Kate shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “Magnussen can’t be the only one who knows about Mary. Do you plan to do battle with them all?”
Sherlock picked at a loose thread in the blanket.
“And you’re sure Mary’s the only reason?”
He drew in a breath and winced. “Yes, of course.”
“Then why do I have the feeling there’s something else going on – something personal between you and Magnussen.”
“What could be more personal than John’s safety?”
Maybe it was the morphine, but he was a terrible liar. “Good try, Shezza.”
He raised one eyebrow. “You are a dangerous woman, Inspector Bryant.”
“What did Magnussen do to you?”
He looked at her, his expression open and vulnerable, and she caught a glimpse of the boy he must have been – his head stuffed full of facts and figures about how the world was made, but not a clue about how it worked. She thought for a moment that he was going to tell her, but then she watched him shut down, retreat back into his head. “You should leave,” he said.
She wasn’t sure if he meant leave the hospital or leave London. Both, probably. “I will. When John gets back.”
“You won’t tell him about –”
“I said I wouldn’t. I will tell him you’re an idiot, though.”
His mouth curved into a small, tired smile. “That appears to be the consensus.” He closed his eyes and his breathing slowed.
She sat back and watched him sleep, working out what excuse she could give her superintendent that would let her stay in London a few days longer. What excuse she could give Chloe.
She’d achieved everything she’d come to London for – she’d found enough evidence to make an arrest in Peter Goodale’s murder, solved the mystery of Anna Ashcroft’s disappearance, and even extracted a promise from Sherlock to take on Sarah’s case. Most surprising, she had a girlfriend waiting in Montreal who was not only speaking to her, but throwing around the L word. Maybe the engagement ring wouldn’t end up on Craigslist after all. All that was missing was a bright red bow to tie it all together.
So why couldn’t she shake the feeling that she needed to stay a little longer? Sherlock was brilliant, but a complete imbecile when it came to his own relationships. He would analyse and deduce and plan and in the end he’d fuck it all up because he knew nothing about human nature. Sherlock still didn’t understand that all John had ever wanted to hear was “Choose me.” Someone needed to protect him from himself. Preferably someone who wasn’t fucking at least one other person in the room.
She turned on Sherlock’s phone and found Greg’s number. Need to talk, she typed. Her finger hovered over the send button. She shook her head and hit cancel before she could change her mind. Threw the phone back in her purse.
Her head hurt. She stood and stretched, and found some aspirin amid the loose coins at the bottom of her purse. She dry swallowed four pills and pocketed enough change to buy a large coffee at the cafeteria.
Halfway to the elevator, she stopped, took a coin from her back pocket, and stared at it. Why not? It was as good a way as any to make a decision.
She flipped the coin in the air.
John knew he needed to sleep. But he couldn’t. Not yet. No matter how tired he was, there was something he needed to do first. He stood on the pavement outside St. Bart’s, looking for an empty cab. It was only five, but the sun had already set, the air tight and cold. She’d be home by now, making tea, listening to the news on the telly. When he first moved in with Mary, it had surprised him to find out how much he enjoyed the routine of their lives. Up at 6, to work at 7, home by 5, in bed by 10. It was everything that life with Sherlock wasn’t, and everything he needed. No matter what Sherlock believed.
Half an hour later, he stood outside his house, hands deep in his pockets, staring up at the bedroom window, searching for the words he would say, and a sharp pain filled his chest – as if someone had wrapped a wire tightly around his heart and was tugging it from a great distance.
A light came on in the room next to the bedroom. The baby’s room. He and Mary hadn`t gotten as far as buying a cot or choosing colours, but they’d talked about moving the office downstairs to the alcove off the kitchen. It would be tight, but it was wasted space anyway and the bedroom upstairs faced south and with new a carpet and curtains . . .
He knew how to leave Mary, he’d been doing it since the moment Sherlock returned. But how could he leave his child? Where did one learn to do that?
Some nights, lying alone in his room upstairs at 221B, unable to sleep despite the whiskey, he had let himself imagine a life with Sherlock and the child. A girl, he thought. Emma or Claire or perhaps Violet. After his grandmother. He saw her at three or four, blue eyes and blonde curls, sitting on Sherlock’s lap, one small hand resting against his cheek. Harry had done that when she was young, nestling into John as he read to her – first the Peter Rabbit books, then the Paddington series, and later, although she was perfectly capable of reading it herself, The Secret Garden. He pictured Sherlock reading to his daughter, all the books he’d been too serious to read as a child. It was stupid and sentimental and it broke his heart every time.
He looked up again and saw Mary standing by the window. Her back was turned but her hands were moving, pointing left and then right. She leaned against the window sill and a figure – a man, taller and broader than John – moved in front of her. His hands came up and for a short, stupid minute John thought the man meant to attack her, but then he put his hands on Mary`s shoulders and they turned and he watched as the man pulled her into a kiss and let one hand drop, his open palm pressed against Mary`s stomach. Casually, like he’d done it a hundred times before.
John stared, his brain stubbornly refusing to draw conclusions, to understand. He turned and left. Walked stiffly to the corner and caught the first bus that came by. He didn`t know where it was headed, anywhere was better than here. Half an hour later, he got off and hailed a cab back to 221B. The cab turned the corner onto Baker Street and he felt the familiar tug in his chest. Ever since Sherlock had first shown him the flat, he knew it was where he belonged. It was where he felt safe. It was where the nightmares had finally dulled to white noise. It was home.
In those short months between first having Sherlock and first losing him, John had tried hard not to think too much about what was happening between them. They had never talked about it, especially not when Sherlock was hiking up John's shirt and skidding his palms along his chest. He never questioned how Sherlock knew the spot on John’s neck that would make him shiver, or the way Sherlock kissed John and it felt like the sky was falling.
The first time John had kissed Sherlock, he'd almost missed his mouth entirely, just catching the corner of it, because Sherlock had been turning to look up at the lightning storm when John leaned in. It turned out not to matter, because five awkward, embarrassed minutes later Sherlock had taken John's head in both his hands and pulled him close, kissing him hard and sure, his fingers snaking through his hair, both of them falling away from the window onto Sherlock’s bed. That night John learned Sherlock’s body by the flashes of light in the sky, in the middle of a torrential spring.
He’d known then that it did him no good to analyse was happening between them, and it would have done neither of them any good if John had admitted, to Sherlock or himself, that sometimes those dazzling, perfect moments were all he lived for.
Now he unlocked the front door, took the stairs two at a time and pushed into the kitchen. He heard Mrs. Hudson downstairs, rattling something, her radio turned to the classics, but he didn’t stop. He couldn’t talk about what he’d seen. Not yet. Not until he was sure. If there was thing he knew for certain about Mary, it was that she was a liar. Maybe what he’d seen was just another lie. He leaned against the table, trying to decide what to do next.
He was hungry.
He didn’t bother opening the fridge. He saw a Speedy’s take-away menu on top of a stack of blue file folders, and shut his eyes. Everything ached. His eyelids felt like sandpaper as they scraped open again and he tossed the menu on the table. He glanced at the files, didn’t recognize the handwriting, the little post-it tags hanging off in rigid single file.
He slid a finger under the first one and opened it. Standard police report. Picture paper clipped to the upper corner. Victim. Young. Pretty. He hadn’t heard Sherlock talk about taking on any new cases. Then he noticed the maple leaf stamped in one corner, the RCMP insignia in the other.
This must be one of Kate’s files, but why would she leave it here? He knew he had no business looking, but what if it was about Mary . . . what did Kate say her real name was? Anna?
He ran down to Speedy’s, picked up a plate of lasagna and three beers. He ate quickly and sat back in his chair, files on his lap. No, this was definitely not about Mary. This was about a girl called Sarah . . .
He was two beers and twenty pages in when he lost his struggle to stay awake. The papers slid noiselessly to the floor and his head dropped to his chest. When Mrs. Hudson came up to check on him two hours later, she gathered up the papers, tossed the empty take-away container and left him to sleep.
In the cafeteria, Kate paid for the coffee and ham sandwich and carried her tray to a corner table by the window. Away from the chatting nurses and the worried mothers. She checked Sherlock’s phone for new texts – there was only one. Mama back in the crib. Rock a bye baby.
She guessed Sherlock was having Mary followed – and if the texts were any indication, by someone who enjoyed doing it. The girl she’d met earlier, the one who told her about Vauxhall Cross, was probably one of Sherlock’s too.
She took out her iPad, logged onto the hospital’s free Wi-Fi and did a Google search for Charles Magnussen. A long Wikipedia entry – no doubt written by his own PR people, was the first of over a million hits. She started there.
An hour later, the sandwich half-eaten, the coffee gone cold, she knew the basics. Where he was born (an unpronounceable town in Denmark), went to school (Cambridge), the first newspapers he bought – a small regional broadsheet based in Bristol, and less than a year later, the struggling Hastings Observer, which he quickly turned into a tabloid. Within a few years, he owned more than twenty local newspapers, saving costs by using the same printing press for all of them. He entered the London market in 1995 with the purchase of the failing Sunday Express which he quickly remade into a daily paper very much in the image of The Sun – “chock full of tits, TV stars and royals,” one reviewer said. She found more than one blog that suggested/accused Magnussen of being the original source for the hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. In 2000, he bought a TV network. Two years later, he bought a national newspaper in Canada. And so it went. She imagined him like Pac-Man, eating up everything in his path.
Other articles criticized Magnussen’s closeness with the Conservative Party leader, David Cameron. In November 2011, his official spokesperson said that Magnussen and Cameron “were in regular communication” and “that there is nothing unusual in the prime minister talking to Charles Magnussen.” Others expressed concern that a foreign national had so much access to those in power in Britain. An anti-Magnussen blog started after Cameron’s election in 2011 ended six months later with a short entry reporting the suicide of the blogger, David Griffiths. When she searched for “David Griffiths” and “suicide”, she found an article on The Richmond Times websiteunder the headline, “Local man charged in child pornography scandal.” It was dated two weeks before Griffiths’ suicide. The paper was one of Magnussen’s.
In his early thirties, he married and quickly divorced. He had no children and had recently built a large £30m estate outside London he called Appledore. She found no reference to his hobbies – Sherlock and blackmail if she had to guess – in any of the articles.
She bought another coffee and an alarmingly bright yellow lemon curd tart and wrote up her notes while she ate. Something didn’t make sense – Magnussen was rich and powerful and dangerous – so why was he bothering with Mary Morstan? What had Mycroft said? My brother will always assume that he is the epicentre of any situation . . .
She licked the gelatinous filling from her fingers and went through everything again from the beginning.
Sherlock walked in on Mary threatening to kill Magnussen in his own office – how did she get in? Where was his security team? In every picture and news story she’d found on the internet, there were always at least two large, well-tailored men standing or walking a few steps behind.
What if Mycroft were right? That Sherlock’s shooting hadn’t been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time after all? What if Magnussen wanted Sherlock to find out about Mary? If he knew how Sherlock felt about John, then he also knew what lengths Sherlock would go to in order to protect him. If Magnussen owned Mary Morstan, then he owned Sherlock too. Nice theory. But why Sherlock? Brilliant as he was, in the Holmes family it was clearly Mycroft who wielded the political power, not Sherlock. If you believed Greg, he was the British government.
Of course. She shook her head, wondering why it had taken her so long to see it. What better way for Magnussen to get to Mycroft Holmes than through his younger brother?
She logged into her Gmail account.
Bad news, sir. Have a wicked case of food poisoning – egg sandwich gone wrong, I suspect. Been in bed for the last 48 hours (I won’t bore you with the nasty details). Doctor says I’m dehydrated and must rest. Rescheduled flight for next Sunday – will use my banked overtime hours. Don’t worry about the budget – staying with an old friend. Will send Goodale report Monday. Case is solid enough for an arrest, I think.
If you need a doctor’s note for the file, let me know. I met an excellent doctor here.
The next email was harder.
Dear Chloe . . .
“I’m going to gain twenty pounds,” Kate said between bites of Mrs. Hudson’s cranberry scones.
She sat in Sherlock’s chair, a half-eaten pasty, an empty chips box and three Diet Pepsi cans on the table beside her. Mrs. Hudson had given up offering her tea, and had a case of the soda delivered the day before.
Mrs. Hudson shook her head and gathered teacups from the tables. “Less sugar than your American donuts, dear. I used to buy them by the dozen in Florida, lovely and sticky . . . gained a stone once over a long weekend.”
Kate smiled. “Canadian, Mrs. Hudson. I’m Canadian.”
“Oh yes, dear. I forget. You sound so American.”
Kate stood and brushed crumbs off her shirt. “I’d be offended if I weren’t so full.” She took her dishes to the kitchen. “How does Sherlock stay so thin, I wonder.”
Mrs. Hudson joined her at the sink. “It’ll do you no good to wonder about that one. He’s been a mystery since he showed up at my husband’s second trial – calling the prosecutor an idiot, stealing the trial notes – I thought he’d escaped from the mental hospital.”
“And now?” Kate always felt like Mrs. Hudson was on the verge of telling her something very important, some little tidbit that would explain it all – especially why Kate was still here, gossiping over tea and cakes like a proper English lady.
“And now, I need to air out his room. John said they’d be home at 3 and it’s already half 2.”
Shut down again. Kate sighed and walked back into the living room. Why was she still here? Coin toss aside, of course. She’d spent the last few days alternating shifts at the hospital with John and filling her notebook full of scribbles and theories and not much else. She’d resolved not to say anything about Magnussen or Mary or the baby to Sherlock until he was better. To pass the time, they played chess when he was up to it and hearts when he wasn’t. She brought him cookies and tea and in a weak moment, probably brought on by too much morphine and not enough John, he explained how he’d managed the fall from the roof. “It was quite easy, really,” he said with a small smile. “It was leaving him that was hard.”
Chloe had taken the news better than she’d hoped and her superintendent was surprisingly (and suspiciously) sympathetic. And now Sherlock was being released from hospital and John had gone to fetch him home. Home. That’s what John had said to the doctor when he called to say that at this stage in his recovery, Sherlock would be more comfortable somewhere else. Kate had been around long enough to understand the code for Sherlock needs to leave this hospital because he’s being a complete dick to everyone around him.
“I’ll bring him home,” John had said into the phone. He’d turned to Kate and smiled. “He’s coming home.”
“That wonderful news, John.”
She’d wondered if John was thinking the same thing she was.
Intermission was over.
Act Two was about to begin.