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Coventry

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“That was a superlative case. At least an eight, possibly even a nine. Is it too much to ask that they all be like that?”

Sherlock walked down the street, jittery with manic energy. His long legs double tapped, his fingers flexed and clenched. John had to speed up a bit to keep up.

“Go through that again, will you, for those of us in the cheap seats. How did you know it was Fitzhenry?”

“Easy. Remember the victim, where most of the defense wounds were?”

“Sure, right side, so the killer was left handed.”

“Just so. And the killer was equally obviously a teacher or daycare worker, owned two cats and a budgerigar, lived alone-”

“Hold up, what?”

Sherlock made a moue of impatience, but John suspected it was for show. “Chalk dust at the scene. Cat hair, two different colours, on the clothes, small green feather found near the body.”

“Chalk dust? I remember a powder but they hadn’t finished the analysis yet.”

“Faster to identify by taste.”

John stopped for a moment. “Are you telling me there was white powder by a dead body, and you just put it in your mouth?”

Sherlock turned to John and smiled, showing his teeth.  “Problem?”

“Just remind me to bring activated charcoal next time.”

Sherlock’s mad grin transformed into a true smile, and John grinned back. “And the living alone?” he asked.

“Two cats and a budgerigar, John.”

“Gotcha.”

Sherlock started walking again, rustling with ebullience. “When we were interviewing Fitzhenry, I noticed traces of chalk dust on his left cuff. Standard indicator for a lefty. Pinned you as left handed the moment I saw you, by the way, ink stains on the heel of your hand.”

“So you accused him in front of the whole Met based on a touch of chalk on his cuff. You could have been prosecuted for libel, if he were innocent.”

“The innocent argue. The innocent gasp, they look astonished at the accusation. The innocent do not turn tail and run.”

“True.”

“How’s the leg?”

“Fine.” In fact, John ached in every muscle from the chase, was bruised up one side of his body from tackling Fitzhenry to the ground; he hurt, he was tired, and he had never felt so alive.

Sherlock’s energy was dissipating into grumpiness now. “I don’t understand why I had to give my statement right away. If Lestrade had been paying attention at all he wouldn’t need my statement.”

“Yes, but then you wouldn’t get to come out and have such fun.” John glanced back at the flashing lights of the police cars; they were well out of sight of the officers now, the street was dark and quiet and deserted. Perfect.

He nudged Sherlock and said, “Hey.”

Sherlock looked down at him curiously. “What?”

“I’m hungry – dim sum?” he said.

Sherlock’s smile immediately lost its manic edge, became wider, softer. His pace slowed into a stroll. “I can always predict the fortune cookies.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Yes, I can.”

Sherlock’s demeanour had completely changed now; more relaxed, more serene. John smiled at him, took his arm and guided him around a corner, and Sherlock followed willingly.

“Would you like to have a treatment?” John said.

“Yes, I love my treatments,” Sherlock said placidly.

“Do you trust me?”

“With my life.”

“Good.”

John led Sherlock into a quiet alley and into the back of a black van that stood waiting. He shut the door and tapped on the window separating them from the driver, then turned back and buckled Sherlock and himself in. Sherlock sat passively, docile and gentle.

John watched him, a smile still flickering on his face. “You were amazing,” he said softly.

Sherlock looked up, his eyes doe-like and innocent and shining.

“I try to be my best,” he replied.

+

Two days earlier

“And then you just sit here? Watch the monitors? While she…”

“Yup,” Blake said, propping his feet up by the keyboard. “Easy peasey.”

“Let me get this straight,” John said, wondering when his life had become a science fiction film. “Some guy orders up a personality, a person, to his specifications-”

“And coughs up a boatload of money, don’t forget.”

“- and they program this into a real live person, who has consented to do this, and she goes to this person and acts as his wife, or lawyer, or Royal Marine, or Navy Seal or what have you, and she has all the skills, all the knowledge, everything?”

“Yup,” Blake said, popping the final P.

“And you monitor her while she’s doing… whatever, and then you say the magic words, and she follows you back to The House, and they erase it all until her next appointment?”

“Got it in one.”

“That girl, that little wisp of a thing, could fight like a Royal Marine?”

“I wish. Magdalen never gets called out on engagements like that.”

“Wait, she said her name was Beatrix.”

“Right now she’s Beatrix, but back at The House, she’s just Magdalen. They’re all named for churches. We’ve got an Alban, a Clement, a Benet, an Ely, a Dunstan, even a bloody Assisi. Magdalen usually gets tagged for R engagements.”

“R?”

“Romantic.”

“Jesus.” John shook his head. “And you watch?”

Blake barked a laugh, and John decided that he didn’t like Blake much at all. “Not in person, client wouldn’t go for that, would they? No, I watch her biolink from here – heart rate, metabolism, chemical levels, that kind of thing. The A engagements – Action – they usually program their chips so you can listen in, check if they get in trouble. But I got stuck with Magdalen and her R engagements. Booooring.”

“So… she’s having sex with him? Right now?”

“That’s right.”

“That’s kind of… sick. Like pimping.”

“Hey, it’s not bad for her either. There’s no consequences. He gets happy, she gets happy, it all gets wiped at the end of the day, and she’s pure as the driven snow.”

John turned away from Blake’s leer and cast his eye over the screens. Blake stood and, leaning over John’s shoulder, pointed at the heart rate.  “There, you see? She’s getting happy.”

John looked at the heart rate, and his brow furrowed. “An elevated heart rate doesn’t just mean sexual excitement, you know,” he said. He glanced then at the brain scan, then traced his fingers to the chemical read. “Sexual excitement means endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin.”

Blake’s joking manner vanished, and he squinted at the screen. “So what’s that?”

“Adrenaline. She’s not happy.”

John jumped out of the van and sprinted up the long driveway towards the mansion, with Blake and the driver of the van thudding behind, calling for backup on his mobile. He tried the front door, unsurprisingly locked, and ran around the perimeter of the house until he found the French doors in the back garden. A small statue of a cherub stood in the garden, and he pulled it out of the wet earth and heaved it through the doors. 

He ran through the kitchen as Blake panted behind him. “Wait – John – client-”

“Don’t care right now,” he said as he ran up the stairs. A long hallway, at least ten doors, but only one closed. John kicked it open with a satisfying bang.

The bedroom was all white – the walls, the carpet, the bedclothes – and John was nearly blinded by it for a moment. He blinked, and saw a naked man, crowded against the headboard, cowering in fear. In the centre of the bed he saw the slight young woman known as Magdalen, or Beatrix, tied hand and foot, ball gag in her mouth, tears tracking down her face.

“Get the fuck away from her,” he snarled, and grabbed the man in a neck hold and pulled him off the bed.

“Just a bit of fun,” the client whimpered.

“Didn’t pay for that kind of fun,” Blake said, as he moved to Magdalen’s side and unbuckled the gag. He leaned over her and touched her gently on the head. “The garden needs weeding,” he said.

“What the actual fuck, Blake?” John yelled in disbelief.

“It’s the call and response,” Blake snapped, not breaking eye contact. Then he gentled his voice again and repeated, “The garden needs weeding.”

And Magdalen said softly, calmly, “The day lilies will bloom soon.”

“Would you like a treatment, Magdalen?”

“Yes, I love my treatments.”

John watched the pair, his jaw hanging open, fighting to keep his focus and his hold on the naked, whinging client.

This is so fucked up, he thought.