Kate followed the crowd up out of the Barbican Underground station and into the sunlight. Her directions said to take the 56 bus from the station, but she decided to walk – her only exercise in the last few days was moving from one chair to another. Despite the November chill, it felt good to be outside and walking. At least there was no snow here yet.
After fifteen minutes, she turned the corner and saw the hospital in front of her. She couldn’t help but look up and imagine Sherlock standing on the ledge. How did you manage it? You must have needed help. Who cared about you enough to help you die? To keep your secret? I didn’t understand at first how could you do that to John, but I understand now. You’ll do anything to keep him safe.
She’d stayed at the hospital most of the night, until the hotel called to tell her that her room had been broken into. That was right before her boss called and reminded her she’d promised – but had failed to deliver – a full progress report. He also reminded her that he expected her and her report in the office on Monday morning – no excuses. It only gave her two days before her flight home on Sunday afternoon.
She’d retrieved her belongings from the hotel and called Greg. Nothing was missing – well, nothing except two pairs of panties. She didn’t want to think about what that meant. Greg had picked her up from the hotel, fed her a decent breakfast, and dropped her and her suitcase at 221B after a dozen sidelong glances and a few hundred words on why staying with Sherlock was a rubbish idea. How it would compromise the objectivity of her investigation . . .
“I’m not staying with him. I’m staying at his flat.” And should he really be the one lecturing her on compromising objectivity? “And it’s only for a day or two, Greg.” Kate leaned in the car window. “Until we get the rest of this mess figured out and I can go home.”
Greg rolled his eyes and pulled away from the curb. Kate stared up at the windows of the flat, hesitant to go in. Greg was right, if she crossed the threshold, she would be forever tossing her hat into the ring. She’d be firmly picking a side. Thankfully, Mrs. Hudson opened the door, took her suitcase and hustled her up the stairs.
She spent the first hour wandering through the place. She picked up books, shook them, put them back. She dug through the refrigerator and found the only edible things were a wedge of cheese and a jar of pickled beets. She stood at the door to Sherlock’s room for a while, staring into the corners, wondering if Mycroft and/or Magnussen had the place bugged. She checked under the bed, behind the dresser, above the doorframe. When she was satisfied she was really alone, she stretched out on his bed and allowed all the facts to float above her head as she tried to put them in a logical order.
Sherlock’s phone vibrated and she dug it out of her pocket. Chloe. She was in Montreal with her mother – which Kate knew she would pay for later. She felt better than she had in days when she read the final bit of the text – be careful, I love you. She wanted to get on a plane right then – to hell with Sherlock and John and Mary and Mycroft. But as long as someone was trying to get to her through Chloe – she had to stay put. She pulled a blanket over her, yawned and closed her eyes.
The dream was back. The one she’d had every night in those first, long months after Sarah died. In every version of the dream, she was biking with Sarah beside the canal. It was always spring because the tulips were in full bloom (sometimes yellow, sometimes pink, and after especially bad days, black). Sarah would pull ahead, then turn and laugh and tell her to try and keep up. But no matter how fast she pedaled, Kate fell further and further behind until Sarah disappeared completely. Tonight though, it wasn’t Sarah who turned back, urging her on, it was Chloe.
“Chloe, wait for me,” Kate yelled after her. “Please don’t leave me.”
But it was too late. She was already gone.
Mrs. Hudson came upstairs with tea a few hours later and woke her up with the news that John had called and Sherlock was doing better. The doctors were now talking about non-surgical solutions. Kate sighed and popped two biscuits in her mouth at once. Mrs. Hudson clucked and handed her a takeout menu from Speedy’s.
“You need to keep your strength up, dear. You can’t live on tea and biscuits.”
Kate glanced at the menu and settled on egg salad on rye and a Diet Pepsi and tried to ignore the pressure building behind her eyes. She’d quickly gone from a comfortable seat in the balcony to centre stage in this little melodrama. She went looking for her shoes and kicked aside her messenger bag, which she had dropped by the door when she first came in. A thick file slid out onto the floor, loose papers spilling haphazardly across the carpet. A colour photo of Sarah’s smiling face stared up at her.
Sarah had always been so present, so alive – no matter how hard Kate tried to move on. She knew exactly how John felt after Sherlock left. But then he’d met Mary, and she’d done for him what Chloe had done for her – she’d let the light back in. What would she have done if Sarah had miraculously reappeared? As much as she missed her, she was glad she’d never have to make that choice.
She bent down and shoved the papers back into the file. Briefly held Sarah’s photo between two fingers. There was no way she could ask for Sherlock’s help now.
Sherlock’s phone vibrated again. She looked at the text and frowned. It was from a blocked number. The message was cryptic at best. Mama on the move. VOXcross. Noon.
She took four aspirin, slipped on her shoes and headed downstairs to Speedy’s.
She followed two doctors and a nurse out of the elevator into the ICU. She heard voices coming from Sherlock’s room. She slowed down and listened. John, obviously upset. And . . . Mycroft Holmes. All syrup and snoot. She stopped just outside the door and leaned against the wall. She poked her head around and saw John standing, hands fisted at his side. Sherlock’s bed was empty; they must have taken him for another scan.
“Why are you still talking?” John’s back was tight, his shoulders high. “This has nothing to do with you.”
She could see Mycroft shake his head. “Sherlock’s obsession with Charles Magnussen must be contained. Whatever incriminating information Magnussen might have about Mary –”
John answered, his voice hard and low and full of warning. “You don’t get to talk about my wife.”
“I know my brother’s methods. Once he is clear of here, he will attempt to negotiate an exchange with Magnussen, a détente, if you will. He is working under the misguided notion that Mary matters more than –”
Kate walked a step into the room just as John snapped, snatching a handful of Mycroft’s well-pressed shirt and throwing him hard against the wall. He wrapped a hand around Mycroft’s throat and squeezed. “I told you, don’t talk about my wife.”
Mycroft could only breathe a little, but it was enough to push out the words, “Oh, do make up your mind, John.”
John dropped his hand and turned away. “Just go. Now.” He sank down into the closest seat and closed his eyes.
Kate twisted back out of the room and let Mycroft pass by her. She fought the urge to trip him, just for the sight of his smug face hitting the shiny linoleum, and walked back into the room. John was staring at a spot on the floor.
“John?” She laid a hand on his shoulder and he looked up.
“Kate. You’re back.”
“Yeah, I thought maybe I could convince you to go home. Get some sleep.” She looked him over. “You’re starting to look a little ragged round the edges. Where is he, by the way?”
“They’ve taken him for another CT. I should stay until he gets back –”
She shook her head, “You should go. Mrs. Hudson told me they were moving him out of ICU later today. I think he can manage without you for a while. I don’t mind staying.” She held out one hand, “Come on, old man. Go home.”
He took her hand and stood. “Yeah, all right. Thanks.”
“I’ll call if anything changes.”
“Do you need my mobile number?”
“No, I still have Sherlock’s phone.” She smiled. “I’m pretty sure your number’s in there.”
He was halfway to the door when he turned back. “Any word from Chloe?”
“She sent a text. Said she was in Montreal and she’d call me tonight.”
“That’s good then, right?”
“Fingers crossed. And John?”
“He’s going to be all right.”
John nodded and after a quick look back at the empty bed, left the room.
She sat by the bed, writing up her notes and flipping through the old copies of OK! she’d found in the waiting room. After an hour, her notes were in pristine shape and she’d developed a small fangirl crush on Harry Styles from One Direction. He reminded her of Sophie McKinnon, the girl (sorry, Harry) she’d been in love with all through middle school. They’d practiced kissing in Sophie’s bedroom after school for months (for when we have boyfriends, Kate told her) until her mother caught them and banned Kate from the house.
Still no sign of Sherlock.
After another half hour, she went looking for a nurse. It was like trying to hail a cab in rush hour.
“Will Mr. Holmes be much longer? It’s been almost two hours.”
The nurse, clearly not happy to be intercepted, removed her latex gloves and dropped them in the waste container by the door. “Not my patient. You’ll have to ask at the desk.”
“Thanks.” For nothing.
At the nurse’s station, after waiting ten minutes for the nurse to acknowledge she was standing there, Kate was told Sherlock had been brought to his new room downstairs directly following the scan. “Didn’t anyone tell you?” she asked, barely lifting her eyes from the screen.
“Nope,” Kate answered, unsuccessfully hiding her annoyance. “What room is he in now?”
She finally looked up at Kate. “And you are?”
She knew how this worked. Never say friend or colleague or girlfriend. You might as well say “I met him this morning.” Always say family. “His sister.” The nurse looked sceptical. “From Canada,” she added.
“Right.” She sighed and typed something into the computer. “He’s in 312. Do you mind bringing his belongings down to him?”
Because I work here? “Sure, no problem. But can I ask you something?”
Kate decided to take her silence as a yes.
“Do you know where or what Voxcross is? I googled it but nothing came up.”
“Voxcross? No idea, really.” She turned back to the computer.
“Vauxhall Cross, I reckon.” said someone behind her. The voice was young, the accent Cockney.
The girl was probably not more than sixteen. She looked like a street kid, thin and pale, dressed entirely in army surplus couture. But when she smiled at Kate, she showed off a set of perfectly straight teeth that Kate guessed must have set her parents back a few thousand dollars. The nose piercing – a small diamond stud – looked expensive.
“Ever watch any James Bond movies?” the girl asked.
The question seemed entirely random, and it surprised an honest answer from her. “A few. I like the new ones.”
“Vauxhall Cross is where he works – when he’s in London, I mean.” Her accent slipped. Rich girl playing street kid. “007 headquarters.” She paused and looked at Kate. “I like your accent.”
She laughed. “I like to think you have the accent, not me. It’s Canadian.”
“Yeah, he said.” She bit her lip. “Fuck.”
“Who said? What’s your name?”
The girl didn’t answer, just shrugged and walked away.
Kate was tempted to follow her, to shake loose whatever else she knew. But just then Sherlock’s phone vibrated. She looked down at the text – u ok? – from a number she hadn’t seen before and wasn’t on his contacts list.
Super, she typed.
The phone vibrated again. Who r u?
She slipped the phone back into her bag.
Back in Sherlock’s room, she pulled the case off one of the pillows and gathered up everything she could find – t-shirt, sweater, socks and slippers and stuffed them into the pillow case. When she picked up his sweat pants, a tiny piece of paper floated out of the pocket and onto the floor. She picked it up, carefully unfolded it and read the words – Now is the time to try something new. Sherlock didn’t seem the sentimental type – so why was he saving fortunes? She refolded it and tucked into her wallet between her driver’s licence and ATM card. She added the pants to the pillow case, slung it over one shoulder, and walked down the hall to the elevator.
She gently pushed open the door to Sherlock’s new room.
She stepped into the room and stood at the end of the bed. Sherlock was awake and sitting up.
“Well, you look like crap,” she said. “Which is officially a grade higher than yesterday's death warmed over, so that’s positive.” The oxygen mask was gone – replaced by a nasal cannula, but the IV and monitors were still in place. “I hear the meds are working.”
“Where’s John?” he repeated.
“I sent him home to get some sleep – he was exhausted. He’ll be back in a few hours.”
“John never did have any stamina. He always insisted we stop and eat at the most inopportune times.”
She shook her head. “Give the man a break. He’s had a rough few days.”
“Brought on by your visit, Inspector Bryant.”
“You’re on blood thinners, aren’t you? Lots and lots of them, right?”
He looked confused by her sudden change in direction. “That is the standard treatment for a blood clot, yes.”
“Then don’t piss me off. All I need to do is poke you with a safety pin and you’ll bleed like a stuck pig.”
He gave her a small half-smile. “Noted.”
She dragged a chair beside his bed and sat down. “We need to talk, Sherlock. Just you and me.”
“I need to rest,” he protested, but she could tell he was curious. He would always be curious.
“Rest when I leave.”
“Very well. Talk.”
She knew her time was limited. John wouldn’t be able to stay away much longer. “I borrowed your phone. I thought mine might be hacked, remember?”
“Yes.” He eyes narrowed and she could see he was trying to work out where she was going.
“I had a lot of time to kill and I fell down the rabbit hole . . .” She hesitated, wondering how to tell him. Finally, she decided to just say it. “I read Mary’s texts. All of them.”
He closed his eyes and there was something in his expression that made her feel like she’d just kicked a puppy. She reached out and rested one hand on his arm. She expected him to pull away, but he didn’t. “I’m sorry . . .”
He looked at her. “Did you tell him?” he said.
“No. It’s not my place,” she said.
“But then he’d have a reason to leave Mary for good. He wouldn’t stay with her if he –”
A shadow crossed his face. “I always hoped I was reason enough. I miscalculated. ” He cleared his throat and continued. “No matter how much he protests otherwise, he is still tied to Mary. I have little experience in this area, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that he never loved her, that part of him still doesn’t love her. And John has a strong sense of duty, of responsibility. To Mary and the child.”
“But if it’s not his – ”
“Finding out about Mary’s connection to Moriarty pushed him to make a decision. But he is still torn, whether he admits it or not. I recognize that I could pull him in my direction if I told him, but I’ll not have him by default.”
“But not telling him is cheating. If he finds out you knew –”
“If I hadn’t returned, he’d still be with her. Happily, I believe. Looking forward to the birth of their child. How many times can I . . . and still expect –” He stopped and took a long breath. “Have you ever lost anyone, Kate?” His voice was thick.
She nodded. “Of course. Everyone has . . .”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “Not everyone remains so vigilant.”
“You should talk.”
Sherlock shifted a bit in the bed. “Sister?”
“Weren’t we just talking about you and John?”
“No, not a sister . . . but someone close. Not your mother. Mothers don’t usually cause this kind of devotion to their death. Mothers are supposed to die-“
“Jesus. If I tell you, will you shut up?”
“You’ll tell me. You’ve wanted to tell me for days.” Sherlock lifted an arm, winced, and placed it on his chest. “I think it’s the real reason you came to see me.”
“Fucking hell . . .” Kate squirmed in her chair. It had to be telepathy. She hadn’t said a word. “Contrary to your giant ego, I came to see you about Moriarty.”
“And . . .”
Kate just sat, arms folded.
“Oh, come on, Kate. I need a distraction.”
“Can we please just get back to John and why you haven’t told him about the – ”
“Girlfriend.” Sherlock slumped back into the pillow. “Of course. This morphine makes me dull.” He looked hard at Kate. “Murder?”
“Are you having fun?”
“Trying to. Unsolved I take it?”
Kate stood. “I will not sit here and let you turn her death into a game.”
Sherlock closed his eyes and blew out a breath. “Sorry.”
Kate shook her head and sat back down. She’d only known him a few days, but she could distinguish sincerity from all the other bullshit that usually came out of his mouth. She pulled the chair closer to the bed. “I was just going to leave you the file. Didn’t think you’d be well enough by the time I left.”
“Where’s the file?”
“On your kitchen table. And if you start rubbing your hands together in glee or some other kind of bullshit, you will never see it.”
“Why in the world would I . . .”
“Oh, please, if you had a moustache you’d be twirling it.”
Sherlock’s mouth curved into a smile. And then he frowned. “I am sorry for your loss, Kate.”
Kate decided she liked the bullshit better. “Yeah, thanks. I’m getting over it.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
Kate sighed. She scrubbed her face. Recited the facts. Looked at her shoes, her hands, watched the monitors. She knew every syllable by heart. As she went through the forensics she wondered if Sherlock would find it all so mundane. Hate crime. Brutal. Unfortunate. Unsolved.
“I’ll take the case.”
Kate looked up to see Sherlock staring at her.
“And I am very sorry.” Sherlock winced and rubbed at his chest. “As soon as I am released . . .”
“No worries. It’s been five years. I can wait a bit longer.”
“Time heals nothing, Kate.”
Kate realized he was not talking about Sarah. “Yeah, but you came back,” she said.
Sherlock nodded. “Yes, I did. Sometimes I wonder . . .”
“You’re an idiot.”
“I just think . . .”
“Yes, you think. That’s all you do. What is that thing you said to me? You see but you do not observe?”
“I observe. The particulars are just beyond my control.”
“You need to tell him, Sherlock.”
“I need to do no such thing.”
“How can he really choose if he doesn’t have all the facts?”
Sherlock sighed. “What would you do?”
“Me? I’ve been watching you two – it’s so obvious . . .”
“No, I mean you. What would you do if Sarah came back?”
Kate squeezed her eyes shut. “She’s not coming back.”
“Yes, but if she did – what would you do?”
Kate felt pressure in her chest. She didn’t want to think. She didn’t want to let any shard of light into the darkness that surrounded Sarah’s death. She was gone. It was over. She rubbed her hands on her knees. She couldn’t breathe. She thought about Sarah, walking through the door, backpack slung over a shoulder, her glasses shoved up on her head. The pain was sharp. But then she saw Chloe, sitting at the kitchen table, her legs tucked under her, reading a police report. Fuck. If this is what John was going through . . . she looked up at Sherlock, tears threatening.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I love Chloe. But I loved Sarah too.” She wiped a hand across her eyes. “Fucking hell, Sherlock.”
“Exactly. So what choice do I have?”
“What will you do?”
“What I vowed to do – keep John and Mary safe. For John. Because I have done enough. He’s endured enough.”
“What about you?”
“I am irrelevant in the equation. My job is simple. I will simply focus all my efforts into ensuring that Mary doesn’t feel threatened.”
“By taking back whatever information Magnussen has collected.”
“And how do you plan on doing that? He’s not going to give it to you because you say please.”
“I’ll give Magnussen something he wants more.”
She wasn’t going to ask what that something was. She didn’t want to know.