“Sherlock, slow down!” John cried as his flatmate leapt from the cab, tossing a random handful of notes into the driver’s outstretched hand. “Where are we going?”
“I am going to get some valuable information. I don’t, however, require you to accompany me.”
“Is where you’re going dangerous?”
“Then of course I’m bloody coming with you. Just slow down!”
Sherlock did, though John still had move at an undignified trot to keep up with his friend’s long strides.
“So where are we going?”
“I told you. To get information.”
“That’s a why Sherlock. I asked where.”
“Here,” said Sherlock, stopping abruptly.
They were in a residential street, the houses tall and imposing, facing onto a rundown park that ran the length of the street. The houses were of the same design as the iconic Portland stone houses of Mayfair and Kensington, so sought after by the rich and influential, but built of a dark grey brick, stained darker with pollution, and most were divided into flats.
Sherlock had come to a halt on the pavement in front of number 147. To John’s mild disappointment (and surprise) Sherlock pulled from his voluminous pocket, not his lock-picks, but a small brass key, and unlocked the door.
Inside was a long dark hallway with a Victorian tiled floor. An oak staircase curved upwards on one side and on the other was a door painted blood red, bearing a little brass plaque with Mycroft’s name on it. On the wall beside it was the sort of fancy keypad lock that always stumps the heroes of spy films. John started. No wonder Sherlock said their trip was dangerous if they were breaking into Mycroft’s home. You couldn’t have paid him to do it, normally. But where Sherlock went, he followed.
“Welcome to the Batcave,” Sherlock said, as he keyed in a long string of numbers. When John looked surprised Sherlock grinned and said, “I was a child once, you know, and Batman: the Animated Series is far too important to be deleted.”
And then they stepped through the door.
John had never thought about where Mycroft might live. He’d never honestly considered him having any kind of life outside his work (and the odd vindictive murder). But even so, the room they stood in was not what he expected.
The room was dark, the few lamps dotted around dimmed by heavy shades, and the sash windows hidden behind dark drapery. The wall opposite the door was lined with bookcases which overflowed with books, interspersed with what looked worryingly like specimen jars with indistinct forms floating in them.
A multi armed chandelier hung from the ceiling, it’s light glinting on a terrifying array of knives and cleavers which hung from it like a macabre mobile.
The sofas were brown leather chesterfields, much more in keeping with John’s image of how Mycroft would live, but the sheets of paper, covered in Mycroft’s tight scrawl, scattered in handfuls over them, rather spoiled the old world gentleman’s club effect.
The overall effect was rather like a fusion of the Old Curiosity Shop and the Met’s Black Museum. John thought he had never been anywhere so sinister in his life.
It had always struck him how much 221B was shaped by and for Sherlock. Being there was a little, he always thought, like being inside Sherlock’s soul. If this room, with its specimens floating sadly in their jars and the terrifying array of weaponry, was the inside of Mycroft’s soul, John thought he should probably be even more afraid of the man that he already was. It was like the set of a horror film.
A door opposite them opened and Mycroft stood there. He was jacketless and his shirtsleeves were rolled up to elbows. It was as close to casual as John had ever seen him. Mycroft stepped further into the room, letting the door fall shut behind him. John tried to convince himself he hadn’t heard faint sobbing coming from the darkened room.
“Sherlock!” Mycroft sounded genuinely thrilled to see his younger brother. “I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Mycroft. You knew I would. Why else would you refuse to tell me what I need to know over the phone? You were trying to force me into visiting you.”
“Well of course I was darling, though I have to say, I wasn’t expecting you to bring the brave tin solider with you.”
John started at Mycroft’s words. He’d never heard him be rude about anyone before. Mycroft saw his surprise and grinned at him. It wasn’t his usual society smile, but then this wasn’t the usual society Mycroft. This was the real him, the him only Sherlock usually got to see, and the real Mycroft smiled like a tiger, all teeth and hunger and nothing like kindness.
John shivered. “For heaven’s sake Sherlock, get what you need and let’s get out of here.” The knives hanging from the light fitting glinted unpleasantly in the thin light that made its way between the drapes.
Sherlock huffed with annoyance, but it was obvious to John that he didn’t want to be there any more than John did. “Very well John.” He turned to his brother, who was still smiling. “Mycroft, what do you want for your birthday?”