Sherlock was manhandled into a chair and heard the duct tape just before it was wrapped around his chest, securing him to the chair. He stifled a sigh. It was so hard to get the adhesive out of his suit. His dry cleaner was starting to complain.
The secured his legs to the chair next, and then uncuffed his hands and taped them to the arms. It was only then that they removed the bag from his head.
He blinked in the dim light (single, unshaded bulb overhead) and then squinted up at the man standing in front of him. He was wearing a mask (how trite), but that didn’t stop Sherlock from spotting that his nose had been broken more than once. Judging by the size of the shoulders and the bruises on his knuckles, the man was a fighter. Hard-up on his luck, judging by the clothes.
Hired gun, in other words. As, no doubt, was the man lurking behind him. He smelled of sweat and old alcohol—drinks as well as the kind used for sore muscles.
The room was bare. Small, walls of cinderblock, cement floor. No windows that he could see. Sturdy, steel door in the wall.
He tried to think past the pounding in his head. The last thing he clearly remembered was heading back to Baker Street after consulting on a case. (Simple, obvious domestic. The sister-in-law had been so obviously jealous.) He had been planning his next experiment, looking forward to some time with his chemistry set before John came home from work and started to complain about the mess/smell/lack of sanitation around food. He had heard a squeal of tires and had started to turn his head when …
Yes, that explained the headache. But not the reason for it. He didn’t have any current cases, certainly nothing to warrant a kidnapping. He couldn’t remember threatening anyone lately, and these didn’t look like the hired hands of a criminal mastermind.
He wondered how long he’d been unconscious. He had woken up in the boot of a car, but the ride was fuzzy. When they had arrived, he had been bustled into this room. They had gone through a large space where their footsteps had echoed, on the way. A warehouse, perhaps? No stairs. They could be in a storage room or an unused office. But where? There air was damp and he could smell salt, so they were near the water, but that wasn’t going to help him much.
He worked his mouth behind the gag, trying to moisten his tongue. He hated gags even more than he hated duct tape. How was he supposed to reason with his kidnappers if he couldn’t talk? Though John would tell him he was never reasonable, and was probably better off if he couldn’t speak.
He wondered if John had missed him yet. What time was it? Had he come back from the surgery to find an empty flat? Or, no. He had a date or something tonight. It could be hours before he noticed Sherlock was missing.
Sherlock moved his hands, testing the tightness of the bonds, but stopped as the man in front of him shook his head and the sound of knuckles cracking came from behind him.
He rolled his eyes. This was so dull.
Who had hired these goons, anyway? With no current clients (Lestrade’s boring domestic murder didn’t count), it could be someone from his past, someone with a grudge. Had anyone been let out of prison lately? Someone who would hire down-on-their-luck boxers?
With no data to work with, he thought about other things. This room was really exceedingly boring. He wished he could see his watch, to know how much time had passed. He wished the two goons would do something interesting, or at least talk. He wished he could talk.
After an eternity of boredom, a man strolled into the room. Good suit but badly tailored. Tobacco stains on his fingers. Rumpled shirt. Slick hair. Cold eyes. He looked like a gangster from those dreadful old movies John liked to watch on late night telly. Had no one ever told him that was a cliché? Sherlock could deduce a dozen things about him (multiple mistresses, violent temper, pet dog, probably a terrier).
But he had no idea who he was.
Curious. He found it astounding that he could be kidnapped and not know by whom. Though he supposed it could be a preemptive strike, like Moriarty’s having sent the cabbie to kill him before he could become a real threat. But the man in front of him was nowhere near Jim’s class. (You could say what you wanted about Jim Moriarty, but one had to admit he had had a certain flair.)
No, definitely not a mastermind. But he was a man who believed that he could be. He was wrong, of course, but he was convinced of his own sense of power.
He looked at Sherlock with satisfaction and then nodded over his head. A large, pulpy hand reached forward and tore the tape off Sherlock’s mouth.
The man said nothing as Sherlock suppressed a wince. He really hated duct tape. He refrained from saying anything, though, as he waited for the usual line of threats. Stay-out-of-my-business was the most likely direction. Revenge seemed unlikely that Sherlock had already done anything to this man he didn’t know.
Finally, the man stepped forward. “I need you to send a message for me,” the man said in what he fondly hoped was a menacing tone.
Sherlock raised one eyebrow. “A ransom demand?”
A sinister smile. “No, Mr. Holmes. We just need you to let him know that you’re here and won’t be hurt if he does what we say.”
Maybe the blow on the head had been harder than he thought. “Who, Mycroft? Good luck with that.”
He wondered if the man had any idea how much grief the unofficial British government could cause him for threatening his little brother. Not that Sherlock wanted him to, but judging by past experiences, he knew Mycroft couldn’t help himself. It was both smart and very, very stupid to try to use Sherlock to threaten Mycroft, and this man did not look like he had the toughness to see it through. He didn’t know if he should be impressed (how had the man discovered the connection?) or completely appalled at his stupidity.
“Who the hell is Mycroft?” the man asked.
Ah, stupid, then. Not smart enough to make the connection to his brother. (Though to be fair, very, very few people ever had.) “No one, apparently. I’d rather not think about him, anyway.”
The man sneered. “Like I care about your love life. No, Mr. Holmes, you’re here to send a message to your boyfriend. If he does what I say and you won’t get hurt.”
Boyfriend? “You mean John?”
“How hard did my boys hit you on the head? Yes, I mean John. John Watson.”
Sherlock was wondering the same thing. What did John have to do with his being threatened? “Don’t you hurt him,” he said.
“I don’t plan on hurting him at all, Mr. Holmes. It’s you who needs to worry.” He looked past Sherlock’s shoulder again, and the man behind him reached forward to gag him again.
“Now smile for the camera. You’ll want this to look good.” He held up Sherlock’s phone and took a picture of him tied to the chair and said, “I think this should get his attention, don’t you? At least, you’d better hope so.”
He turned and left the room, giving a snap of his fingers to call the goons with him, slamming the door behind them.
Sherlock was left alone, wondering if he had a concussion. The man had said it wasn’t a ransom demand, and it’s not like they had valuable evidence of anything at the flat. This didn’t make sense. Why would they need John? What did they need him to do?
He fought the restraints at his wrists again, but stopped when the door opened. The man was back, carrying Sherlock’s phone. “He wants to talk to you.”
The two goons resumed their previous positions, pulling his gag off as they went by, and the man walked over to Sherlock and held the phone to his ear. “Don’t say anything funny,” he warned.
He really did talk like one of those movie gangsters, but Sherlock tried not to be diverted. “John?”
“Sherlock! Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Just a headache, and a feeling I’m in one of those gangster movies you like so much.”
The man pulled the phone away as the goon stepped forward and hit him in the face. “I told you not to be funny, Mr. Holmes.” He spoke into the phone. “Okay, you talked to him. If you behave, we’ll take good care of him. If you don’t, well… I can’t make any promises.”
John’s voice was muffled on the phone, but Sherlock recognized the tone of voice. It was John’s cold, icy, don’t-you-hurt-him threatening voice that made criminals break down and cry. He watched his captor’s face and, sure enough, a twitch of the eyelids as he tried not to let his eyes widen. “You, you can say what you want, but you’re in no position to make threats, Mr. Watson. I’m the one with the hostage. Just do what I told you.”
He disconnected and looked at Sherlock with a hint of trepidation.
“Yes, he meant whatever he said,” Sherlock told him. “And it’s doctor. He’s an army surgeon, you know, and knows exactly how to hurt people.”
The man swallowed and then, gesturing for his men, hurried from the room.
Sherlock reveled in the sight and then froze as he realized what the man had called him.
He was using Sherlock to threaten John?
If he hadn’t been tied to a chair, he would have staggered into it. Between the two of them, he and John had been kidnapped and threatened more times than he could count—not even counting Mycroft’s “invitations.” But he couldn’t remember him ever being used as leverage to make John do something before.
Certainly, there had been times John had been instructed to do or not do something to keep Sherlock from being hurt, but it had always been connected to one of their cases. Threats like “bring the evidence here so we can destroy it” had happened. There had been been criminals who had tried to get the two of them in the same room so they could be killed.
But, oddly enough, it seemed like this time, Sherlock had been kidnapped for no other reason than to pressure John.
In other words, this had nothing to do with him.
Really, this on top of the blow to the head was enough to make him dizzy.
He tried to remember. Where was John tonight? He was meeting someone, a woman’s name … Julia? Sherlock had just assumed it was a date, but no. He remembered now. She was a lawyer for the trial tomorrow.
Of course. The trial John was testifying in. His kidnapper presumably wants John to lie, or not testify at all.
Sherlock sniffed. Obviously they didn’t know John at all. He hated lying and could rarely ever be convinced it was necessary, and even when it was, he was terrible at it. And he had a ridiculous sense of right and wrong. He would never allow himself to be pressured into lying under oath in court. It just simply would never happen.
He twisted at his wrists again, and turned his head, trying to see the rest of the room. John’s stupid moral principles could get him killed.
The door opened again, and one of the goons stepped in, shaking his head. Sherlock rolled his eyes. He tried to stifle his impatience as the man leaned against the wall by the door, staring at Sherlock. He looked like he was settling in for a long night of doing nothing but staring at Sherlock.
Really, at this rate, he was never going to get out of here.
The next several hours were endless. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so bored. Not that being held hostage was supposed to be fun, exactly, but should it really be this dull? Though he supposed he didn’t miss being tortured, though that did help pass the time.
After a time, he closed his eyes to visit his mind palace. At least that made for a distraction, for a while until his kidnapper came back in. “I hope you’re enjoying your stay,” he told him, as one of the goons removed his gag again.
“A bit short on entertainment.”
The man blinked. “You’re being held hostage and you’re bored. That’s new.”
Sherlock just cocked his head. “Have you heard from John?” It seemed only polite to ask.
“In fact, no. That’s why I’m here. Apparently he doesn’t value your well-being as he should. We’re going to have to make a point.”
He nodded to goon number one who finally peeled himself off the wall and took a step toward Sherlock, cracking his knuckles with an evil grin on his face. Sherlock looked from him to the door and then closed his eyes. Tightly.
The leader chuckled just as Sherlock heard a small object rolled in the door.
Sherlock heard the stun grenade go off, and kept his eyes tightly closed. He could hear someone hurrying into the room, a scuffle, a groan. He tried to see, but even through his eyelids, the flash from the grenade had disoriented him.
He felt someone behind him, sawing at the duct tape with a knife. Then John—because of course it was John—moved around front and cut the bonds at his wrist. His mouth was moving, but all Sherlock could hear was the ringing in his ears.
For a moment, he wasn’t sure his eyes were working properly, either. All three men were lying on the floor, hands and feet secured with plastic zip ties. That was remarkably fast work, even for John.
John had moved to his feet now, carefully cutting the duct tape and peeling it away. He was glancing up at Sherlock with concern. He stood and put both hands Sherlock’s cheeks, looking hard at his face. “Are you okay?” he mouthed very clearly.
Sherlock nodded. “My ears are ringing, and my head hurts, but otherwise I’m fine.” He felt John’s fingers searching carefully through his hair, pausing when they found the lump.
By now the men on the floor were rousing. John walked over and did a quick search of each of them, removing an impressive array of weaponry and double-checking the ties. Finished, he stood over the leader. “You had a message for me? I thought I’d collect it in person.”
The man still looked stunned—and not just by the grenade. “How … how did you…?”
John just sniffed. “Amateur.” He turned back to the chair and offered Sherlock a hand. Smiling, Sherlock took it. His feet were still numb from being tied and he was grateful for John’s support. The two of them moved toward the door while the man behind them sputtered threats. “I almost forgot,” muttered John.
Sherlock leaned against the wall while John gagged each of the men with fresh duct tape. He hoped they hated it as much as he did.
They went through the door and John locked it behind them.
“How long are you going to leave them in there?”
“I thought about waiting until after tomorrow’s court appearance. We can’t risk them going after Mrs. Hudson, can we?”
Sherlock shook his head. “That would be unconscionable.”
John shrugged. “But then I figured we really should probably call the police.”
“That explains the sirens I hear coming?”
A nod. “I thought you’d appreciate not being tied to a chair when they arrived, so I came on ahead.”
“Why, John, that was very kind of you,” Sherlock said as the warehouse doors burst open and a team of police flooded in.
Lestrade was leading the charge and stopped dead when he saw John and Sherlock. John just pointed backwards. “They’re in the storage room in the back.”
The next hour or so was chaotic, with Lestrade’s team giving John sideways looks which he shrugged off with embarrassed smiles. At one point, Lestrade walked over with an evidence bag in his hands. “I don’t suppose either one of you can tell me where this came from?”
“I found it outside, Inspector,” John said, eyes open and convincing. “It seemed like it would come in handy, so I took advantage. It certainly was lucky it was here.”
“Yes, it certainly was … lucky.” Lestrade said, his tone of voice utterly unconvinced. But faced with John’s innocent face, he couldn’t say anything else.
After he walked away, Sherlock said, “You lied for me.”
A shrug. “If he knew the truth, we’d never get out of here tonight. And I DO have a court date tomorrow. We don’t want to damage my credibility, do we?”
Sherlock shook his head, impressed. “I just have never seen you lie convincingly before.”
“What can I say? I’m a man of hidden talents.”