A crowded street and someone lying on the ground, unmoving. There’s blood. A flashback to a day like this three years ago. I ignore it and push through the onlookers, shouting “I’m a doctor. Let me pass.”
The man in the street is well-dressed. A banker or executive of some sort. We’re not terribly far from Canary Wharf, so either is possible. There’s another man in a uniform shirt standing next to him. The uniformed man has tears streaming down his face. “He jumped in front of me!” he shouts. “I didn’t mean to hit him!”
Someone bumps into me as I move even closer. “Sorry, mate. Just trying to help,” I say. He grunts and fades into the mob.
The uniform says the driver is a delivery guy. Looking closer at him I can see he’s early twenties and frightened out of his mind. His car is idling nearby, the front badly dented.
“Has anyone phoned the police?” I shout and kneel next to the man on the ground. People in the crowd look at each other. Everyone’s been so busy filming and tweeting and uploading that no one’s done anything practical.
I pull uniform-shirt down and hand him my phone. “Call the police. Ask for Lestrade. Tell him there’s been a murder.”
Uniform-shirt cries harder. “Murder?! I said it was an accident! He jumped in front of me!”
I grab my phone back and hold uniform-shirt by the wrist so he doesn’t bolt. When I get Lestrade on the line I make eye contact with the driver so he gets every word I’m saying. “A man’s been murdered. He was shot, and then hit by some poor guy in a car when he fell.”
Uniform-shirt crumples to the ground in a ball of shock and tears.
“He’s dead. But you’ll need to send an ambulance for the man that hit him.”
I looked around as I followed Lestrade into his office to give my official statement – such as it was. I didn’t recognize any of the people. “New group?”
Lestrade shrugged. “Not that new. Anderson’s in Manchester a year now. Donovan’s been in Plymouth since.... It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, I suppose.”
I gave him a tight-lipped smile and accepted the paper and pen he offered me.
“What were you doing over there anyhow?”
“I’m working at Docklands. Was on my way there when I saw the commotion.” I finished my statement and signed my name.
“How’ve you been, John?”
“Good. Good. Keeping busy. Getting on.”
Lestrade nodded. “Between you and me, getting rid of Anderson and Donovan helped. Their smugness was almost choking.”
“How’s the wife?”
“This’ll be number six. Interestingly, my relationship improved vastly once....” He looked guilty. The conversation stalled and I started to leave. Our awkward goodbye was interrupted by my mobile.
“Mrs Hudson! How are.... Really? Did you call the police?”
Lestrade stood up straighter, alert. I held up one finger. “Hang on. I’m there now, actually. Yes, I’ll come. I’ll see you soon.”
I hung up and looked at Lestrade. “Someone’s broken into the old flat at Baker Street.”
“Why’d she call you and not us?”
“Mycroft, apparently. He’s told her to call me if anything ‘unusual’ happened, instead of the police.”
Lestrade frowned and offered me a lift to Baker Street.
Mrs Hudson met us on the street. She hugged me warmly and fussed over me for a few moments until I disengaged myself and reminded her why we were there.
“He’s still there,” she whispered loudly. “Thumping around and banging doors. I thought it was him for a moment.” She paused. “You don’t suppose it’s his ghost, do you?”
“Don’t be silly, Mrs Hudson. It’s probably just an inept thief, or someone with a grudge against Sherlock that doesn’t know he’s... gone.” It was the first time in almost three years that I’d said his name.
“I don’t understand why the flat’s even still empty after all this time,” Lestrade said.
“Mycroft wouldn’t let me show it. He pays the rent so I can keep it vacant. All of Sherlock’s belongings are gone, though, so I don’t know why.”
“The whole family’s a bit odd,” Lestrade commented. To me, he said, “Ready to go up?”
Without thinking – and without any sort of weapon – I took the lead. The door was closed but not latched. I nudged it gently and let it swing open quietly. I slipped in, aware there was someone in the kitchen, opening and closing doors, thumping shelves and walls as if he were searching for something.
“Please don’t make another move,” I said.
The person turned abruptly.
“Ah, good. You’re here. Can you explain to me where the hell all our things have gone?”
Sherlock came to about ten minutes later. He was on Mrs Hudson’s sofa with an ice bag over his swelling eye.
“Good. You’re awake,” I said. “I fucking hate you.” I had already told Lestrade what I thought of him as it became clear that he had known all along that Sherlock was alive and in hiding.
Mrs Hudson sat in her chair, crying quietly. “You horrible boys. You and your brother, Sherlock.”
For the first time ever Sherlock looked truly repentant. He sat up slowly and I could tell that wherever he had been hadn’t been relaxing. If it was possible, he was thinner and paler than before.
Lestrade stared at the floor. I squeezed Mrs Hudson’s shoulder and she patted my hand.
“Did Molly know? Was she in on this, too?”
Sherlock and Lestrade exchanged a look. That was all the answer I needed. I left the flat without another word. Through the closed door I could just barely make out Sherlock asking Mrs Hudson where his things had gone.
Furious, I went home.