes. Bent over and rested his elbows on his knees. “Something about a bridge, crossing a bridge . . . John, another shot please.”
Kate watched John’s anger drain from his face and he knelt in front of Sherlock. “What is it?”
He put his hand on Sherlock’s knee and Sherlock leaned his head against John’s shoulder. John rubbed Sherlock’s back and said something Kate couldn’t understand. Sherlock murmured something back and suddenly Kate became very aware that she was superfluous. She watched as John nodded and carefully pushed Sherlock back in his chair and stood.
“He needs to rest.”
There was no answer. It was not a request. It was a dismissal.
Kate weighed her options. Stand and argue. Nothing had been decided. The minute she left, John could be out the door to Mary and she’d be dead before morning. But she watched as John took the syringe and gave Sherlock a shot, rubbing his arm, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He wasn’t going anywhere.
She looked at her watch. 5PM. Wondered how long it took to get to the airport from here. She would need an ATM. And roses. This trip was going to bankrupt her. She made a decision, collected her purse and briefcase, and walked down the stairs and out the door.
The black sedan was still parked in front of 221B. She’d noticed it earlier when she’d looked out the window while waiting for Sherlock to change. As she closed the door behind her, the back door of the sedan opened and a man – tall, well-dressed, familiar – stepped out.
“Inspector Bryant? Might I have a word? In private?”
“Oh, for crying out loud.”