John was well and truly tired of being questioned by American police. They were unfailingly polite of course, and efficient, but he couldn't miss where their interest lay. He was the very first person they spoke to, the green room becoming an impromptu interrogation room. He was just grateful he'd had the presence of mind to tuck the gun away into one of the equipment cases before the police arrived.
"Are you sure you didn't sign for the money and then forget?"
"Mistakes happen. I'm sure if the money were to reappear, there'd be no questions asked."
"Mr Watson, could this be some sort of prank?"
"Mr Watson, is there anyone who might have something against you?
That last was the easiest to answer.
The idea of an obsessed stalker might seem far-fetched to a logical mind when such an obvious option as a cash-strapped new manager was standing right in front of them. Nevertheless, Sherlock retrieved the stalker's notes and repeated his own theories to the detective. Maybe she was more interested in them than the Portland police, or maybe she was just being polite. John didn't really care. Of course he was a logical first person of interest. It was his name on the receipt. His handwriting.
He pulled Sherlock away as soon as the police were done with both of them. "What do you think?" he asked.
"They seem competent enough," Sherlock said. "Not that it will help. He's far cleverer than that."
"Whose side are you on, anyway?" John folded his arms in front of him, then lifted a hand to gnaw at one of his cuticles for a moment before stopping himself.
Sherlock just gave him a look. "Don't be stupid. Of course I'm not on his side."
"You just sound like you admire him, is all."
"John, are—are you jealous?"
"Of course not."
"Good, because I'd hate to imagine you being jealous of my stalker, for God's sake."
"Now who's being stupid?"
Sherlock caught John's arm as John tried to turn away. "Is this still because I said he was attractive? Because there is a difference, you realise, between saying 'he's attractive' in the general sense and 'I think he's attractive' in the specific sense."
John met Sherlock's eyes for a moment, then sighed and rubbed at the back of his neck. "I'm sorry. This is just—what the hell is this, anyway?"
"It seems fairly straightforward," Sherlock said. "By taking the money, he can cast suspicions on all of us—"
"Or just me."
"—if he wants—or he can make sure you get fired and sent back to Britain."
"So we find him and get the money back."
"I don't know if it will be that easy," Sherlock said. "Not until we figure out what his endgame is."
"You know what his endgame is, Sherlock. It's you."
By the time they got to bed, it was nearly daybreak. When John crawled into bed next to Sherlock, they reached for one another, arms and legs twining. John nuzzled against Sherlock's shoulder, pressing his face against warm skin, breathing in Sherlock's scent. They kissed at first with open, gasping mouths, John tangling both hands in Sherlock's hair. He felt Sherlock stirring against his inner thigh and closed his eyes with a sigh, mind unfocused and hazy. He was so warm, and it was so comfortable curled against Sherlock. When Sherlock dragged his open mouth against John's cheek, John couldn't help it: he yawned.
It was contagious. "Damn it, John—" Sherlock's words were cut off as he covered his mouth against his upper arm, hands still on John's back.
John nuzzled at Sherlock's neck. "Sorry, 'm sorry. Make it up to you?"
Sherlock grumbled through a second yawn. He reached across John with one long arm and turned out the light. "Get some sleep."
They got barely three hours of sleep, then John had to face the one thing he dreaded most about the day: calling Harry. He couldn't really put it off any longer; she'd be expecting the bank deposit soon. While Sherlock was packing for the short train ride to San Jose, John dialled his phone.
"John! I wasn't expecting to hear from you until tomorrow. Aren't you supposed to be on a train right now?" Harry sounded bright and alert—of course, she would, it was after three PM in London.
"No, not until later. There might be a change in plans. We, ah, had another incident last night." John had thought this conversation out completely, starting with how he'd convince Harry not to sack him on the spot.
"Oh god. Is everyone all right?"
"We're fine," John said. "We're all fine. It wasn't like that."
"Harry... there's been a miscommunication." John licked his lips and glanced at Sherlock, who was watching him steadily.
"John. You're freaking me out a little. Just tell me."
"We think that this guy—the stalker—we think he stole the money from last night's show." John took a breath and plunged on before Harry could respond. "The merch money is fine. And the theatre owner says he'll reissue the check for the bulk of it, but... our part of the bar take is gone. The police are working on it. We've got a few ideas of our own too. We'll get it back. We just need... time."
There was silence for a long moment, long enough that John fought the urge to squirm.
"Christ," Harry said. "How bad? How much did we lose?"
"...just over five thousand dollars."
Harry whistled. "Ah, Johnny. I can't cover that up."
"I know, Harry. I'd never ask you to."
"We've sacked tour managers for less," she said.
"I know. I've heard."
Harry was quiet for another moment. "I'm going to ask you this, and I want you to think before you answer."
John frowned. "Okay..."
"I know you're keeping Sherlock on a pretty close watch. How close—well, we've heard a few rumours seeping out. Which is fine, honestly. I'm not surprised if they're true. You're my brother and I love you. But, I have to ask: is there any chance he's slipping? I mean, he asked us to cut his per diem to next to nothing, he froze his accounts; he's deliberately short on cash this trip. Is there any chance, any at all, that he's desperate enough to—"
"What? No! No, of course not." John refused to look at Sherlock, instead chewing his bottom lip. "No, there are witnesses."
Harry sighed. "How much time do you need?"
"A day or two?" John said.
"I can give you twenty-four hours, then I have to tell my boss. I'm sorry John, but if it's not back by then..."
"I know. I'm sorry. I hope none of this comes back to bite you." And that was the hell of it really: this didn't just affect John. Who knew what this might do to Harry's career?
"Me too," Harry said. "Call me tomorrow. Let me know what's going on." She rang off, leaving John looking at his phone.
"She thinks I took it, doesn't she?" Sherlock was folding a pair of trousers for his suitcase.
"That's the same thing you said to her," Sherlock said, one corner of his mouth twitching. "You're a horrible liar."
John sighed. "I'm sorry."
"I'd think the same, if I were in her shoes," Sherlock said. He was smiling, but there was an edge to it. "She knew me then, John. You didn't. Six months ago? It could have been me. Hell. Even three months ago."
"Hey." John tossed his mobile on the bed and went to him, putting his arms around Sherlock's waist. "That's not you now." Sherlock was tense for a moment, then relaxed, wrapping his arms around John in return.
"No. Not now." They were quiet a moment, breathing together. "Thank you," Sherlock said.
"For what?" John tilted his head just enough to look up at him.
"Trusting me." Sherlock pressed his lips to John's forehead in a gesture so uncharacteristic that John frowned. "I love you," Sherlock said.
"You all right?"
Sherlock chuckled, "I believe the customary response is 'I love you too'."
He sighed. "I'd like you to teach me." Sherlock rested his chin on John's shoulder. John wondered if it was so Sherlock wouldn't have to look at him. "The other day, in the park... when that man grabbed my wrist I—I panicked. I've had self-defence instruction. I've studied it. I should have known what to do, and I... just drew a total blank."
"Did you practice what you learnt before?" John asked, as gently as he could.
"That's why you drill. So that when the time comes to use it, you don't have to think." John tugged Sherlock away from him enough to look at Sherlock's face. "I can try. We've got a few more hours before you have to catch the train." The thought of being apart—being forced apart—made John uneasy.
"I still wish—"
"I'll be down later this afternoon, I promise," John said. "Someone needs to stay here to keep working with the police, and unfortunately, my name is on that receipt." His arms tightened around Sherlock. "You'll be fine. Let's go see how much you can learn in a few hours."
The hotel gym was empty thanks to some sweet-talking from John: the machines silent, the television in the corner off. The polished wood floor gleamed. Sherlock eyed it and gave John a dubious look. "Shouldn't there be a mat or something?"
"No," said John. "You're not going to throw me, and I'm not going to throw you. This is much more basic than that."
"Why not just teach me to shoot?"
"Uh, no," John said. "First of all, you don't have a gun—" he raised his hand when Sherlock opened his mouth to speak "—and you're not getting a gun. Second of all, there's no time for you to learn how to shoot properly. You'd likely be the one getting shot when it got taken away from you." He folded his arms. "Any other questions?"
"No, not yet."
"The first thing to remember is this: don't be a hero. Your only goal is to get away. So anything I show you is to do just that. Break free, and incapacitate enough to get away. Nothing else. Got it?"
John said, "If you want to make someone lose interest in you in a hell of a hurry, you want to aim for the eyes, the nose, the throat, or the groin." Sherlock winced and John nodded. "Exactly. You're not trying to play nice here, Sherlock. If someone's coming after you, you fight dirty." He demonstrated, swinging a hand slowly up towards Sherlock's face, fingers out. Sherlock barely blinked, focused with an intensity John hadn't seen anywhere except the stage. "You want to jab at the eyes, or at the throat. Aim is tricky, but if you hit, it's effective as hell." Another swing, flat palm forward. "Flat of your hand against the nose—you've got a good chance of breaking it. And as to the groin," John gave a faint grin, "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that any sort of hit will work, but grab, twist, and pull generally works best."
Sherlock didn't so much as twitch the corner of his mouth. "Anything else?"
"Well, sure—anything that's soft and exposed will do. But remember, you're not in this for the whole fight. Incapacitate, and run."
Sherlock nodded. "How do I—"
In one smooth movement, John reached his left arm across and grabbed Sherlock by his wrist. Then had to duck when a set of long fingers came jabbing at his eyes. John grinned up at Sherlock, having to swallow around a burst of pride. "Well done, that."
"Too slow," Sherlock said, frowning. "And you're still holding on to me."
"Still, the instinct was a good one. Now, speaking of this," he nodded at his hand on Sherlock's wrist, "the mugger, yeah? This was what he did." John watched Sherlock carefully for any sign of fear, instead Sherlock looked thoughtful. John tightened his fingers and continued. "All right. The weakest point of any hold is right here." With his free hand John pointed at the place where his thumb and forefinger met. "Take advantage of it. I'll show you." He let go of Sherlock and put Sherlock's hand around his wrist. "Hold on tight." Sherlock did, and with a few twists of his arm, John was free.
"Show me again," Sherlock demanded. John did. They went back and forth several times, Sherlock watching intently, then practising breaking free himself. After a few rounds, Sherlock stopped. "John. There's a way out of this, you know."
"I know," said John. "I'm showing you. We can probably move on to—"
"No. I mean, I could get the money."
John released his wrist. "Sherlock, I can't ask that you—"
"Not me," Sherlock said. "I'm a junkie, remember? I made sure all of my assets were locked up tight. Less temptation." He took a quick breath, and John could see the lines of strain on his forehead and around his eyes. "Mycroft."
"Five thousand is nothing to him, literally nothing. We replace what's missing and—"
John shook his head. "I'm not taking any money from your brother." Bad enough I'm taking orders from him.
"Then don't. I will." Sherlock had a stubborn set to his jaw.
"No. I'm not going to be... beholden to anybody in your family. I'm just not."
"Do you remember that night in the green room, the first night you kissed me? How much did you hate me when you thought Mycroft had hired me? Do you really think that for five thousand dollars I won't come out of this owing him something?" John thought of the handgun tucked in the small of his back. I already owe him enough.
"You sound as if you know him." Sherlock's laugh was short and bitter. John took too long in answering. "Jesus. Do you?"
"Of course not. I've never met him." It wasn't a lie. John held on to that.
Sherlock's expression softened, looking almost uncertain. "I wish you were coming with us this morning."
"I know. I do too." John tried not to think about Sherlock being over an hour away by train. The thought made his gut clench. "But I can't always be right there with you—you don't need that, either. You'd hate it. Right now you're just spooked. That's all."
"Security blanket," Sherlock said, mouth twitching into a half-smile.
John fought a grin, "Yeah, well, try to tell me that I'm soft and cuddly and I'll have to hurt you."
"Security blanket and a lethal weapon," Sherlock amended. They looked at each other for a long moment, then both started laughing.
"You git." John stepped around and behind him. "Back to work, yeah?" He reached up and pulled Sherlock into a choke hold. Sherlock responded by pressing his hips tight back against John, wriggling just a little. "That is not—that is not what I'd recommend doing," said John a little breathless.
"It'd be a distraction, at least?"
"Yes, it's very distracting. Now stop."
Sherlock, for a wonder, stopped. That alone said a lot about his state of mind. "Now," John said, reestablishing the hold he had around Sherlock's neck, "the key here is to shift the leverage in your favour..."
Six of them were gathered around a tiny table in the coffee shop next to the hotel, everyone clutching paper takeaway cups of caffeinated liquid of some variety. Sherlock sprawled in his chair, muscles a little rubbery from the unexpected workout. Despite John's assertion that mats weren't needed, he and John had wound up spilling on the floor more than once as Sherlock tried to figure out some of the hold breaks. He didn't know about John, but he suspected his own arse would be sore in a few hours from landing on the hardwood floor.
"John, what are we going to do?" Molly leaned against Greg as she spoke, and he slipped an arm around her. "They can't just sack you."
"They can and they will," said Sally, looking grim.
"But it's not John's fault!"
"Doesn't matter to them, love," Greg said.
"Maybe not my fault, but it was my responsibility," John said.
"I still don't understand," Anderson said. "Why would this guy do something like this? I mean, wouldn't he want to keep on Sherlock's good side?"
"He thinks he's doing me a favour," Sherlock said, taking a long swallow of too-strong coffee. "As far as he's concerned, John is a liability, and I'm too blind to see it."
"So what do we do?" asked Molly. "Can't we—I don't know—take up a collection? Something? I have a little bit saved, I could—"
John smiled. "Molly, that's sweet, but—"
"You can't just go home!" Molly said. "We need you here. Sherlock's so much nicer when you're around—um, I mean."
"I know I'm a dick, Molly, it's all right," Sherlock said.
"You managed to deal with him for a long time before I came around," John said, not looking at Sherlock. Sherlock let his hand slip off the back to John's chair to rest against John's lower back, thumb circling.
"To hell with him, what about me?" Greg said. "We gotta keep you working, John. I've done your job before and I'm not in a big fucking hurry to do again, I can tell you." He grinned, but it went nowhere near his eyes.
"I think they should make Sally do it this time," Anderson said. "I had to do all the set up by myself before and that was a pain in the arse."
"Oi," said Sally. "You're not the only one who gets a little busy before a show, you know."
John laughed and raised his hands. "Hey. I'm overwhelmed by the love, really, but I'm still here, okay?"
"For now," Sherlock said, resting his elbow on the table and sinking his chin to his fist.
"Maybe we really could take up a collection," Molly said, sitting up. "At the show. We'll put out collection jars, yeah? It's for a good cause..."
"We could auction off a date with Sherlock," Sally said.
"No." John and Sherlock spoke simultaneously.
"Wouldn't raise enough money," Greg said. "Everybody else knows he's a dick too."
Ideas—most of them bad—flew back and forth until Greg looked at his watch. "We should be headed to the train station soon. Meet in the hotel lobby in fifteen, all right?" Chairs scraped across wood floors as they stood to go.
"I'll be in San Jose in time for soundcheck," John said. Sherlock's luggage was ready and waiting by the hotel room door. John's belongings were still scattered over the room. They were standing by the door, arms around each other. "Less than six hours. Think you can survive?"
"Mm, I don't know." Sherlock leaned down and kissed him. He grinned, but John didn't believe it, especially not with Sherlock's next words. "Twenty hours left before Harry makes her report."
"We'll figure something out," John said. "If the—if the money doesn't turn up, then... well, it's not like can forcibly send me home, can they? We'll have a little time—"
Sherlock tightened his arms and lowered his chin to John's shoulder. "I don't want 'a little time'."
"I know. I don't either." They held on to each other, John feeling each breath Sherlock took. Reluctantly, John broke the silence. "Be careful. Don't go anywhere alone, yeah?" When Sherlock nodded, John continued, "I've told Greg a little of what to look for, but mostly just—stay with someone."
"John, it'll be all right."
"You can't know that," John said, feeling something snap inside him. "There is someone out there who wants to hurt you, and he might have found the perfect way to get me out of the way. Sherlock, he's been planning this since the beginning."
They looked at each other. "I know," said Sherlock.
"Whatever he wants, he's going to try for it today. I don't think he'll wait to see if I leave the country."
"I know," repeated Sherlock. "I hadn't—I was trying not to think about it, I guess."
John laughed, a harsh-edged sound. "Well that says it all. He's got you trying not to think." He leaned up and kissed Sherlock hard, sliding his hand up and around the back of Sherlock's neck. At first he'd intended it as a goodbye, a simple parting of the ways, but fear set in—dread, a sense of loss—and suddenly John couldn't kiss him deeply enough, as if he could climb inside and stay there, always be there whenever Sherlock might need him.
There was a knock at the door, then Greg's voice. "Sherlock, we need to go."
John let him go, drawing his hands away as if he could delay the passage of time by how slowly he moved. "Be careful," he repeated. "Don't go anywhere alone."
"I promise," Sherlock said, stealing one more kiss before opening the door. "I love you."
"I love you too."
The hotel in San Jose was in a dingy part of town. There were signs everywhere that the dot-com bubble had burst with particularly devastating effect in the neighbourhood—boarded-up buildings, vacant lots, half-finished housing developments. Sherlock checked in with the others and stayed with the group on the way up to their rooms.
Sherlock let Greg unlock the room door and then followed him in. "All right?" Greg asked.
Greg started giving the room a thorough inspection; it was nothing like John, the way he had moved through Irene's room that night in Detroit. This was clumsy, uncertain. "You're just being quiet, is all," Greg said.
"Enjoy it while it lasts," Sherlock said, managing a small grin. He emptied his pockets onto the dresser, then frowned. "Damn it. Where's my mobile?"
"Hm?" Greg flopped onto one of the beds. "I dunno—you had it on the train, because you kept texting John." He grinned. "You know that's kind of pathetic, right? You just saw him two hours ago."
"Shut up." Sherlock mentally retraced his steps. He had the phone in his hand when he stepped off the train—he remembered putting it in his pocket to reshoulder his bag. Had checked it again in the cab to the hotel—so it had gotten that far. "The front desk," he said. "I set it down as I was checking in." He started for the door, and Greg pulled himself up off the bed.
"Right, let's go look."
Sherlock sighed. "I think I'll be all right going down to the lobby."
"Yeah, but if you weren't, John would kill me, and I'm sure he knows some pretty painful ways to do it." Greg pushed Sherlock towards the door. "Come on, hurry up. We should have been at the club half an hour ago."
It only took a moment to find it, sitting on a corner of the reception counter. Sherlock frowned as he picked it up. He flipped it open and unlocked it. It was his; there was a message from John: Cleaning staff might have seen something. Talking to them shortly. Still frowning, Sherlock pocketed the mobile and nodded at Greg. "Thought I left it at the other end."
"Someone probably picked it up and thought it was theirs. You done?"
"Come on, let's get over there before Anderson decides the amps need rearranging again."
The bar was empty this early in the afternoon. Sherlock was tempted to rest his head on the table and take a nap, but he was too keyed up, despite the poor sleep from the night before. He held his guitar, not really playing, just plucking the strings tunelessly. When his mobile beeped, he grabbed for it, expecting John.
It was from an unknown number: —There. This is much better. Another beep. —Much easier to talk to you this way. Why didn't you give me your number before?
Sherlock paused before replying. —I had no way of contacting you.
—Very clever, leaving your phone where I could find it.
—Thought you'd still be in SF, keeping an eye on John. It was a lie.
—It was never him, you know that. I need to see you.
Sherlock looked at the clock on the wall. Just over three hours until soundcheck. Sixteen hours left to get the missing money. To keep John with him. He never hesitated. —You have something that belongs to me. I'd like to talk about that.
—Meet me, and we'll talk.
Three hours. That should be long enough. —Where?
The answer seemed to take forever. Sherlock put his guitar back in the case, and reached for his jacket. Finally, his phone beeped again—a street address in town, including which train route to take and which stop to use. It was followed by: —Tell anyone, and you'll never get it back.
Sherlock looked around the room for a moment and spotted a stack of napkins on the bar. He grabbed one and scribbled a note on it, and tucked the note into his guitar case with the guitar. He left the bar and wound his way through the empty main room of the club to the backstage area. Greg was talking to Molly about lighting cues, so Sherlock ducked behind a stack of equipment. He eased away backstage, then propped his guitar case up against the wall and slipped out the back door.
A few minutes later, Sherlock was headed down the sidewalk in the bright, crisp afternoon sunshine.
John fought the urge to slam his fist into the hotel room wall. This was getting him nowhere. Absolutely no one had seen anything unusual. Even if he pressed, asking specifically about a man with dark hair, he got nowhere. From the sounds of it, the police weren't having any more luck than he was, but at least they weren't quite so interested in him anymore.
He packed his things with a methodical speed born of practice and long necessity, opening the room safe last of all. The Sig Sauer and the ammo both went into his carry-on bag. If he made the next train, he should be at the club in time to help with set up. John looked at his phone and smiled at the last text he'd gotten earlier, presumably from the train: —Greg and Molly are snuggling. Please save me.
John debated calling. Ridiculous, since he'd be there within two hours.
The wind was brisk as Sherlock waited at the light rail stop. He shrugged deeper into his jacket and tried not to think about what he was doing. Or rather, he tried not to think about how it might go spectacularly wrong.
The train ride was a short one, taking him deeper into what might have been a posh neighbourhood once, full of houses so new the landscaping hadn't even completely grown in—houses now empty with weedy yards and 'for sale' signs out front. There was no one on the street: no one walking a dog, no kids playing in yards, no one getting home from work. It looked as if there was only one occupied house on the block: his destination, a pale stucco ranch that had seen better days. The shades were drawn tight. There was no sign out front, but there was a divot where a 'for sale' sign might once have stood.
Sherlock took a deep breath and walked up to the front door. After a moment's hesitation, he pressed the doorbell.
Whatever he'd been expecting, it was not the slight, dark-haired man who answered the door. Sherlock just stared at him. That face. He knew that face, but it was all wrong. It was—it was animated.
"Sherlock! I knew you'd come. I knew you would. Come in!" The voice was a soft tenor, with a hint of an Irish lilt. He swung the door wide, and Sherlock stepped through. The house was dark, blindingly dark after the sunshine outside. After a moment of blinking, he could make out one small lamp in the corner of the living room. A quick look around showed him almost no furniture, no personal objects at all. Just two armchairs, a small entertainment setup with a television and a VCR. No one lived here, not really. Stayed, yes. But not lived.
"You seem to have... improved, since I saw you last," Sherlock said, not resisting as the man peeled away his coat like any good host.
The man preened. "I'd hoped you'd notice."
"I understand now why you never spoke to me," Sherlock said. "Be a bit odd, wouldn't it, the two of us in the same American clinic."
"Sherlock." The man smiled, a slow intimate movement that started at his eyes and crept down his features. "I was only there to take care of you."
Sherlock returned the smile, despite the hair prickling at the nape of his neck. "You helped keep me sane in there, Rich." It was perfectly true. He'd been a puzzle for Sherlock to solve.
"You know that's not my real name."
"But I've thought of you as Rich for so long, what should I really call you?"
'Rich' pursed his lips in a pout. "You don't remember."
Play the game. He'd played it before: managers, journalists, fans. Sherlock looked, really looked, at the man standing across from him. The notes said he thought he'd had a connection with Sherlock. Well, he was used to that. Fans often felt that sense of connection. This was just a bit more... extreme. Sherlock saw projected confidence in the man's stance, but uncertainty in the slight tilt of his head. There. That weakness. He smiled, a mirror to the other man's smile. "You were so convincing as Rich. And well—" he laughed, "you have to admit, my life before that was a bit... crazed."
"Sherlock," he purred, and in another place and another time—if it weren't for John, and if it weren't for the frankly alarming lengths he'd taken to get Sherlock here, right now—Sherlock might have been intrigued. Good. He could use that. "I saved you."
Sherlock stepped closer, halving the distance between them. "Tell me."
"Come and sit down." Rich gestured to one of the two chairs in the living room. "Would you like some tea, a drink?"
"Thank you, no." Sherlock sat down, expecting Rich to sit across from him. He didn't, but paced in front of Sherlock.
"London," he said abruptly. "I'm not surprised you don't remember, to be honest. You were... indisposed."
"High," Sherlock guessed.
"Yes." Rich smiled down at him. "Got your attention though. I'd been watching you at that party all night. I could tell you were looking for someone. You were so alone, Sherlock, and so was I. I walked up to you and told you how much I loved you and you—well you put your arm around me." He knelt by Sherlock's chair and trailed a finger up Sherlock's arm. He tilted his head and looked up at Sherlock, coy. "If you hadn't been so wrecked, I think we both know where we would have wound up."
Sherlock smiled and covered the hand with his own. It stopped the movement, gave a suggestion of reciprocity. "That sounds like me," he said.
"And I think you knew the chance you missed, because the next day you went into rehab." He stood abruptly and walked around behind the chair, leaning down to whisper in his ear. "You got clean for me, Sherlock. I was so proud of you."
A chill went through Sherlock's body and he passed it off as a different sort of shiver. "You still haven't told me what to call you."
"Well of course, I couldn't enter rehab under my real name," Rich said, straightening and circling to the front of the chair. "Not even if it was just to look after you. Too damaging to my career. But you know that, don't you? You know the industry: when the talent goes into rehab it's newsworthy, but when management does, it's a secret."
Lower level management, then. Not much above entry-level. "Management, so you're—"
"Jim Moriarty." He gave a little wave of his fingers. "Hi."
John made the train with time to spare. As he took his seat, he felt the fog of too much adrenaline and not enough sleep settle in his brain. A nap on the trip then. He leaned his head back against his seat and closed his eyes.
When the alarm went off, he was confused, groggy. It didn't sound like the bedside alarm at all. It sounded like his phone. By the second ring, the sounds of the train had reoriented him. John fumbled for his phone with sleep-heavy fingers, nearly dropping it. He managed to grab it and flip it open just before voice mail answered. "Yeah?"
"John? It's, uh, it's Greg."
The grogginess vanished and John sat up straight. "What's happened?"
"We—um." Greg cleared his throat. "We don't know where Sherlock is."
John felt his stomach drop and his mind slip into a state of icy calm. "As of when?"
"I don't know when. We—we were setting up for the show. He was in the bar, I swear—"
"When did you realise he was gone?" John bit off each word with precision. "How long ago?"
"Twenty minutes? Anderson opened his guitar case and found a note."
"What? What does it say?" John switched the phone to his other hand, turning towards the window to keep his conversation quieter.
"'When John gets here, tell him to meet me at this address. -SH' Then there's an address underneath." Greg paused, then sounded hesitant. "It looks like his handwriting."
"Yeah, it looked like mine on the receipt too. Fucking hell." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Did you call him?"
"Three times. It's just going to voice mail," Greg said.
"Is anything in the bar knocked over, like there was a struggle? Did anyone see anything?" John reached for his bag, felt for the weight of the Sig Sauer and the ammo. It made it easier to concentrate, to breathe.
"No. One of the house techs saw him backstage but—" Greg paused again. "It... looks like he just walked out."
"Okay. Listen. I should be at the station in..." He looked at his watch. "Fifteen minutes. Give me the address again. Oh hell. Nothing to write with. Text it to me."
"John, what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to meet him there."