“I will assume Chloe is your girlfriend, not your sister,” Sherlock said. “Siblings are usually more relieved than angry when plans are cancelled. In my case, at least.”
John shot Sherlock a warning glance.
“Maybe you should start from the beginning,” John said. He sat in his chair opposite Kate and leaned forward and she felt oddly comforted, like she was one of his patients. “Is Chloe your girlfriend?”
“Don’t answer that,” Sherlock interrupted. “I need to be in my chair for this. I can’t possibly deduce anything from this couch.” Sherlock extended a hand and waited for John to help him up. “Kate, get one of the kitchen chairs and bring it in here.” He was enjoying this a little too much. How much morphine had John given him?
She closed her eyes and blew out a long breath. Resisted the urge to poke the bandage on Sherlock’s forehead. “Fine. But just so we’re both clear here. You’re a fucking nutcase.” She turned to John. “You do recognize that, right?”
“Yeah, but he’s my nutcase,” John said with a wide smile.
Kate stared at both of them. What the hell had happened here since she left? They almost looked . . . happy. They had no reason to be happy. Nothing had changed. Unless . . .
“Oh, for crying out loud,” she said. “You two kissed and made up, didn’t you?”
Sherlock blinked. Blinked again. Cleared his throat. “John and I have reached an understanding. Kissed and made up is a gross over-simplification of a complex series of –”
John laughed. She’d not heard that sound before. “Shut up, Sherlock.” He stood, took Sherlock’s hand and pulled him up and for a brief, stupid moment Kate thought they were going to dance. Sherlock coughed and made a great show of rearranging and retying his dressing gown before limping to his chair and sitting down.
“I’ll get a chair.” She grabbed the least uncomfortable looking one from the kitchen and dragged it noisily behind her. Set it facing their chairs and sat down. “And I will punch the first person who mentions tea.”
There was a quick knock at the door and before John could get up Mrs. Hudson entered the flat, carrying a tray. She wore a flowered nightgown under a pink chenille bathrobe. Fuzzy white slippers. “Working late, are we?” she said, looking directly at Kate. It sounded vaguely like a reproach. “Thought you might like some tea.”
John took the tray from her, biting back a smile. “That’s very kind. Thank you. I hope we didn’t wake you.” He set the tray on the table beside his chair.
“Just watching telly.” She turned back to Kate. “You’ll not be keeping our Sherlock up too late, I hope.”
“I am not a child, Mrs. Hudson,” Sherlock said.
“Of course not, dear. But you haven’t been well and –”
John took her arm and steered her towards the door. “Good night, Mrs. Hudson. I’ll keep an eye on him. No worries.” He closed the door behind her and leaned back against it.
"Thank you for your restraint,” Sherlock said to Kate.
“Yeah, you should have seen the last person who laid a hand on Mrs. Hudson . . .”
Sherlock looked longingly at the teapot.
She threw up her hands. “Oh, for Christ’s sake – it’s already made, you might as well drink it.”
Her anger had fizzled, giving way to something darker, more disturbing. If John and Sherlock hadn’t told anyone about the Anna/Mary/Moriarty connection, then who did? Even she didn’t know about Mary’s past until last night. If the text wasn’t from Mary, who else knew about her past? Who would want to keep Mary’s name from coming up in a murder investigation? One that could see her extradited back to Canada.
“Where were we?” Sherlock asked between sips of tea. “Chloe is your girlfriend.” He paused and she nodded. “She led you to believe she was arriving tonight but didn’t. She claims she never sent the message. Is this correct?”
“More or less. But if you’re insinuating she’s lying, she’s not. She wouldn’t.”
She started to say something, but he held up a hand.
“Show me your phone,” he said.
She bent down and picked up her purse from the floor. Retrieved the phone and entered her password. She scrolled until she found the text and handed him the phone.
He read it out loud. “Heathrow. Air Canada 3112. 9pm. Fancy a cuppa?”
Read out loud like that it sounded nothing like Chloe. She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, head in her hands. “I am an idiot.” An idiot with a diamond ring in my purse.
“Most people are.”
“Sherlock, not now,” John said. “Kate, what is it?”
She sat up, shook her head. “I didn’t see it, I wanted to believe that she –” Still loved me. She paused and concentrated on breathing evenly. She was not going to cry in front of Sherlock Holmes. “Chloe’s French. From Montreal. Her English is really good. Better than my French.”
“Kudos to you both. The point?” Sherlock prompted.
“She would never write 9pm. Quebec uses a twenty-four clock. 9pm is 21 hours – vingt et une heures – to her. Always.”
“Then we can safely conclude she didn’t send the text. But this is her number?”
“Yes.” She knew where this going.
“Someone hacked Chloe’s phone.” John said.
“Kate’s too. Child’s play, really. The question is why?”
John frowned. “But first shouldn’t you work out who?”
“If you know why –” Kate said.
“—you know who.” Sherlock finished.
“It must be Mary.” Kate stood and began pacing. “If I were able to prove she had a hand in Peter Goodale’s murder, and she found out . . . we know she doesn’t react well to feeling threatened . . . Sorry, John.”
“Sorry, John?” Sherlock raised an eyebrow.
She looked down at him. “You’re twelve, aren’t you? Only I don’t have enough evidence to tie Mary to the murder – at least not enough to get me an extradition hearing. I don’t think I ever will, but I’m prepared to live with that. I told Greg earlier that I’d take the details of the wire transfers and go home.”
“Mary didn’t do this. She wouldn’t do this.” John sat up in the chair.
Really, John, you’re still defending her? “Why? Not in her job description?”
Sherlock avoided looking at John. “I agree with John – Mary didn’t do this.”
“Based on what?” Kate asked.
“It wasn’t Mary.” Sherlock stared at a space above John’s head.
She moved behind John’s chair. “What makes you so sure?”
“Sherlock, why are you so certain my wife wasn’t involved?” John said slowly.
She saw Sherlock’s eyes widen and his hands still when John referred to Mary as “my wife.” Ouch.
“You know my methods, John.”
She was beginning to understand his methods too. She rocked back on her heels, thought for a second. “You’re keeping tabs on her. Cloned her phone. Probably hacked her computer too. You know she didn’t send the text because you would have seen it. ”
“It seemed a prudent course of action in light of recent . . .”
“You’ve been tracking my wife this whole time?”
“I’ve been tracking the assassin who tried to kill me. The fact that she is your wife is incidental.”
Kate winced at that one. “So who, then?”
“I vote for Mycroft.” John sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “And just how is Mary incidental?”
“Nope. Mycroft doesn’t even make the top ten,” Kate said.
“What do you know about my brother?” Sherlock frowned.
“I know enough. Met him, hated him, dismissed him. Besides, he was too busy trying to get me on the next plane home.”
John stood, walked toward the door and then back toward the kitchen. “You cloned Mary’s phone?”
“For crying out loud, John, he’s trying to save your life.”
Sherlock looked puzzled. “Why would Mycroft want to get you out of town? Someone like you would hardly be in his crosshairs.”
“Gee, thanks. Apparently your brother has his own set of Mary issues –"
John turned back to Kate. “Mary issues?”
Kate sighed. “I can’t believe this is news to you. I’ve been in London for three days and I know more about Mary than you two. Your wife works for him, John. Or did, anyway. I didn’t get all the details, I was too busy trying to escape.”
Sherlock watched John pace. “John.” he said quietly, “Sit down. Please.”
John stopped and looked at Sherlock. “Why didn’t you tell me?” His voice rose a notch. “Why do you never tell me?”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Hey, I have an idea – how about you two go make out some more and I’ll find a real suspect to question.” She paused, deciding how much to say. John walked to the window, turning his back to them. His face was reflected in the dark window and she saw him wipe his eyes with the heel of one hand. “What about Charles Magnussen?” she said. “I imagine he has a very thick file on Mary.”
Sherlock had the decency to look surprised. And a little impressed.
“You were in his building the night you were shot – my theory is that she was there to kill him and you got in the way. According to the police report, there were two victims that night – you and Magnussen. What I haven’t figured out yet is whether you knew about Mary before you went there. My guess is no.”
“Lestrade might be wise to engage your services, Inspector,” Sherlock said with a small smile.
“But why would Magnussen want to fuck with me? What he did wasn’t a threat, not really. More like trying find out what buttons he could push. But why?”
Sherlock shifted in his chair and winced. “He was trying to discover your pressure point,” he said after a minute.
Kate came around and sat in John’s chair. Sherlock looked pale and in pain. “You okay? You’re sweating. Do you need a pill or something?”
Sherlock ignored her and looked over at John. “If it is Magnussen, then we can assume he knows exactly why Kate is here.”
John turned back from the window. “Sherlock, answer Kate – are you okay?” He walked over and laid a hand on Sherlock’s forehead.
Sherlock brushed the hand away. “I am fine. I just need to focus.” He coughed several times, one palm pressed flat against his chest.
“Don’t move.” John walked into the kitchen. He got a glass, filled it with water, and came back to Sherlock. “Take these.” He held out two pills.
“No, I need to focus, John.” Sherlock winced and shifted again in his chair. He waved his hand. “I’ll take a pill later.”
“Talk to me about this pressure point,” Kate said. John was throwing her dirty looks, obviously wanting her to wrap this up. He emptied the glass into the sink.
“Magnussen was attempting to discover whether Chloe is your pressure point – your vulnerability – your Achilles heel. The one thing – or one person – that you would risk everything to keep safe.”
“Let me guess. John is yours.”
“I’m your Achilles heel now?” John frowned.
Kate threw up her hands. “Not everything is about you, John.” She turned back to Sherlock. “I need to know if you think Chloe is in danger.”
“I don’t know. I doubt it.” Sherlock stood unsteadily. “But a timely visit to an out of town cousin may be in order.” He got as far as the fireplace, stopped and put a hand against the mantle to steady himself. He leaned forward, breathing hard.
“Sherlock, let me take a look at you. “ John walked over to the fireplace. “You’re sweating. A lot.”
“It’s November. It’s not hot. Sit down.”
Kate stood and pulled out her cell phone, then put it away. “Can I use your phone?”
John helped him back to his chair, retrieved Sherlock’s phone from the table in the kitchen and handed it to her.
“If you’re wrong, Sherlock, I’m going to look like a complete ass. Again.” She punched in Chloe’s number and waited. John was right, Sherlock looked like crap. Worse than he had all day. But he had been cut in two from gunshot wounds and surgeries, so what did she know?
She heard Chloe’s voice – voicemail. Great. So now the ridiculous message she was about to leave would be recorded forever. She hated everyone.
“Chloe, it’s me. I’m really sorry about earlier. I promise I’ll explain everything. But right now, you need to listen. You need to . . . tabernac – I love you and there’s someone who might try to do something . . . I don’t know for sure, but you need to get out of town – I know that sounds dramatic but just do as I say and go to Montreal – just until I get this figured out – visit your mother, go Christmas shopping. I’ll explain everything, I swear. Call me when you get this . . . on this number, not on my cell. Go to Montreal. And then call me. Okay, I’ll try to call you later. Je t’aime. Salut.”
When she looked up, both Sherlock and John were staring at her. “What? It was voicemail – what was I supposed to say?”
Sherlock started to speak but was interrupted by a coughing fit, more violent than the one she had witnessed the day before. John moved quickly to Sherlock’s chair, leaning over him, rubbing his back, talking calmly to him. “It’ll be okay. Just try to breathe.”
“A glass of water, I know,” Kate said. She hurried to the kitchen to refill the glass John had just emptied. “He doesn’t sound good. I’m not a doctor, but shouldn’t he be in the –”
Sherlock drew his legs up into the pain, moaning and twisting sideways in the chair. He held one hand against his mouth, coughing, his other arm wrapped tightly around his chest. “No hospital,” Sherlock gasped. “I can’t –”
He continued to cough, a terrible wet sound. He lowered his hand from his mouth and it came away bloody. She felt useless, standing there watching Sherlock struggling to breathe. If John didn’t call 911, she would.
“We’re going to A&E. Now.” He turned to her. “Kate, call 999. Tell them I suspect a PE and possible DVT. It’s 221b Baker Street.” His voice was calm, controlled and she saw the army doctor he used to be. He held the glass of water up to Sherlock’s mouth. “Drink this. It will help.”
She dialed. Gave the operator the details. Felt her own heart pounding in her chest. “They said five to ten minutes.”
“Good. Can you get my wallet and phone from the dresser in Sherlock’s room? Grab a blanket from the bed. And a towel from the bathroom.” He bent down in front of Sherlock and took his face between both hands. “I love you. We can fix this.” He leaned forward and kissed him quickly on the forehead.
Sherlock nodded and began to cough again, his eyes wild with pain. He took another gasping breath, closed his eyes and slumped forward.
Hospital waiting rooms were the same everywhere. Uncomfortable chairs, bad fluorescent lighting, terrible coffee. She wasn’t sure why she stayed, just a vague half-formed feeling that she shouldn’t leave John on his own. So she waited. Every half hour she’d go outside and check Sherlock’s phone for a message from Chloe. Still nothing.
She was standing in front of a vending machine, trying to decide whether she should risk her life on either the egg or cheese sandwich when John finally appeared. “I wouldn’t. But on the plus side, you’re already in A&E.”
She put the five pound note back in her pocket.
“You should go back to the hotel,” John said. “Get some sleep.”
She shook her head. “I don’t mind staying. How is he?”
“Stable. They’ll know more in a few hours. CT scan showed multiple clots in his lungs. He’s also got a serious DVT—deep vein thrombosis – in his leg and it’s throwing off clots to his lungs. His leg has probably been hurting for days but the painkillers helped mask the symptoms.” He scrubbed a hand across his face. “I’m a bloody doctor. I should have seen –”
She laid a hand on his arm. “You saw what he wanted you to see.”
“Probably.” He didn’t sound convinced.
“He’s on oxygen which is helping him breathe easier and they’re pumping him full of thrombolytics – clot busters. Anticoagulants too. If they don’t do the job, they may have to remove the biggest clots surgically. But it’s a bit dodgy doing surgery after a course of thrombolytic therapy.”
“Is he awake?”
“Off and on. They’ve got him back on a morphine drip, so he’s not making much sense.”
“What can I do?”
“Sit with him until I get back. As much I hate the idea, I should call Mycroft, let him know what’s happening. He can decide whether to tell their parents.”
“Their parents? I don’t know why it seems so odd that Sherlock has parents. Everyone has parents. Are they –” She wasn’t sure how to put it.
“Completely normal, as far as I can tell.” He smiled when he saw the expression on her face. “That was my reaction too.” He cleared his throat. “They moved him upstairs to ICU. I’ll take you to him. The lift is at the end of the corridor.”
In the elevator, John leaned back against the wall. He looked exhausted. “I can’t believe we’re back here. He was finally getting better.”
She was quiet – anything she said would have sounded trite and facile and false.
She hesitated outside the entrance to ICU. It was five years ago. Why did it still feel like yesterday?
“You okay?” John asked.
“Touch of déjà vu, that’s all. I’m fine.”
The fifth time she tried phoning Sarah that night, a man answered.
“Who is this?” she said, trying hard to keep the panic out of her voice.
“My name is Will Pierce. I’m a nurse at Queensway Carleton Hospital. The phone started ringing, so I answered it.”
“Why is her phone at the hospital?” she said. She knew how stupid that sounded, but she needed to believe everything was all right for as long she could. “Can I speak to Sarah? I’m her . . . partner.” Girlfriend always made Sarah sound like she someone she drank appletinis with.
“I think you need to come to the hospital. She was brought in four hours ago. All she had on her was her phone.”
“She went for a bike ride. Is she –”
"If you want to see her, you need to come now. 5th floor ICU, ask for me. Will Pierce. If she has parents, you should call them.”
At the hospital, the nurse led her into Sarah’s room. The woman who lay in the bed, buried beneath the bandages and tubes and wires, didn’t look anything like Sarah – and Kate wanted to laugh because it was all a stupid mistake and later she’d tell Sarah how scared she was when somehow her phone got stolen and some other girl had been attacked and the police officer said no leads and hate crime, and Sarah’s parents said Kate’s not family, we are her family and the doctor said there’s nothing more we can do, and Kate slid to the floor and listened to the beeps slow to silence.
Sherlock looked better than she expected. But her expectations had been low, so anything not-dead was good.
She sat in the chair by the bed, not wanting to wake him. She was so tired, she’d been up for almost twenty hours now with not much more to eat than cookies and two chocolate bars. If she ever made it back to the hotel, she was going to order the full breakfast from room service, have a shower and sleep for twelve hours.
To pass the time (and because she was more than a little curious) she began to scroll through Sherlock’s phone. A few pictures of the wedding. All conspicuously without Mary. No podcasts. No games. His inbox contained a few enquiries from prospective clients, the normal amount of spam, and confirmation of his latest Amazon order – all textbooks with esoteric titles, not a single bestseller among them. Her favourite was Advanced Database Query Systems: Techniques, Applications and Technologies.
She kept looking but there was no sign of Mary’s texts or emails. No folder called “Clues.” She did find one called “John.” It was inside a folder named “Away” buried inside another called “Banking.”
The folder contained twenty pictures. All of John. All from a distance, clearly all taken without John’s knowledge. John getting on a bus, John buying take-out, John walking down the street. Each was time-stamped with the date and year and she quickly recognized they had been taken while Sherlock had been what he euphemistically called “away.” The last one was a picture of John and Mary, holding hands, hailing a cab.
“Oh, Sherlock,” she said quietly. “You didn’t expect that, did you?”
She tapped on the music icon. He had several playlists, mostly classical. A genius playlist called The Pretender. Her mother loved Chrissie Hynde and Kate had grown up singing along to her music. She tried to open the playlist, but it prompted her for a four character password. Why would Sherlock protect his collection of Pretenders tracks?
She yawned. Something didn’t make sense but she was too tired to try and work it out. She switched off the phone, leaned back and closed her eyes while “Don’t Get Me Wrong” played in her head.
She sat up suddenly. The group was The Pretenders. The playlist was The Pretender. Singular. She powered up the phone again and found the playlist. Still password protected. Of course it was.
She knew she’d only have a few tries to come up with the correct password before it locked her out. She started with the obvious. M-A-R-Y. Nothing happened. Sherlock was too clever for that. But she guessed he was a fan of hiding in plain sight. She crossed her fingers and tried again. A-G-R-A.
The screen morphed into icons against a screenshot of the London Eye. She sat up, leaned her elbows against the arms of the chair, and went to work. She was wide awake now. She finally had something tangible to work with.
After ten minutes, she realized that, unlike Sherlock’s, Mary’s phone was a digital filing cabinet. Hundreds of songs and pictures. Twitter, Dropbox and Facebook accounts. Forty names on her contact list. She’d completed 130 levels of Candy Crush, had downloaded every version of Angry Birds. Two episodes of Luther. The audiobook of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Mary was a very busy woman.
Kate sat back and started scrolling through the texts. They ran the gamut from mundane – doctor running late – appt cancelled – drink your juice - to the mildly interesting – haven’t seen him – it’s complicated – come for tea – to the slightly more interesting – you shouldn’t be alone – I can’t see you – you left your earrings – I have to see you.
As she read, the picture she had of Mary Morstan, international assassin, began to change. This was a woman who was alone, scared, and having a baby on her own . . . or was she? The most interesting text had been sent to Mary yesterday morning. From the same number she’d seen over and over. Please, baby – you have to let me help you – it’s mine, too, you know.
She let the phone fall into her lap. She looked up at Sherlock, wound tightly in wires and tubes. She knew that if she had figured it out after twenty minutes, there was no way he hadn’t.
Jesus, Sherlock. When were you planning on telling John?