His phone is playing Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’. Sometimes he hates that he’s assigned this particular caller his own ring-tone, but he couldn’t allow himself to start jumping at shadows every time a minion called him to report on progress. He has a reputation to uphold. He hates how scared he is, hates that his skin is clammy and his hands are shaking. He’s a criminal mastermind, for fuck’s sake! He doesn’t even have to kill people himself anymore, so assured is he of the loyalty of his minions. He does it anyway, for the satisfaction of a job well done if nothing else, but that’s hardly the point.
The phone is still ringing. He has to answer it, he knows. He learnt the hard way not to ignore these calls. He shudders at the memory. Running through the London night, the sound of police dogs behind him, the desperate terror he hadn’t felt since he was first starting out in the business and still committing his crimes himself.
He has to answer. He’s probably already left it too long. He doesn’t know why he does this, the calls are terrifying enough without angering the caller, but he can never seem to force himself to answer right away.
He picks up the phone and presses the accept button. It takes him a moment to summon the courage to lift the phone to his ear. When he does, he doesn’t speak. The caller will know he’s there – fear is making his breathing shallow and unaccountably loud in the emptiness of the hired flat.
“Hello my dear,” the voice at the end of the phone purrs, as though it belonged to his lover and not the only man he’s ever feared. “It’s been too long. Work you know. I have missed you.”
He shouldn’t think the man’s voice is beautiful, shouldn’t find his dark purr seductive, but he does. Another reason to hate and fear his tormentor.
He wonders sometimes whether the man has the looks to match his honeyed voice, and he hopes not. He’d hate to embarrass himself if he were ever to meet the man. He might not be inclined to physical attraction as a general rule, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to beauty.
“You left it an awfully long time before you answered the phone,” the loved and hated voice purrs, and he feels his blood turn to ice in his veins. Why, why does he continue to anger this man? He knows what will happen. He nearly faints with relief when the voice adds, “Luckily for you I’m in the mood to be generous. Now why don’t you tell me about what you’ve been up to since we last spoke?”
The caller already knows, he’s certain. Knows every intimate detail of everything he’s ever done, just like he always knows how to contact him, no matter how many times he changes his phone. But he likes to listen to him explain it, probably likes to hear the fear in his voice. If he didn’t like to think his tormentor was above such plebeian emotions, he’d suspect that he got off on hearing him describe his crimes. Mostly, he thinks, the other man just likes that he has the power to do this, to make him admit all the things he’s tried so hard to conceal. To remind him that he has power over him.
He likes hearing about his cleverness too. Sometimes, when he’s committed a particularly ingenious crime, his tormentor rewards him. He hates that, almost as much as the punishments. The fact that this man, or more likely one of his minions, has broken into his house, bypassed all his security, makes his blood run cold, even if he only did it too leave him chocolates or a new gun or some other little token of his esteem. Hates, more than anything, that the man on the other end of the phone is powerful enough to circumvent all his security measures for something as ridiculous as giving him a new tie.
Most of all he hates it when he hasn’t been clever enough, when he’s left some clue. His mysterious caller could just warn him, tell him that he’s made a mistake, but he never does. Instead he sends one of his ghostly minions to leave some memento of the crime in question somewhere obvious. Once it was a child’s foot on his pillow. He doesn’t mind the gore particularly (if it’s not his foot why should he care?) but the idea of trophies of his crimes, the idea of something so amateurish, so risky… He hates it almost as much as he hates the owner of that dark chocolate voice.
Something inside him rebels against just giving in to his hated tormentor.
“You already know, don’t you?” he snarls, fear making his voice harsh. “You always know. Why the fuck you bother with making me recite it all…”
“Correct as usual, my dear.” The voice doesn’t sound upset, or even surprised at his little rebellion. “I know exactly what you’ve been up to and I want to express my displeasure.”
Oh dear. There really isn’t a word to describe how afraid he is now. He thinks his heart might have stopped beating.
“Now I know you weren’t to know, my dear, even you couldn’t have worked out my true identity just yet, but I need to make you understand that Sherlock Holmes is off limits.” The voice takes on a hard note he’s never heard before and he wonders almost absently if he’s going to be killed. “Annoying as he can be,” the disembodied voice snarls, “no one touches my little brother without punishment.”
Ah. He’d suspected of course. He’d never believed the cover story about a minor job in the department of Work and Pensions. He’d just assumed that the man who ran the entire country would have to be at least half sane. Apparently he was wrong.
Outside, he thinks he can hear the sounds of dogs baying excitedly. He prays he’s imagining it, but he knows he isn’t. “Consider this a lesson on the importance of family,” Mycroft’s soft voice murmurs, “And run.”
As he drops the phone and sprints for the fire escape, he can hear Mycroft’s laughter, clearer to him even than the barking of the dogs or the ricochet of shots off the pavement beside him.