Lestrade slept quite well after his midnight conversation with Mycroft. He was glad he had gone and asked about the violin. And he thought that now Mycroft had two options left to him: He could ignore the entire situation, or he could continue to justify having taken the violin. Lestrade hoped it was the latter. He didn't know why, but the detail of Mycroft with the violin nibbled at him. There was something not quite right about it, something he couldn't put into words but knew instinctively, from years of policework. And, considering the last play Lestrade had made before the conversation ended, he thought it likely that Mycroft would make another move in response.
Lestrade, leaning against his car with a cup of coffee while Donovan cordoned off a crime scene for him, squinted in the bright sunlight at the sleek black car that pulled up next to him and considered the possibility that Mycroft had a third option: have Lestrade killed.
Mycroft didn't step out of the car, a woman in a business suit did. She stood there with the car door open and looked at him expectantly.
Lestrade lifted his eyebrows at her. "Sorry," he said, sunnily. "Did you want something?"
His mobile rang. Which he should have expected.
But it wasn't Mycroft. It was his DCI, who said, "I've just been handed a message saying I should get in touch with you and tell you to get in the car. What's all this about?"
"Who's the message from?"
"If I told you, you wouldn't believe me."
"Oh, I think I would," said Lestrade, and hung up his phone.
"Please tell Mycroft I'm in the middle of something," he said to the woman in the business suit.
She stared at him as if she must have heard him incorrectly. "Sir?"
"Tell him that if he wants to talk to me, he can come and see me. I'm not being summoned all over the country on his whim."
She continued to stare at him, her mouth opening and closing now as she struggled to come up with something to say. "But...but...do you know who..."
"Inspector!" Sally shouted in his direction.
"Coming," he called back, smiled at the woman, said, “Good luck with Mycroft,” and then turned and left the woman standing in shock next to the black car.
"What was that all about?" Sally asked, eyes narrowed.
Lestrade glanced over his shoulder.
The woman was still standing by the car, staring at him, as if she expected him to change his mind and come bounding back.
"Nothing. Don't worry about it."
"I don't get it," said Sally, morosely. "Weird cars for you all over the place. What's it all about? It's awfully suspicious."
"I don't know, Sergeant," said Lestrade, as he walked up the stairs into the house that was the scene of the latest crime. "Maybe you want to assemble evidence against me and bring it to the Commissioner; you're good at that."
She made a frustrated sound. "Look. I was right, wasn't I--"
Lestrade rounded on her and pointed at her with his coffee cup. "Shut up," he said. "Seriously." He got a glimpse of her slightly stunned and mostly impotently furious face before he turned around and resumed walking. "Huh," he remarked, as he went. "No wonder Sherlock was always telling all of us to shut up. That was satisfying."
The new case was moderately interesting and kept him busy until well after dark. He was tired by the time he got home and had honestly stopped thinking about Sherlock Holmes's violin or Sherlock Holmes's brother. He got to his door, put his key in the lock, and paused, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling. He glanced to his left and right, but no one was in the hallway. Which meant that whatever was causing his unease was in his flat.
Grimly, tensed for action, he pushed his door open. The flat was dark, and the light from the hallway didn't illuminate much past the threshold. He inched in, hand groping for the lamp, trying to get his eyes to adjust more quickly, and, even though he was braced for it, when he finally found the lamp and turned it on, the sight of the figure on the sofa still made him jump.
He closed his eyes against the shot of adrenaline and said, "Jesus, Mycroft."
"You should have been expecting me," Mycroft commented, mildly, looking unconcerned. "I got a message from you saying that I should come to see you if I wished to speak to you."
"I didn't mean you should break into my flat," he pointed out.
"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence of a break-in in this flat," Mycroft replied.
“In the dark?” said Lestrade. “You’re just sitting here in the dark?”
Mycroft gave that ghost of a shrug that he gave when he didn’t feel like responding to something. Lestrade was coming to recognize that.
Lestrade shrugged out of his coat and tossed it over the kitchen table, where it landed atop recently forwarded bills. Mycroft winced, and Lestrade imagined his house was impeccable, his coats never tossed over anything. Probably why he never looked rumpled. He sat in his three-piece suit in Lestrade's lounge and looked absurdly out-of-place. On the coffee table in front of him was a bottle of Scotch and two tumblers. On the side table on the other side of the sofa was a violin case.
Lestrade took this all in and decided to start with the Scotch. He looked at it pointedly.
"Ah, yes," said Mycroft. "I took the liberty of bringing my own."
Lestrade looked at the glasses.
"I brought my own glasses, too. I suspected you wouldn't have Scotch or Scotch glasses." Mycroft glanced around the flat. "I was right."
"Sorry," drawled Lestrade. "I didn't know I was having company, or I would have tidied up."
"Don't fret," said Mycroft, opening the Scotch and pouring it out. "I have learned to be at home in all milieus."
Lestrade barked laughter, and Mycroft smiled at him and handed him his Scotch, and Lestrade suddenly stopped laughing. "Wait a second. You meant that to be a joke," he realized.
Mycroft made a face that Lestrade recognized immediately. It was Sherlock's trademark my-God-people-are-so-incredibly-stupid-why-is-it-my-lot-in-life-to-be-near-them face. He seldom saw any physical resemblance between the brothers, but it was there, and Lestrade, seeing it, missed Sherlock that bit more. Sherlock, he thought, would have liked the new case.
"I do have a sense of humor," commented Mycroft, dryly, "it's just that its existence is a state secret."
"That was another joke."
"My, but you're quick, Inspector. I'm sorry, we're doing first names now, aren't we? Gregory. I brought you a present."
Lestrade looked at the bottle of Scotch.
"No, not that, I'm taking that with me. This." He picked up the violin case and handed it across.
Lestrade put his Scotch down on the table. "What's this?"
"It looks to me like a violin case, but I'm open to your theories on it."
"You're hilarious tonight," Lestrade told him and opened the case. A violin gleamed up at him. "This is a lovely gift," said Lestrade, wondering if it was what he thought it was. He looked up at Mycroft. "What is it?"
Mycroft was watching him, swirling the Scotch around in his glass. The lighting in Lestrade's flat was poor, and his eyes were mostly in shadow, meaning that Lestrade couldn't get a good reading on his expression. It didn't look pleased. It looked slightly resentful and a bit resigned, possibly. "It's Sherlock's violin. You expressed so very much interest in it, I thought possibly you might want it, although frankly I doubt you would be able to afford it."
"I don't want his violin," said Lestrade.
"That's good, then. You may borrow it, if you like. Have it tested. See if I'm using it to smuggle things or whatever other such nonsense you've concocted."
"I don't think you're doing anything with the violin."
"No," said Mycroft, his voice hard and brittle. "I know you don't. This is really the present I have brought you. Do you want to know why I took the violin? I shall tell you why I took the violin. Because I loved my brother. There. Is that what you wanted to hear? I loved him. We didn't get along much as adults. When he was a boy, he loved the violin, and our parents were dead, so I bought him a violin, and it's the only gift I ever gave my brother that he actually kept, that he actually seemed to like. The only successful thing I ever gave him. So yes. When John asked me if I would like the violin, I took the violin. I do hope you find that explanation satisfactory. Gregory."
Lestrade looked across at him for a second. He felt sorry now that he had pressed this. It had been an odd detail; it hadn't made sense to him, a sudden sentimental streak in Mycroft. And now he had goaded Mycroft into this and he felt sorry about it. He opened his mouth, searched for something to say, and arrived on, "It's Greg."
Lestrade closed the violin case and handed it back across to Mycroft. "No one ever calls me Gregory." He took a deep breath and put his feet up on the coffee table and leaned back in his seat. He considered apologizing but thought that would make things worse. So he just said, "It's very good Scotch."
Mycroft regarded him. "That was a decent game of chess on your part. Not quite a checkmate, but a decent game of chess."
Mycroft no longer sounded angry, and Lestrade recognized the begrudging tone of the compliment. He lifted one corner of his mouth in a smile and decided maybe an apology was in order. Mycroft hadn't really been anything but polite to him, and Lestrade had badgered him over keeping a token of a dead brother. "I'm sorry," he said, truthfully. "I don't know what got into me about the violin...It seemed..." Lestrade sighed and considered his Scotch. "I suppose I just got used to the idea that there was always more to the story with Sherlock. A detail out of place and Sherlock would have said that to ignore it, to dismiss it as unimportant, was to miss the entire point of it all. I could hear him saying, 'You should have been asking questions about the violin, you never ask the right questions, it was all about the violin.'"
"What was all about the violin?"
"I have no idea." Lestrade sipped his Scotch. "I suppose maybe the idea that...that it would fix everything that was wrong with this picture. The out-of-place detail: If I could fit it back into place Sherlock would be alive, and John wouldn't be in the world's most depressing flat, and I would've fixed the monumental error I made." Lestrade looked back across at Mycroft. "Sorry."
Mycroft shook his head. "I suppose I can't fault you for wanting to undo things. And I suppose I can't fault you for being reasonably clever about it. I try not to fault people for being reasonably clever, only for being unbearably stupid, which happens rather more often."
Lestrade chuckled a bit and sipped at his Scotch.
"I've decided against killing Sergeant Donovan," announced Mycroft, suddenly.
"Pity," said Lestrade into his Scotch. "I'd just decided I'd be okay with having her killed."
"No, you hadn't," said Mycroft. "People like you are never okay with having people killed."
Lestrade looked at him over the top of his glass. "That's why we have people like you?"
Mycroft held his gaze. "Yes," he said, simply, and sipped his own Scotch. "Anyway. I'm going to have her transferred, but you need to get your board in order."
"What's that mean?"
"Come now, don't be naive. That night had very little to actually do with Sherlock. She made a run at your king, in more ways than one. And she very nearly got him, too."
Lestrade shook his head. "Sally hated Sherlock, she always hated Sherlock--"
"Yes. That was convenient. But she was going after you, Greg." He paused after saying the name, as if surprised with himself, then continued. "I know you know that. But you're the type who doesn't like to say things like that out loud, so I'll say it for you. She's after your job."
"Well, if I get promoted, she--"
"She doesn't want it that way, especially not now. You'll never put in a good word for her and she knows that. She needs you out of the way. So. Get your board in order and protect your king. I'll take care of the rest." Mycroft stood.
"Wait," Lestrade protested, bristling. "I don't need you to--"
"Most of the pieces are admirably under your control," Mycroft informed him. "Let me handle the pawns. You can keep the glass, everyone should have a proper Scotch glass, even detective inspectors. But I am taking the Scotch." He picked the bottle up and tucked the violin case under his arm. "Good night."
"Yeah," said Lestrade, watching him as he left.
Mycroft phoned Sherlock as soon as he was settled in the back of the car. Naturally, Sherlock did not answer. They were locked in a battle of wills. Sherlock hated talking on the phone, so Mycroft left him messages. Mycroft hated texting, so, when Sherlock inevitably texted him back, he phoned him and left another message.
"I took care of the violin problem," Mycroft told Sherlock's answerphone, and hung up.
The text came seconds later. There wouldn't have been a violin problem if you hadn't taken the violin in the first place. SH
Mycroft phoned him again and left another message. "Would you have preferred I left the violin to rot in your flat?" Sherlock was a violinist, and a Stradivarius was a Stradivarius. There was no way he would have preferred for it to stay uncared-for at Baker Street.
Sherlock's text back was basically a concession on that point. What did you tell him to stop his interrogating? SH
Mycroft smiled to himself and rang Sherlock. "I told him I loved you," he said, relishing the ridiculous drama of the statement.
Sherlock didn't text back for a long time. In fact, Mycroft was home before he heard the phone chirp at him. How's the diet going? SH
Mycroft chuckled, rang him, and told his answerphone, "I'll get the violin back to you."