Lestrade has apparently arrested an American billionaire for murder. Sherlock is not sure why this requires him at the scene, but he has no other cases today so it’s this or shooting blood at the wall with a Super Soaker. Mrs Hudson doesn’t frighten him, but it’s only been a week since the unfortunate incident with the beetles.
There are a lot of officers at the crime scene. This is an expensive hotel and they are not inconspicuous. Sherlock can see the first stirrings of paparazzi interest. He looks around. “All this for one American?”
Lestrade stares at him for a moment and then grins. He looks tired. “And this is why you’re here.” Sherlock raises his eyebrow. “Because ‘Iron Man’ doesn’t impress you in the least, does he?” Off Sherlock’s expression, he elaborates. “Tony Stark.”
“I know the name. I’m aware of his more recent activities.” Vaguely. The kind of cases Sherlock works rarely involve Americans calling themselves superheroes.
Lestrade shakes his head. “Just take a look at the scene, would you? We’re holding him downstairs until we can get clear of the-.” Nasty tabloid implications, if it turns out that Scotland Yard caused an international incident and this man didn’t kill the young bartender.
Sherlock says, “Give me the room.”
Lestrade rolls his eyes but clears the hotel suite of crime scene officers and gawking detectives. He leaves too, and Sherlock calls John. “Tony Stark.”
“What, Iron Man?”
“Apparently.” John pays more attention to this kind of thing. “Tell me about him.”
Sherlock listens with a fraction of his concentration while John talks about women and weapons and scandal. He turns slowly around the room and notes what doesn’t fit. He examines the body carefully, and then uses the phone to bring up a few photographs of Tony Stark in action. He gives John his full attention when John’s voice dips on ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘hostage.’
Sherlock asks, “He built the suit then?” He hangs up and goes to find Lestrade.
Lestrade is saying, “Yes, but you don’t have diplomatic immunity. Well, because you’re not a diplomat, Mr Stark.”
Sherlock opens the door to hear Stark say, “I could be a diplomat. In spirit, I’m a diplomat. I do diplomatic things all the time. Ask- well, technically even the list of people you could ask is probably classified. Find me someone with the highest clearance you can, and ask them if they know a very scary man with an eyepatch. Then get them to ask him. See, that was diplomatic right there.”
Sherlock looks at the text he has just received from Mycroft. Apparently his brother and Tony Stark have different ideas of diplomacy. Mycroft doesn’t appear to think Stark is a murderer but he certainly wants him out of the country as soon as possible.
Lestrade looks up at Sherlock. “Who let you in?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, gesturing vaguely at Sherlock. “Sherlock Holmes. He’s a consultant.”
“Consulting on what exactly?” Stark asks. “You know, Inspector, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with-.”
Sherlock interrupts. “He’s not the murderer.”
Stark segues smoothly into, “but of course you know your own experts. He should absolutely stay.”
Sherlock looks at Stark: alcoholic but doesn’t know it yet, control issues, intelligent enough that people often don’t understand him when he talks. Intelligent in ways that are mostly unlike the ways Sherlock is intelligent, but not different enough to be dismissed. Interesting.
Stark stares back. He says, “I really didn’t kill the kid.”
“No,” Sherlock says. “If you had, you would have hidden the body better. Or else committed the act so publicly that no one could be in any doubt it was your handiwork.”
Stark says, “I’m not sure I want you on my side.”
“I’m not on your side.” Sherlock turns to Lestrade. “The barman was strangled.” Stark doesn’t seem like a man who would want to feel the life drain out of someone. His weaponry is all distant. “The bruises are going to show that the murderer had much larger hands than Mr Stark.”
Lestrade interrupts Stark’s attempt at a rejoinder. “Don’t choose to be offended by that. God.” He sighs. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas who’d want to frame you for murder? Assuming I believe Sherlock, but let’s have a think about it while I wait for the lab to prove him right.”
Stark leans back in his chair. “I can think of a few people. No one you’d be likely to catch with a police investigation.”
“Aliens?” Lestrade asks. He seems more resigned to this possibility than Sherlock would have expected.
“Not really their style,” Stark says. “But still not the kind of people you want to mess with.”
“But not the kind of people to do it themselves either,” Sherlock points out. “They would have hired someone.” He starts to tap out a message. If a trained assassin has entered the country, Mycroft will probably know about it.
Lestrade nods at the phone enquiringly. “Is this legitimate information or your kind of information?”
Which reminds Sherlock that he should call in his own network too. If the man was already in the country, someone may have seen him.
Stark laughs. “I do have my own people, you know. Some of them are probably calling your bosses.”
Sherlock says, “Lestrade’s bosses perhaps, for all the good that will do. I am freelance.”
“Yeah?” Stark grins. “Me too. And if your not-boss would just let me have my suit back, I could maybe help you with your investigation. Seeing it’s me they’re trying to frame after all.”
Sherlock is- not eager, but curious, perhaps, to see the suit in action. Not for the weaponry, but John says part of how it works is computers, and Stark is a genius. Sherlock would quite like to see how something like that operates.
Lestrade looks at Sherlock. “You realise if you’re wrong, the murderer could literally blast out of here?”
“I’m not wrong.”
He sighs. “Fine,” Lestrade says. He opens the door. “Somebody bring me Stark’s briefcase and phone.”
Stark tilts his head. “If you bring me the suit, I don’t need the phone. Technically if you brought me the phone and enough computers, I could do without the suit, but that would take time, and I’m not so much known for my patience.”
Lestrade says, “Technically, you’re still in custody.”
Stark rolls his eyes. “Sure.” When a nervous officer finally arrives with a metal case, Stark smiles. He sets it down on the floor and it – showily – unfolds and clatters up his body. He goes quiet, lit-up mechanical eyes staring into space.
“The CCTV footage?” Sherlock asks softly.
Lestrade points towards the blank monitor on the desk but before he can get it set up, it flashes with images. Sherlock can see the captured footage, interspersed with live material, a list of flights into the country over the last few days. It flicks from one to the other without pause, reminding Sherlock of nothing so much as the rooms of his mental palace. The connections are not made in the order Sherlock would make them, but he can follow the progress.
“Stop,” Sherlock says. “Back, the-.”
“Gone past that already, he couldn’t have-.”
“No, the second one, the-.”
“Oh, interesting. Hang on, let me-.” More images cascade. “Yeah?”
“If this is the man,” Sherlock says, “someone was going to a lot of effort to frame you.”
Stark flips back the faceplate; he looks more amused than anything else. “Not enough.”
“Clearly.” Sherlock nods.
Lestrade looks between the two of them. “No.”
Sherlock allows himself a moment’s pause. “I’m sorry?”
“This place is swarming with photographers. If the two of you go out like-.”
Lestrade manages to delay them for a little while, until forensics prove the person who committed the murder was considerably larger than Stark. By this point, Sherlock has a lead, and apparently there are few things he can do to dissuade a man with a flying robot suit from following him.
Cameras flash. Sherlock shields his face and Stark turns to meet the gaze of the lenses. Either way, they will be the photograph on the front of every tabloid tomorrow morning. Sherlock can already hear John trying to think of the title for his blog entry.