"Sherlock. In the first place, you live in a first-floor flat, and in the second place, I'm trying to hang onto my job. I can't stay home to mind you. Let the hospital staff do their jobs."
Sherlock scowled at his right leg...or rather, at the cast and traction frame where his right leg would normally be visible.
"Look on the bright side. At least you can people-watch here. If you were stuck in the flat, you'd be taking it out on the walls before the day was out."
"Looking for something?"
Sherlock stopped scrabbling among the sheets to glare at John.
Sherlock held out his hand imperiously.
"Forget it. You sent me seventy text messages before lunchtime - and that's just me, never mind Lestrade."
"It's Mycroft's fault that I'm in here."
"How is it his fault that you wear posh shoes with no traction to run across rain-slick pavement? Christmas present, were they?"
Sherlock tipped his head to the ceiling, as if praying for strength. "If he weren't trying to pressure me to look into yet another politician embezzling government funds, I'd be in a private hospital or at home, not trapped here among all these..." He waved a hand, "...people."
John tried - and failed miserably - to hide a grin. "You did tell him off for...now what was it?" John tipped his head back as if mentally searching for a transcript of the latest Holmes Brother Snark Off. "Being 'overprotective, overbearing, and grossly overweight', I think it was. Well, he seems to have taken you at your word. Did you really think he'd engage a private nurse for you after that little speech?"
Sherlock huffed and loftily ignored the question. "Honestly, John, did you read any of my messages?"
"Sherlock, come off it. There is nothing unusual about having a musculoskeletal ward full of patients over seventy..."
Sherlock raised a hand, cutting him off. "John, you're better than this. Look at their charts and tell me what you see."
John sighed, then heaved himself to his feet - it had been a long day and his leg was starting to ache - and ambled off down the ward. Twenty minutes later he was back, having taken more time than necessary chatting to those patients who were awake, and looking thoughtful.
"All right, you may have a point -"
"I always have a point."
"Three of them were victims of assault. But the one I talked to wasn't even robbed - he said they just knocked him over at the top of a flight of stairs and took off after calling the paramedics..." He stopped. "They were callous enough to push him around, but called the paramedics instead of leaving him for someone else to find."
"Shall I text Lestrade for details or will you?"
"No need," came Lestrade's voice from the door. "(John, don't hand him his mobile, whatever you do.) God, it's pissing out there. Sherlock, you've got something for me?"
"At least three men on this ward alone, all fitting the same profile in terms of age and appearance, assaulted but not robbed, but the assailants called the paramedics."
John tore off the top sheet of his notepad and passed it to Lestrade.
Sherlock looked exasperated. "John, that's just inefficient. You've got my mobile right there in your hand. You could have texted just as easily -"
"No, I couldn't, Sherlock; I write faster than I type, especially on these little things."
"- and then I'd have a copy, not just Lestrade."
Lestrade passed the paper back to John without a word, who began writing out a clear copy without missing a beat.
"Inefficient. The mobile's right there."
"Not giving it back to you, Sherlock."
John passed Lestrade the clear copy and Sherlock the original. Each glanced over it:
- Prendergast, Jack - bed 1
- Abel, Lawrence - bed 4
- Evans, Hugh - bed 7
"Prendergast is the man directly across from me. His PA's come in and out a few times running errands for him - older man, completely under his boss's thumb. Same general build as Prendergast, but not physically similar enough to be related, hence PA.
Evans, over there, has spent his entire time here watching telly - some kind of sports fan, I gather. No visitors.
Abel, there, has a wife, a daughter, and several grandchildren - they've been in here every afternoon to see him. Noisy and disruptive, but apparently on affectionate terms with him."
"Thought you were bored? And it's not like you don't know about 'noisy' and disruptive'..."
Sherlock divided an exasperated look between John and Lestrade, who were both grinning. "I want mental stimulation, you idiots, not just noise, or I'd listen to Metallica."
"You know Metallica but not the solar system?"
"Not that again. Scheduled for deletion yet again, I promise you."
Lestrade sat back, smirking at Sherlock. "All right, here's what I'll do. I'll send over P.C. Hopkins to look into this, and if there's anything in it, I'll let you know."
"What's stopping you from finding things out right now?"
"First off, I'm off duty. Second - are you even familiar with the phrase 'search warrant'?"
"I'm not asking you to strip search them, although 90% of the work has already been done -" He flicked disgustedly at his hospital gown.
Lestrade grinned. "Noticed that."
"All I'm asking is that you do a records search, find out where these men were assaulted and what else they have in common."
"And P.C. Hopkins can do that tomorrow. They're not going anywhere, any more than you are, Sherlock."
"I can do it tonight if you'll just give me my mobile back."
"If you can get into the NSY system on that little thing from here, I do not want to know about it."
Messages - Received
Check home of Jack Prendergast, Kensington SW7. If unhurt arrest JP.
Messages - Sent
Give Hopkins mobile back and I will. - GL
Messages - Received
Also have John bring laptop.
Lestrade handled over Sherlock's mobile. Sherlock smirked at his laptop, which John had just handed to him.
"OK, give me."
"He won't tell me, said he was waiting for you so he wouldn't have to repeat himself." John rolled his eyes.
Sherlock smiled, basking in the attention.
"Jack Prendergast was brought in two days ago with a broken hip - he'd been manhandled in the street and broke it falling. Nobody took any notice here because they'd seen several cases just like it during the past few days. His PA brought him in - an older man, same general physical type, Prendergast called him Jim. But when Hopkins had the staff check the computer records here, he was recorded as being James Armitage, who must be the PA."
"So, what - the boss was checked in under the PA's name?"
"No, Lestrade, aren't you listening? The boss was checked in under his own name, then the hospital records were hacked to show the PA's name. He's now tucked away in a care home somewhere, I presume, where they've been told he's mentally confused and sometimes can't remember his own name. Meanwhile the PA has access to his ID, his house, his funds, everything, because apparently the average moron can't distinguish one elderly male face from another."
"How could the PA manage to arrange for thugs to rough his boss up, let alone hack the hospital records?"
Sherlock stared at Lestrade for a beat. "Dear Jim..."
"Oh, God, not him again."
"Hopkins questioned the staff - apparently they've been having trouble with their computer and Jim from IT came along to sort it out. Do I have to draw you a picture to explain how the records were hacked?"
Lestrade stood up.
"He's long gone by now, Lestrade. Sit down. Hopkins has already shown the staff here the police artist's sketch. They've tentatively identified him, although after this little debacle I wouldn't put a great deal of faith in their observational skills."
Lestrade scowled. "But what's the point? Why set all this up, then re-use his St Barts identity in front of the staff here?"
Sherlock gestured to his bedside table. On it was a vase of blue forget-me-nots, accompanied by a note:
Heard you were feeling blue after your little accident. Get well soon!