This is the chapter where the dance starts.
A day that started like that one had no chances for success, Dr. John Watson thought, rubbing his desperately aching temple and hoping for the mercy of falling out of the present reality in further hours. His headache seemed to be slowly wandering around his skull, methodically, as prisoners on a walk in a jail yard. Two different worlds were colliding nearby for about an hour already.
In any case, the doctor couldn’t come up with less frightening epithets against the eerie view: Sherlock Holmes himself was deducing along with another human being. The being in question was a strange person with schizophrenically perfect moustache. The world of Sherlock Holmes, in which John had even started noticing the logic and motivation of behaviour, shied to the world of the moustachioed man with such a roar, that even DI Lestrade winced visibly at this view. John was under the impression that he was at war again — at his ally’s territory, but in the complete darkness and in the crossfire — because it seemed that the ally didn’t happen to notice his colours.
The name of moustachioed man was Hercule Poirot; he was a Belgian, a bore and a unique detective. Unlike Sherlock, who was unique at least because he invented his profession, Mr. (or, rather, monsieur) Poirot was an extraordinary man for a number of other characteristics. A tall, tired-looking DI, Lestrade's former colleague, who introduced himself as ‘Japp’ in a conspiratorial whisper, told Watson that Poirot's name was a kind of an old legend in continental Europe. The biography of that odd moustachioed alien came down to the fact that, after having a successful career of a police commissioner in Brussels, Poirot got disappointed in the government and the justice system — and, being a proud, nosy and stubborn creature he was, he decided to start a PI career on his own resources. What eventually brought him to the United Kingdom from Belgium was a cryptic case, the old wound and bosom friendship with Captain Arthur Hastings. Since then the ridiculous M. Poirot was tactlessly, but stylishly nosing into the professional activities of Japp — which was, however, only contributing to solving more cases.
In general, both Poirot and Sherlock were detectives. In general, they both got involved in the affairs of the police — even when the police did not ask for it. In general, they both had friends ‘from real world’, who were conditionally normal and relatively ordinary people. But John was scared to realize how uniquely different these two species of one genus type were.
To be completely frank, Sherlock and John had never ever come face to face with the other divisions of the police or other detectives up to this point, which only deepened the impression of freshness. So, when John’s morning began before the dawn, with two DI’s, fraternizing and remembering their dashing youth in front of someone's cut-off head, it seemed alarming enough. The scene was complemented with two unfamiliar men, who stood at some distance politely, embodying the tact and pious indolence of the past twentieth century. They looked quite funny, standing side by side: skinny, tall Captain Hastings, slightly resemblant to a kind of intelligent pole, and small, round Poirot with his sly cat’s eyes.
After the first minute of contact with the latter, John felt himself like a mindless bacteria. After the second minute he realized with amazement that the emotional range of a person with genuinely brilliant mind can be as powerful and vast as the musical range of cathedral organ. Pretty much unlike Sherlock, whose range of expressed emotions boiled down to one octave of a baby harp, Poirot used his own reactions, facial expressions, and body language as a heavy mental bat. For an unprepared beholder, the impression of this little Belgian seemed to go out of the possible scales and break the sensors and patterns of perception. In any case, when the Belgian gave some particularly pompous epithet towards young lucidness of Sherlock’s mind with the spontaneity and zest which weren’t quite befitting Poirot’s age, it shell-shocked even the world's only consulting detective.
It was twenty minutes past their first meeting at the crime scene when John came up with the epithet of ‘worlds colliding’. He could almost see the sparks that fluttered around at this massive clash of two minds — the sparks that could significantly hurt anyone who inadvertently had no time to take cover.
“…middle-class, manager, probably not working by his specialty”, Sherlock chattered. “Cat owner, long-time bachelor, recently got himself a girlfriend...”
“A boyfriend, mon ami”, Poirot corrected him gently. “Look at his cuff links. Also note that he was either a mathematician or a physicist”.
“Had a really good deal a couple of months ago”, Sherlock continued, gnashing his teeth at Poirot’s remark.
“Illegal, of course”.
“Recently travelled to the Middle East”.
“Iraq, I assume”.
“Let me suppose the range of his interests was not quite limited to hydraulics…"
“How the Hell did he get to that ‘hydraulics’ part?” Lestrade blinked, trying desperately to catch the thread of conversation.
Detectives turned to the inspector and responded — in a weird sync, matching in words but completely different in tone of voice and in accent:
“Well, that's elementary”.
“Iraq”, Poirot raised his eyebrows. Before that John used to think that nobody can rise eyebrows with passion.
“Oil pipeline”, Sherlock snapped.
“Hydraulics”, Captain Hastings summarized mechanically.
“My dear Hastings”, Poirot sighed intermittently, “what would I do without you…”
“Is he making fun of Hastings?” Watson asked in a low voice — speaking to nobody in particular and not really expecting a normal answer.
“No, he really appreciates the Captain”, DI Japp responded in a calm tome of a true philosopher. “Old devil thinks a little bit — well — unlike normal people. Hastings is his brand of a canary for a miner”.
“Indicator, you mean?” John chuckled.
“Sort of. If Hastings has realized something, then it’s perfectly understandable for other—”
“— mere mortals”, DI Lestrade finished.
The officers exchanged looks and sniggered shamelessly at some joke only they understood. The doctor instinctively regarded the latter as potentially offensive.
“I am afraid that it is nothing else here that we can do, mes amis”, the Belgian said, regarding the corpse. And raised his eyes again in somehow unexpectedly sharp move, breaking into a catlike sly smile: “I think this conversation should be continued over dinner: I dare say I know a place around here — excellent croissants, splendid coffee… Monsieur Watson”, Poirot said with the accent on the last syllable, which made John wince. “Do you mind terribly if I invite you and the young monsieur ‘Olmes to join us at a friendly lunch? We all got up impossibly early, we barely got acquainted — and I would be pleased to carry on our meeting at a better place… Not to mention the fact that the conversation with the owner of a mind so acute as that of monsieur 'Olmes would have been invaluable — at least from the point of exchange of experience”.
John felt sheer horror at a mere thought about what Sherlock might act like, locked inside a café with two inspectors, two retired military officers, and one clearly abnormal foreigner. The most plausible of the scenarios presented by the doctor included an angry denial, a shameful quarrel, and a possible fight. It was simply unnatural to try to imagine Sherlock as a proper gentleman capable of sitting at a table with lace napkins, a cup of coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other. John could bet that Sherlock would have tried to escape through the window (naturally) without any effort even to seem polite. What John doubted was the reaction of the others. He couldn’t bet that damn Belgian wouldn’t be gravely offended — and wouldn’t try shooting the impolite target: Poirot didn’t wear glasses and obviously had had the successful police career in his past, so he really could be a good marksman. His temper only added possible danger to the situation. As for the quiet Captain Hastings — John did not even try to analyze or predict his actions: ex-military officers John knew could kill a man with the leg of a chair without even changing the facial expression.
John had already started to open his mouth, feverishly trying to formulate some proper fitting-out, when all his belief in the steadfastness and strength of his own perception of the world collapsed.
“By any chance, don’t you mean 'Dame Agatha'?” Sherlock asked in a frighteningly polite tone, looking up from his Blackberry, from which he had been texting by the speed of professionally programmed android.
“Mais oui”. Poirot smiled again. His moustache stirred, as if it was a separate creature who lived its own life and was as delighted as its owner. “Best bakery in London, as far as I'm concerned… You too have been there?”
“Not quite”. Sherlock blinked, returning his attention to the Blackberry and absentmindedly poking at the keys. And, to the horror of Watson, smiled, looking up from the typed text: “John and I would be totally pleased to join you, Mr. Poirot. Right, John?”
“Uh”, John managed, earnestly hoping that that was a polite and meaningful "uh", for he wasn’t sure he could be fully responsible for his own words at the moment.
“Nice”, Japp summed up. “Lead the way — I haven’t even sniffed any food since yesterday…”
John regarded as Sherlock immediately adjusted to the seed step of Poirot and got involved in a discussion of some particularly scary facts about the victim. Hastings, who paced next to Watson, looked like a 286 CPU trying to absorb the flow of data processed between two dual-core "Pentiums". Somewhere to the left Japp boomed softly to Lestrade: “Greg, stop bloody worrying — a half an hour over coffee isn’t something that can do you harm, the corpse won’t run away, for God’s sake—”
Lestrade mumbled something unintelligible in reply. Japp snorted and lowered his voice, but the doctor still heard what was said:
“Dude, your lunatic looks like he’s worth our psycho. If they drink coffee together — who knows, they even might solve the case at once. Trust my experience: one can’t even properly imagine what Poirot’s capable of…”
Lestrade sighed sadly.
At that very moment John’s phone buzzed.
The message he got was from Sherlock.
MH IS A REGULAR VISITOR OF DAME A.
John chuckled to himself. That could explain a thing or two about Mycroft's neverending diets…
Sherlock and Poirot turned to the doctor, as if they had just heard his thoughts, and shared unpleasantly sweet smiles.
This is the chapter, where some Reichstag blondes are severely charming, some tiramisu are almost properly cooked, and the case is going to be solved in spades.
Oh hai there; I think I need more beta-reading here, just because I've translated this in the short period between my office work and a visit to the dentist T_T Feel free to point at the mistakes - I would be grateful!
Also: a very foreign Poirot. Mind that xD
'Dame Agatha' turned out to be a bizarre hybrid of a tiny bakery and an abandoned reading room. Neat little tables with lamps of stained glass, modest menu (very few hot meals — but over three pages of light cocktails and liqueurs), long line of fresh cakes on display, an old-fashioned antique-looking bell above the heavy front door, a reproduction of Van Gogh on the ceiling… It was somehow amazing to admit that such a quiet place had managed to survive at all, while remaining virtually invisible in the mazy network of London streets.
Local waitress, a young but very serious ashy blonde, possessed the posture and gait that were appropriate for a Valkyrie or a Reichstag officer. Even the old-fashioned double-breasted vest fitted her in a way military uniform could fit some Standartenführer. The girl looked terrifically severe — not a muscle on her face moved at the sight of the visitors — but in some way extremely charming. Anyway, when she, while handing Poirot the menu, strictly informed him that favorite monsieur’s baba was especially successful this day, John began to smile involuntarily.
“So”, Sherlock said, drumming his fingers on a napkin and thoughtfully squinting at the display case with the pastries. “Mr. Poirot, you are certainly aware that this is not the first murder of this kind”.
“I would advise you to try the Viennese coffee, it is particularly wonderful here”, the detective said. With his soft accent for some reason it sounded quite appropriate for this conversation — even with the topic of murder involved. “Indeed, Hastings and I, we have already noticed some… method in these crimes. My dear friend can confirm: I was truly intrigued by overly theatrical modus operandi of the murderer. Dear Japp, do not torment yourself with choosing, take a cup of tea and a toast — it will brighten up your hungry morning”.
“Yes, the method of murders is illogical”, Sherlock admitted, running his hand through his already ruffled hair.
“I might suppose the criminal begs to be caught”, Poirot mused, leafing through the menu. “Doctor, have you ever had a chance to try a proper tiramisu? Here they cook it almost right”.
“Italians do it better”, announced the Valkyrie in a calm deadly tone, bringing a pencil to her notepad.
John choked on his own response remark. She joked as severely as she looked like.
“And what would you advise for me?” Lestrade asked, looking over the menu.
Poirot handed his menu the girl and turned to the inspector. He didn’t actually look at Lestrade — he stared, transfixed for a few seconds, focusing on one person, so that John for the first time of this frantic morning could actually see the detective without being distracted by facial expression, gestures, or accent.
At first, he couldn’t give reasons for Poirot’s obvious obsession with his moustache. Naturally, this was a matter of personal taste; but John inevitably picked up the basics of science of the deduction from his friend and flatmate, so he could not help but pay attention to how distracting they were. The moustache twisted the whole perception of detective’s face. It inevitably caught the eye of any beholder — it was a perfect detail, an outstanding distraction. A common description of Poirot would be, 'a little funny foreigner with ridiculous moustache'. This description would be true — but wouldn’t contain even a grain of detective’s true personality.
He was in his late fifties, perhaps. The threads of picturesquely graying hair were left undyed at the detective’s temples — obviously, on purpose. The Belgian’s eyes were dark, with a greenish feline shade in them; they looked almost unnaturally cold when he was neither smiling, nor frowning. Due to the constant display of various mimic exercises his mobile face was capable of, this coldness was hardly noticeable. There was the same eerie, superhuman tenacity in his eyes, which John sometimes noticed in Sherlock’s gaze.
“Are you really craving sleep that much?” Poirot said softly, coming back into motion.
Lestrade murmured something unintelligible on the topic of getting quite used to thought reading.
“My advice is coffee with oranges”, the Belgian smiled. “Something sweet. Chocolate, peut-être. Sweet things, vitamin C, caffeine — this is what you need now”.
“Usual, monsieur?” the blonde clarified coldly, quickly scribbling down the orders.
“Yes, please”, Poirot nodded. And, turning to Sherlock, who was clearly not paying attention to the small talks at the table, added: “I can not perceive the murderer’s motivation yet — I see no political, no economical, no personal reasons, none at all. This would be the same as the previous. Surely you did check the connection between the victims”.
“There’s no connection”, Sherlock said, finally managing to sit up straight and stop looking like a thoughtful mannequin. “No common friends, no work intersections. They even spent their vacations in different places. Nothing”.
“Ah. Un dur à cuire."
“I recently came up with the idea to check their medical records…”
“Me too. But two’s not enough for compelling statistics”.
“We now have three, monsieur ‘Olmes”.
“Not sure about the third, but the blood types of the first two match perfectly — up to the Rh factor”.
“Oui, alors j'ai pensé”.
Hastings muttered something, almost by the level of infrasound, but John did not have to listen. His own thoughts had the same course.
“Team”, he thought. “They are becoming a team. Sweet Jesus”.
If he still were in battlefield, he would have surely started to arm himself and dig trenches at this point.
This is the chapter, where the dessert is served, the mercy is identified, and the sleuths speak the same language.
I'm sorry for the delay - and YES, this chapter's been translated during my office coffee breaks, so it needs a beta. DESPERATELY.
Later, looking back on this crazy day, Dr. Watson thought that the mad tea party from Carroll’s story wasn’t in fact that mad.
No, John wasn’t about to complain about life, tea, tiramisu, Universe and everything. Even his interlocutors were generally clinically normal individuals. But even a few minutes in the company of two detectives (consulting and practitioner) proved how totally different people could be equally crazy.
In fact, Watson and Lestrade were already familiar with Sherlock — that, to some extent, could have prepared their minds for a lunch with Poirot. Sherlock did not like people in general, but he could fondly look at any creepiest bacteria through his microscope and was peculiarly addicted to nicotine patches. Poirot, even without clearly being a sociopath, regarded people as a necessary evil, and was quite fond of smoking something too sweet and foreign. That mutual lack of love for humanity and the presence of harmful dependency on nicotine were eloquent enough.
Captain Hastings, who turned out to be a sweetest example of true gentleman, clearly not fond of killing humans via a leg of some chair, told Watson, that the cuisine of 'Dame Agatha' was seriously the most compelling reason for Poirot to buy an apartment nearby. Besides some other strangeness, according to Hastings, Poirot had a curious way of mentioning his brain, literally and quite regularly. Watson couldn’t come up with a name of another person who could mention “the little grey cells” in common speech. John honestly tried to imagine a conversation where “the little grey cells” could fit in; Hastings matter-of-factly stated, that the conversations in question included Poirot’s turning even more expressive, talking about his own self in third person, flapping hands, wiggling the moustache, asking questions like, ‘Can not you see how this is obvious?!’, and setting the stage for the final diatribe. Actually, the diatribe part was the personal favorite of Poirot’s; he managed to provide the criminals, as well as all the witnesses, prosecutors, and even police officers, with picturesque nervous breakdowns by means of speaking alone.
“Sherlock just loves shocking people with his remarks”, Lestrade attempted to complain, sipping his ‘Hellish brew’, as Japp kindly called his orange coffee.
“He doesn’t love that”, John stood up for his flatmate. “He just does not understand , that it is unethical—”
“—and does not care about the feelings of common people”, Lestrade muttered.
“—unless it was a chainsaw”, Sherlock continued talking in the background at this very moment — clearly of something unethical, not caring about the feelings of common people.
“I’m not sure that’s an example of successful drinking topic”, Poirot replied. “However, I do agree that if you use such a vulgar instrument—”
“Mr. Sherlock Holmes, in this case, is quite merciful”, Hasting stated to that accompaniment in a philosophical and extremely polite tone.
“MERCIFUL?!” Lestrade choked on his drink
“Do tell me, Inspector”, Hastings asked, his eyes glittering with a hint of unexpected madness, “is Mr. Holmes fond of gathering all the suspects in one room, praising the cinerea, telling out loud all the darkest secrets of each of the gathered individuals from the innocents up to the criminals, and leaving the announcement of the case solution to the very final of his speech, so that the audience is granted a plenty of time for repenting, weeping, trying to murder each other, or attempting to commit suicide successfully?..”
Lestrade sank into a reverie for a moment.
“Looks like he doesn’t have such a habit”, he said slowly.
“Sounds merciful enough”, the captain concluded without a hint of irony in his voice.
The conversation on mercy and cinerea wondrously fit in the background talks of the two sleuths.
“The results from the coroner won’t arrive until noon”, Sherlock admitted, seemingly absorbed with the process of destroying the cloud of whipped cream in his coffee with a tip of a teaspoon.
“Don’t hasten the events”, Poirot replied suavely. “However, it seems to me that detecting blood type in this case is no longer our priority. I would bring your attention to the rather amusing fact of such a neat separation of vertebrae—”
“I do prefer developing the theme of cuisine at the moment. Shall we, gentlemen?” Hastings asked with grim sincerity.
“I've always been astonished by Poirot’s obsession with all sorts of strangest syrups”, Japp shuddered. Hastings visibly relaxed at the change of the topic in favour of the more appetizing one. “He’s quite a fan of blackcurrant syrup, for example: I bet he could consume the damned thing in its pure form—”
Judging by how suddenly Japp shut up, the good Captain Hastings kicked the DI under the table, indicating that such an open and aggressive criticizing someone else's tastes might seem a bit awkward.
“Russians have a cocktail which is based on this specific ingredient”, Sherlock suddenly cut in. Nobody really expected him to pay the attention to this line of conversation, so that looked a lot more awkward than Japp’s remarks. “It’s called ‘Freedom’”.
“Yes, Russians do have an ability to notice the romance of the most simple things”, the Belgian admitted thoughtfully, with a nostalgic mist in his eyes. “However, the mentioned ‘Freedom’ is indeed a simple one and is considered a ladies' drink”.
“A simple one?” Lestrade chuckled disbelievingly.
“A ladies’ drink?” Hastings started up.
“Pour two tablespoons of blackcurrant syrup in a double-shot glass—” the detective began his tale.
“—and top up with vodka”, Sherlock finished in offensively ordinary tone, while drawing something on a napkin. “Sometimes they add ice cubes. Sometimes they don’t”.
“Easy cake”, Lestrade grunted.
“Quite a ladies’ drink, indeed”, Hastings murmured.
Poirot smiled to his thoughts and courtly changed the topic of conversation to the lovely theme of rigor mortis, which only contributed to John’s confidence in detective’s experience exchange being frightfully successful.
The dessert appeared to be the most beautiful point of their meeting. When the waitress brought a cup of cocoa with marshmallows for the Belgian sleuth, Japp measured Poirot with a sad stare and called him a pervert with some incredible tenderness in his voice. Poirot calmly wiped a heap of sweet froth off his moustache and announced proudly that he, for example, does not teach the English how to use their pudding. The polite but eloquent pause that followed Poirot’s words made Lestrade and Japp snicker. Watson had been halfway through his tiramisu by that moment, and he almost choked on his spoon at the sight of the blond waitress that loomed in the background. The young Valkyrie was staring at a speck of marshmallows’ foam on Poirot’s moustache with the dreary hunger of vampire who had experienced long centuries of fasting.
“Truth to be told, gentlemen, I do have an idea”, Poirot said, carefully wiping his mustache with a napkin. Watson fancied a disappointed sigh from the Reichstag blonde. “I suppose young monsieur ‘Olmes can understand the course of my thoughts…”
“It’s Sherlock”, the young monsieur Holmes in question put in, fiercely typing something via his smartphone.
“Ah, ma faute”, the Belgian smiled knowingly. “You do not want to — generalize, do you?”
“I knew it”, Sherlock said happily to no one in particular, not looking up from his phone.
The way both policemen shifted after this remark could be worth a ballad.
The conversation was inevitably shifting to a level unavailable for normal people.
“Let me assume your approach for the whole situation is gloomier than the situation actually is”, Poirot smiled. “But if we are right, monsieur Sherlock, — and we are right, trust old Poirot, — then no disaster can keep us from following the lead”.
Sherlock snorted derisively.
Hastings put his cup aside cautiously.
Sherlock’s mobile buzzed impassively.
“Got it”, the world’s only consulting detective grinned.
“Check, please, mademoiselle Margo”, the equally unique Belgian sleuth smiled, nodding to the grim waitress.
“Told you they’ll get along”, Japp snorted quietly, elbowing Lestrade . “I wish you witnessed how the old devil solved the case once, without even leaving his armchair…”
Sherlock by that time had already left the table and now was bandaging a scarf around his neck while trying to put his coat on using only one hand. John could bet that was the most eager version of his friend he could witness recently. And John could swear that the eyes of Poirot, who was regarding Sherlock with a sly smile, were greener than before.
This is the chapter, where the British Government sleeps, the French is spoken, and the solution is near.
Have I already told you I'm lacking a beta?
Meet another very foreign part of translation; I almost hate myself for too many scientific details I wrote in the original Russian text xD
On behalf of the storyteller, let me allow you the access to a peaceful, but classified piece of information: the British Government, contrary to popular belief, still sleeps sometimes. The problem is that he often sleeps at the most inconvenient time and in the most unpredictable places. Do keep it secret, just out of courtesy and patriotism, please.
At that very moment, when some peculiar detectives were communicating elsewhere, the British Government was very much asleep. The Government’s assistant was quietly wandering barefoot around the safe house, brewing her tea, chatting with the chief of security on the weather and the situation in the Middle East. Mycroft Holmes, also known as the British Government in question, the man with a mad brother and iron self-control, was peacefully examining another episode of his current REM cycle. Given the fact that he was doing that on the couch more suitable for a psychotherapists’ sitting room (in fact, “a private therapist’s flat” was the safe house’s cover story) the view was quite impressive.
In a situation where the British Government was asleep, the assistant was shutting all the incoming calls down and giving the curt replies that Mr. Holmes was busy with some vital process at the moment, so ‘we are aware of your contact information, so he will call you back shortly.’ The phrase about being aware of the contact information, expressed by means of dry bureaucratic language of text messages, looked particularly menacing.
The British Government’s assistant would not allow herself to answer the phone calls, while her boss was asleep — unless, of course, it wasn’t a call from his brother, or his mother, or the head of the local cell of the Russian mafia, or…
The communicator screen blinked invitingly. The girl smiled, quietly put her cup of tea aside, and picked the phone.
She whispered in order not to wake her boss: “Je vous ai manqué, monsieur”.
Few minutes before that phrase John Watson had been in the middle of a scientific discovery. It appeared that if two mentally unstable geniuses were locked in one room, the degree of their madness became almost bearable for common people. The rule worked even in such loony bin-alike areas as Baker Street, 221b. John shared the view with Japp, who stayed to accompany them ‘just to enjoy the play’, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson, who was watching the Belgian with the facial expression, clearly indicating she could have kissed him right then and there. John could understand her motivations.
John had never seen Sherlock Holmes so utterly neutralized.
It looked like the presence of Poirot switched on some filtering mode in Sherlock’s speech. After several harsh and almost offensive phrases, which seemed to be their analogues of system failures, the British detective and the Belgian detective finally synchronized their communicating process. For the first time in a long time, Sherlock was too busy chatting to spar with Lestrade. For the first time in a long time he did not have to explain anything; he didn’t need to simplify his words to his interlocutor. And, what was most important, it was probably the first time in his entire life when Sherlock was speaking to a man of similar intellectual power, and yet it was neither his brother nor a megalomaniac.
It was mesmerizing.
And, apparently, Sherlock was the one who was mesmerized the most.
They had come to the Baker Street without actually aiming to achieve that particular point. John remembered their endless chatting about the victim, the victim’s identity, blood type, location, position. John couldn’t describe even to himself Mrs. Hudson’s glee: the landlady seemed completely charmed by Captain Hastings. The latter helped John with tea, while Poirot was dictating a list of peculiar questions for the coroner to Lestrade, and Sherlock was drawing a diagram of sawing off a human head for Japp. Apparently, that was the closest to the perfectly peaceful state this flat had ever known.
While the police officers were busy exterminating Mrs. Hudson’s cupcakes the detectives hunched over John’s laptop. Their further dialogue, when perceived out of context, could be included in psychiatry textbooks, as a classic example of schizophasia. The content of human logic in it was about the same as in the average text of David Bowie’s song.
“…the journal of visits — well, yes, especially in the context of their blood.”
“C'est ça. I’ll never get tired of being amazed by human short-sightedness.”
“Why do they always think they are smarter, I wonder?”
“Instinctive naïveté in general characterizes most of the God's creatures, so let us forgive him, and try to catch him red-handed. Look, The Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, how cute. The second address is also registered to him, isn’t it, monsieur Sherlock?”
“Looks like this building’s under construction.”
“Then the answer to the saw question is many easier”.
“Much easier, you mean.”
“Oh. Do forgive my habits”.
“So, you were not kidding about the Russian dictionary, then.”
“Do not litter your head, just mind that any advantages are easily hidden by the smallest of disadvantages… Oh, look, there’s a bank across the road. This gets better and better.”
“We need the data from CCTV”, Sherlock murmured. Detective’s face looked almost inhuman in the bluish glow of the laptop screen. “Hm. It will take time to crack—”
“Do not act so impulsively,” Poirot said softly, patting Sherlock on the shoulder. “If we have a skeleton key, we don’t need to knock the door down, mon ami. I can arrange… a couple of copies, almost legally. Would you give me a minute?”
Sherlock put down the laptop and stared curiously at the detective.
“Hastings”, Poirot said, “please, allow me to use your cell phone.”
John tried to suppress his snort so hard that he almost choked on air. Obviously, some things, such as paranoia and a habit to use the companion, as a sovereign territory for the storage of communications, were the common symptoms of the private investigators. Hastings fumbled in his pockets, handed his communicator to Poirot, and sat back in John’s armchair. Captain (as John himself) was being very quiet during the latest quarter of an hour, like he was a part of grateful audience in the front row of the theatre, and he had obviously abandoned any attempts to comment on the situation.
To John, such behaviour was a paragon of the real wisdom gained by long experience.
Poirot somehow looked very comical with a modern cell phone in his hands. The view would seem anachronistic, if the detective movements weren’t that quick and precise. These were the movements of a person who thought of progress as of a necessary evil and decided to tame that evil and use it for his own purposes. The detective frowned, twitching his m0ustache, and quickly dialled the number. “Bonjour, ma fille,” he said, smiling at his unseen companion.
Sherlock grunted approvingly.
“No hackers this time, I hope”, Japp sighed wearily.
With a condescending sneer the Belgian slightly raised his eyebrows, not caring to interrupt his speech with any explanation. John did not understand a word of French, but he noted an interesting fact: in his native language Poirot was speaking about three times faster and sounded several tones lower, which turned his speech into a lively, but unreadable continuous cooing.
“Hackers?” Lestrade mouthed incredulously.
Japp rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Long story”, Captain Hastings said quietly. “But, in a nutshell… You see, Poirot and I aren’t the people whose age and social status allows us to chase criminals on the roofs…”
Sherlock produced a sound that John decided to be a strangled laugh.
“My friend had never been inclined to physically chasing anyone, though”. Hastings sighed nostalgically. “Poirot does not like to run. But he likes to be within reach of the people who run for him, if you see what I mean”.
Sherlock produced the same sound.
“His, as he put it, reliable friends cracked for him the Blackberry users database”, Japp said reluctantly, patted Lestrade, who was choking on tea at the news, and finished with a sigh: “He promises he won’t need more hacking of this scale for his researches — as long as there is no urgent need, naturally. See, people just do things for him, even weirder stuff. Kind of like a favour done, you see. I bet we owe to his ‘reliable friends’ the fact, that the incident with Blackberry didn’t get in papers”.
“Ma chère”, Poirot was purring in the meantime. “Envoyez ces informations à jeune monsieur Holmes, s'il vous plaît ... Oui. Oui, comme ça.”
“I knew it from the start”, Sherlock said, glancing at the Belgian with a sort of abnormal joy and satisfaction.
“Check your inbox, mon ami”, Poirot smiled serenely, and returned to the conversation, which had clearly moved into the category of informal by that moment.
Sherlock continued to smile, while he was opening the mail. From John’s perspective, that was most disturbing; predatory but joyful sneers like that one were strongly associated with Sherlock’s working on some particularly bloody affairs.
John didn’t know that somewhere on the other side of London, without opening his eyes or indicating his being awake, Mycroft Holmes said in a steady even voice: “Send him my respect”.
“Moment, s'il vous plaît,” Mycroft’s assistant murmured, covered the speaker with her hand and said quietly: “He met Sherlock. Shall we do anything in this regard?”
Mycroft opened his eyes, looked at the ceiling, apparently, found something that was able to give him all the answers there, and closed his eyes again. “If there is no need in my personal interference in their activities, set up a meeting at ‘Dame Agatha’ as soon as possible,” he answered the ceiling and the assistant. “No Sherlock, of course”.
“And tell von Nebelgrau to withdraw her snipers from the perimeter — and arrange some marzipans for the evening. Let her know, I am most interested in… the results of the mutual influence”.
Oh yeah, the British Government’s assistant thought.
The marzipans were particularly important in the context. Of course.
This is the chapter, where everything is explained.
No beta, NO BETA, I warned you! Mind I could have missed some typos, as well as grammar mistakes, because me iz foreign. Do forgive me. I hope the strangeness of my English speech won’t spoil everything; enjoy the reading :3
P.S.: There are some “easter eggs” for true Agatha Christie fans here, aye ^_^
Dull blue shimmer of the video footage from a surveillance camera was oddly reflected in the bright eyes of younger Holmes, as he and Poirot were explaining the others the details of the case. It was a bloody story, told by real evidence, small inconsistencies, and dispassionate data. The body with severed head they had found that morning was already the third in a row. The blood type matched the previous precedents accurately, as did the fact of traces of freezing of the body tissues, and the distance between the body and the head. That was too much to be a coincidence. “A game of vampires and warlocks”, marking the body location on a map of London, Poirot explained condescendingly.
“Idiots”, Sherlock nodded.
According to the map, the bodies of the victims were already starting to chalk out a circle. The severed heads were clearly pointing to the same centre. The killer was clearly planning a pompous tour of murders.
“The funny thing is that he had no sensible motive”, Sherlock chuckled.
“From his point of view, his actions make perfect sense”. Poirot's eyes narrowed.
Nobody could give reasons for the fact that the police managed to dismiss the fact that all the victims had had the same physician. The murders were crazy, daring, insane. It was virtually impossible to find the threads of logic in them. Thinking a bit wider wasn’t enough for spotting the connections. These crimes required thinking in a different coordinate system.
“Beheaded bodies, especially twice in a row — a ritual murder, obviously”, Sherlock stated, wandering around the room like a whirlwind, looking for where he had put his own scarf.
“The blood type match could only be known by a person, related to medicine”, Poirot added, following Sherlock and slowly putting in order and symmetry everything the younger detective had managed to scatter. Mrs. Hudson was watching him with a kind of a lovestruck nervous tic.
“All we had to do is to check on their physicians”, Sherlock said, finally digging up a scarf from a sofa. “Simple. Lestrade, how long will it take you to get a search warrant? We have some… almost legal video evidence of the crimes of our little mad doctor. In any case, we have a clear view of his face from CCTV; we can link his visits to his second apartment to the dates of the murders; and we can nail this case with a plain search warrant. I bet we’ll find traces of blood. Simple as that: let's arrest him before he decides to make some more bodies form an amusing geometric shape on the map of our dear capital city.”
“But how—” Japp started.
“How — did he manage to kill them without being noticed? On his duty hours, quietly and without rush. Check his schedule, by the way. He killed them, he hid the bodies in plain sight, in the morgue — hence the traces of frost in tissues. Then he drove to his inhabited apartment, managed some kind of ritual, cut off the heads…” Sherlock put on his coat and began to tie a scarf without stopping his wandering around the flat, which made him desperately dashing for a working model of perpetual motion. “Or, did you mean — how did he choose them? By the blood type. My first guess was that he was selling their organs. Or — how did he—”
“Sherlock”, Lestrade winced, “slow down, I'm calling the prosecutor already…”
“Inspector”, Sherlock turned sharply to DI Japp, who was clearly getting pleasure from what was happening, “let's go to the creepy house of our evil doctor, we’ve got all the necessary evidence…”
John inappropriately grinned at the thought about how much fun it would be if Poirot taught Sherlock how to pronounce ‘Allons-y!’
“Indeed, Japp”, Poirot smiled. His version of DI’s surname sounded much softer than the right one. “Go with the young monsieur Holmes; I’m sure we can arrange all the needed paperwork with DI Lestrade…” Lestrade’s surname was more like ‘Le stra-a-a…’ without a clear ending, which also sounded unusually lush. “We’ll catch up with you later. Do not waste your time.”
When the police officers and Sherlock had left (or rather, considering the speed of Sherlock’s movement, escaped), and Mrs. Hudson marched to her apartment, Poirot put his finger to his lips and nodded to something behind John’s back. The doctor turned around and noticed that captain Hastings, who had recently dropped out of the conversation, was quietly dozing, his head on his chest. John felt a warm feeling of genuine sympathy blossoming in his heart, while he was questioning himself about how often it was him who fell asleep in this very armchair, probably in a similar position, right in the middle of Sherlock’s noisy inspirational speech…
“Maybe we should bring him a blanket”, John said softly, gently removing the cup and saucer from Hastings’ hands.
“Let's just get out”, Poirot said quietly. “Let him catch on some dreams, shall we? He’s suffering from insomnia these days…”
“Just like you”, Watson blurted out automatically before he managed to restrain himself.
The detective smiled disarmingly at John’s embarrassment. John could not help stating facts his own education and profession made him notice. He could not help seeing a patient within the detective. Poirot was slightly limp. Poirot was not the most mobile man in London. John could notice the symptoms of arthritis, the preconditions for heart failure, the clear signs of severe insomnia. There was no doubt that Poirot was John’s potential customer, as captain Hastings was clearly going to be one, as well. Their mutual insomnia of was the brightest symptom in the bunch. And Watson’s judgements, slightly adjusted thanks to his sister and Mrs. Hudson, couldn’t allow John thinking of other reasons for it, besides the—
“Your mind is working in admirably predictable way, my dear doctor Watson”, Poirot smiled, obviously guessing John’s thoughts. Watson shuddered: it suddenly dawned on him, that the softness of the accent had disappeared from the Belgian’s speech completely. The detective was speaking a perfect, flawless King’s English. It was almost unsettling. “You know, in our times, it’s almost funny to assume that two adult single men can share one apartment without actually being involved with each other. However, you’re in a similar situation — am I right?”
“You have just spoken with an accent”, Watson stated completely out of place.
“Mais oui — a funny foreigner with a strange accent and ridiculous manners will be inevitably treated as the funny foreigner he seems to be.” The detective snorted in quite feline way. He picked up the cup and saucer from John’s hands, put them on the kitchen table, aligned them with respect to salt cellars in clearly instinctive gesture, and continued without a smile: “Keep it simple, doctor; do not look for hidden subtexts in our relationship with Hastings, or in your relationship with your ingenious friend. You should understand: everything is much better when it is simple and old-fashioned.”
“How long have you been… together?” John asked cautiously.
Poirot's eyes narrowed for a second. “For twenty-one year already, I suppose”, he said thoughtfully. And smiled again: “But, once you feel like drawing parallels and trying to predict what your life can turn into with the young monsieur Holmes in it… Well. I beg you, do not spoil everything with inventing some difficult choice.”
“I beg you par—”
“Hastings was happily married once, Dr. Watson. This did not prevent him from getting involved in the most improbable scrapes with your humble servant”. Poirot absently straightened the kettle on the stove. “On the other hand, Hercule Poirot has never been tied with matrimonial obligations not due to some fashionable reasons. I would rather call it a professional loneliness.”
“You consider affection’s dangerous.”
“Oh, no. It's much simpler, Dr. Watson”. The Belgian’s eyes were dark and cold, like water under the ice. “I'm a detective. A sleuth. I notice too much. I’ve met wives who killed their husbands, professional gamblers, hackers, suicide bombers, thieves, spies… The only woman who made me lose my head was a criminal, too. I cannot switch off my brain. I can’t help thinking, observing, and drawing conclusions. This keeps me away from normal private life.”
‘I cannot switch off my brain’ was such an accurate quote from Sherlock, that John could not help smiling. “Well, what’s about captain Hastings?” the doctor asked. “Why is he— oh, sorry, stupid question.”
“No, I will not be offended if you ask why he’s still around.” The little Belgian told Watson’s thought out loud, almost literally. “It would be wise to ask him, not me. And I'd rather see his friendship as a gift from God, if you're not shocked by my choice of words.”
Watson almost wanted to ask why these two men, who had obviously known each other for a very long time, still managed to address each other by surname. But John somehow spotted the obvious solution. Hastings and Poirot were elder. Different age, different era, different attitude. If Poirot called his friend ‘Arthur’, that would be just irrespective.
“Would you accept my advice?” the detective asked.
“A gusty young man, like Sherlock Holmes, needs a fuse”, Poirot said quietly. “Without the fuse he will burn out, in spades. Do you understand me?”
Watson recalled the blackest moods of Sherlock, bordering manic depressive episodes. Nicotine patches. Running around on rooftops. Explosions, poisonings, heads in the fridge, eyes in the microwave, refusing to eat and to sleep… “Oh yes, I do”, John said with feeling.
“Bon”, the Belgian replied, concisely and seriously.
John could see Poirot’s feline eyes were smiling.
_ _ _
A week later, John found Sherlock standing near the wall in front of the mirror, staring off into space with unblinking eyes. Cumbersome and old-fashioned business card of the ‘Dame Agatha’, dotted with inscriptions, including an emergency number of a private snipers squad, Poirot’s e-mail, and a peculiar signature of Margaret von Nebelgrau, was pinned to the wallpaper, next to a photograph from the latest case they had solved. John quietly put the jacket on the chair, walked to the kitchen and turned the kettle on. And asked himself how many seconds exactly it would take Sherlock to —
“John, how do you feel about a visit to a place with calorie pastries, hot coffee, and the sniper waitress recruited by Mycroft?”
Thirty-two seconds, John thought with a smile, turning off the kettle and answering aloud: “Positive”.
He somehow felt that Sherlock Holmes had no chance of getting bored these days.