Mycroft's silken tongued assistant answered his phone as usual.
"It's Richard Brook. I need to talk to Mycroft urgently." Richard could see Lestrade's head jerk up to look at him from the other side of the desk.
"I'm afraid Mr Holmes is in an important meeting and can't be disturbed. Shall I tell him you called?"
They'd taken his phone away. Richard took a deep breath. "Tell him I've been arrested. I'm at Scotland Yard."
"Of course. Anything else?" She sounded utterly unconcerned.
"No. Just tell him that." He replaced the receiver. Lestrade was staring.
"Did you just call Mycroft Holmes?"
Richard hunched defensively. "He's a friend of mine."
"A friend? Mycroft Holmes is a friend of yours? Crap. What's going on, Brook?"
"No, he is. Really. He's been helping me, since I got out of prison. He pays my rent." Ouch. Richard immediately wished he hadn't said that. "He's just a friend, though. He's nice."
"Nice?" Lestrade stood up, turned away to walk the few steps to the window, hands deep in his pockets. He turned back suddenly, slammed his fists down onto the desk. "Listen to me, you piece of shit. This innocent abroad act might work with other people but I'm not going to forget the three fucking weeks you sat in that chair and sneered at me before making a laughing stock of my whole bloody investigation by intimidating the jury and walking free from court."
That wasn't fair."I was only acting. It was Sherlock's idea."
"Oh yes." Lestrade was quieter, now. "Everything got blamed on poor bloody Sherlock, didn't it? And everyone believed it. After all, you're just a pathetic little play-actor. But now I've got a dead body, Brook, and no Sherlock this time, and you've got a lot of questions to answer. Did you murder Nelson Finney?"
"No. God, no. I couldn't. I didn't have any reason to, anyway. He was a friend. He was going to help me."
"Him, too? What a surprising lot of friends you've got, Brook, for a useless ex-con. What were you doing in his flat?"
Richard had to make a decision. Lestrade clearly hated him. He wasn't giving the man any hint of a motive for murder. "We just had coffee. Discussed some auditions coming up."
"Coffee?" Lestrade sounded deeply sceptical.
"Did he make a pass at you?"
"No! I wouldn't have...he's ancient." About Lestrade's age. Shit. That wasn't
"So you didn't have any sexual contact in his flat?"
He was beginning to think he'd maybe made a mistake in lying. Lestrade seemed set on this line of questioning. How good were forensics? Could they tell what he'd done? "I don't want to say anything else without my solicitor present."
"You're stalling. It's a simple question, Brook. Sexual contact?
Yes or no."
"I'm waiting for my solicitor."
"You're waiting for Mycroft Holmes. Why do you think he can help you, Richard? What's your relationship with him?"
"Just friends, I told you." He was starting to fight down panic. What if Mycroft couldn't help? Who the hell had killed Nels anyway?
"What sort of coffee?"
"What? Oh, instant, I think. Maybe filter? It was late, I don't know."
"What colour mug did you use?"
"I don't remember." He hadn't seen the kitchen; he couldn't guess.
"White? Maybe? I don't remember. I have memory problems; it's in my medical files."
"Convenient. Maybe you forgot arguing with Finney, and then forgot killing him."
Lestrade was twisting everything that Richard said against him. Where was Mycroft? Was he even out of his meeting? "What happened...how did Nels die?"
Lestrade bared his teeth in a grin. "All those fantasies about being a violent psychopath- they turned you on, didn't they? Been missing that recently? Must be boring, just being Richard Brook. Was that what happened last night? Bit of S&M gone wrong?"
Richard shook his head violently. "I'm an actor, not a fantasist! Moriarty was all Sherlock's invention. I just did what I was told."
"Did someone tell you to kill Finney?"
" So it was your idea?"
Did you perform oral sex on Finney last night in exchange for casting favours?"
Richard stared at Lestrade. "How did you know?"
"Is that a yes?"
Richard could feel himself blush. "Yes. But I didn't kill him. I just went home."
"You didn't have any coffee."
"So you've been lying to me. Why did you lie, Brook?"
He could feel his cheeks scarlet. "I didn't want anyone to know."
"Was that why you murdered him? To keep your secret?"
Shame turned into rage. "I didn't kill him! I wanted to get the damn audition! I'd fucking well paid enough for it!"
"What time did you leave his flat?"
"12:30. I said that."
"What time did you go back there?"
"I didn't. I got a taxi home, I went to bed, I stayed there until this morning- this afternoon, near enough."
"Got any witnesses?"
"What, to being asleep in bed? No."
"That's unfortunate." Lestrade seemed grimly satisfied. " Your fingerprints are all over that flat; your's and the victim's and no-one else's. He's got a very thorough cleaner. You're in real trouble this time, Richard. Might want to think about coming clean. I imagine a good lawyer would find some mitigation; what he made you do was pretty humiliating."
He couldn't come clean; he hadn't done anything. "How did you know about the...stuff?"
"Your performance? You weren't paying attention, obviously. He recorded some of it on his phone, downloaded it to his computer after you left. Judging from his video files you weren't the first young actor to buy a few casting privileges. Just the first to pay him back with murder."
He stood up. "That's enough for now. We'll continue this again later, with your solicitor present. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to solve this one, does it, Richard? Motive, means, opportunity, and a track record of involvement in violent crime. The only thing that's going to help you now is to tell us exactly what happened."
They left him alone in the police cell for a long time. His solicitor arrived, gave the usual advice, modified a little by the fact that he was still on probation, went away again. He was allowed as far as the toilets, heavily escorted, later brought shop-made sandwiches in lieu of dinner. If Mycroft had come, no-one was letting them meet.
At nine thirty pm a uniformed officer turned up, took him to the interview room to go through paperwork with his solicitor. He was being released on police bail. Still a suspect, his lawyer explained, but they didn't have enough evidence to hold him for now. Richard blinked, nodded, confused at that. Lestrade had sounded as if he had enough evidence to convict, not just to hold him.
At the front desk a young woman accosted him. "This way, Mr Brook, please." Her voice was familiar; Richard followed her willingly to the waiting car.
Mycroft's assistant didn't talk to him so he spent the journey with his returned smart phone, reading the news reports about Nels's murder and his arrest. The sub judice rules prevented the papers from saying much but the blogs and Twitter were alive with wild speculation about him, all the old conspiracy theories about Sherlock Holmes and Jim Moriarty coming up again. He followed a link, found himself reading John Watson's blog.
Richard Brook didn't kill Finney, because Richard Brook doesn't exist, has never existed. The man masquerading as Brook killed Sherlock Holmes and now he's killed again. Now that the fiction of Brook as a harmless idiot has been exposed I'm calling yet again for a full independent judicial review into all the circumstances surrounding Sherlock's supposed suicide so that Jim Moriarty can be held to account for all his crimes, not just the brutal mutilation and murder of Nelson Finney.
Richard looked out of the window at the London streets, feeling nauseous. Mutilation? It was oddly unsettling to read that one didn't exist. Poor Watson, still obsessed by Sherlock's fictional invention. He remembered the man staring at him all through the trial, seeing someone else completely. Richard had apologised to him from the dock and John's face had just hardened, eyes full of hate. For the first time he wondered how far that hatred would go. Watson was supposedly a crack shot. He'd talk to Mycroft, see whether the man thought he could be in any actual danger. Maybe a restraining order would be wise? Seemed cruel to drag the poor deluded man into court though.
He'd never been to Mycroft's home, and they weren't going there now. The car stopped outside Whitehall offices, the entrances near deserted at ten pm, but he was led on foot into St James Park. Mycroft came to meet him, walking beside the dark water of the lake. An assistant being him was carrying two deck chairs.
"Richard. Shall we find somewhere to sit?" He gestured over the wide lawns.
"Yes, OK." There were benches free; he wondered why the chairs. Still, he picked a spot at random, settled into the one he was given. The assistants all vanished.
Richard looked at the electronic device curiously. "What is it?"
Mycroft sighed, a touch of unusual exasperation. "It detects electronic listening devices. Let me demonstrate." Mycroft pulled a small microphone out of his pocket, flicked a switch. A red light on the device came on. He turned the mike off and the light went out.
"Do you think we're being bugged?"
"No. I am reassuring you that I am not recording this conversation."
Why would he record it? Some peculiar legal issue, maybe. "Ok, you're not recording it.I'm really glad to see you, Mycroft. Did you help get me out of that cell?"
Mycroft's face was shadowed. "I provided Lestrade with evidence that you were in bed when you said you were."
Richard could think of only one way to do that. "You told him I was sleeping with you? Oh, Mycroft! You shouldn't have done that! If he finds out you lied you'll be in so much trouble. But thank you. I don't know what to say, really. Thanks."
The man opposite seemed to draw himself up a little. "You misinterpret." A pause, then steady, his eyes on Richard. "I provided him with copies of last night's surveillance tapes."
Mycroft glanced at the device, dark in Richard's hands. "Do we really have to play through this? It's a little tiresome."
"Play through what? What tapes?" Richard was bewildered.
Mycroft sighed. "There are, as you know full well, cameras and microphones throughout your house. The recordings for last night show that you came in, apparently considerably distressed, at around 1am, and did not leave your room until 11:45am. Since Finney's time of death is estimated at between 4 and 6am, it is impossible for you to have directly murdered him."
"Why on earth would my house be bugged? Who ordered that?"
Richard just stared at his friend for a moment. "Why?" Was it some sort of perversion? He started to feel the edge of betrayal, outrage. "Why would you do that?"
Mycroft shook his head. "That's enough. You may play this game all you like, cameras or not, but I have better things to do with my time. I will come to visit Richard Brook tomorrow. No doubt he will be grateful for my support." He used his umbrella to pull himself to his feet. "If you did have a hand in Finney's death I will find out about it. Goodnight, Jim."
Richard watched the upright figure stalk away towards the edge of the park until he crossed the road, turned a corner and vanished. Then he dropped to his knees, pulling up handfuls of the short grass, smashing his forehead against the soft ground, sobbing in utter misery and rage. In the end they came and took him away, into the smooth engined car, back to the honey trap of a house. He ripped up his bedroom, ignoring the concern of his untrustworthy flatmates, until he found the small cameras, smashed them on his bedroom cabinet with the heel of a boot.
He started to pack a bag but after a few minutes he realised that he had nowhere at all to go. They'd find him anyway, and he'd be in trouble; his bail conditions didn't let him live anywhere else.
Fuck Mycroft Holmes, anyway. He didn't need friends. He didn't need help. He was going to be the best fucking actor in the whole of London. More fool Mycroft, wasting his time hunting for a man who didn't even exist. Richard would just ignore him.
No. He sat up, his thoughts suddenly cold and hard. He had a better idea. Mycroft wanted Jim Moriarty, Richard would play Moriarty, easy to him as a second skin, in hints and riddles until Mycroft lost everything, power, reputation and friends, chasing a shadow. Then Richard would be the one to laugh.
How would Jim Moriarty respond to tonight's events? By playing Richard Brook, but with a purpose behind it. Right, he could do that; play Jim playing him. He'd have Mycroft Holmes in knots in no time. Slightly comforted at the prospect of revenge for this hugest of betrayals, he curled up in his trashed room and slept.