Chapter 1: In Transitu
Molly dabbed at the cuts on my face and hands. For someone used to working with the dead, she was quite adept at dealing with the living. She was gentle, apologising softly when the antiseptic made me flinch. Contrary to popular opinion I am not a machine and I am capable of feeling pain, especially when I’m in a state of decreased adrenaline.
“I can’t believe it worked” she whispered as she applied a butterfly suture to a particularly deep gash on the outside of my left hand.
“I didn’t doubt it,” I said. Then, remembering to be kind, I turned to her. “I didn’t doubt you.” She blushed and studied the equipment in her hands.
“I don’t think anything needs stitches, but I would like to get you an antibiotic. Do you want anything for pain as well?”
“No thank you, Molly. I can’t afford to have my senses dulled.”
She frowned, worried. “Just for a night or two, while you’re here. You did have a serious accident, after all.”
“I said no.”
She backed up a few steps and looked at the floor, the wall, the doorway – everything but me. “Just thought I’d offer,” she mumbled and disappeared, presumably in search of the antibiotics. I exhaled and wished for a moment that I could have a painkiller. Some form of opiate to silence the muscles in my back and shoulders. I raised my arms carefully, holding an imaginary violin. Mimed a few measures of Bach’s Violin Partita number three in E Major. The suture on my left hand stretched and threatened to pop off.
Molly returned with a small bottle and a mug of water. I accepted both, shook out a pill and swallowed it. “I trust you didn’t slip me a painkiller instead of an antibiotic.” I made an attempt at teasing, and hoped she took it as such.
“I think you of all people would know if I tried something like that.” She smiled and seemed more at ease. Perhaps the adrenaline was wearing off for her, as well. “I still can’t believe it worked.”
“You’ve said that.”
“Sorry.” Again she dropped her gaze. So submissive, Molly. No wonder Moriarty had used her.
Think, Sherlock. What are you supposed to say in a situation like this? “Again, I trusted you with this for a reason. I didn’t doubt your skills.”
“There’s an unused room down the hall. It’s... overflow, I guess, for when the main morgue gets backed up. Anyhow, it’s always locked and there’s only three of us with a key so you should be safe there until you’re ready to leave.”
“Thank you. Molly. Honestly, I couldn’t have done this without you.” And Mycroft, I thought. I’d already sent him a text saying that the first stage was complete and I was safe. Sometime during the night he’d see that I was taken out of the city – the country – and that I’d have what I would need to proceed to stage two of the plan.
Chapter 2: Incipit
The first one was almost too easy. A combination of luck, Mycroft’s access, and the homeless network led me to Kieran McKenzie.
Kieran McKenzie was a gambler. Almost all the money he was paid for his assignments went to bets on everything imaginable. I knew that the Germany versus Greece would be something he couldn’t resist, and a quick review of his credit card transactions told me which pub he was likely to be in during the match.
It took me very little time to become someone new. I didn’t need an identity yet – just an appearance. I shaved the sides of my head, cut the top very short, and bleached it. Instead of turning blond, however, I ended u p with coppery tone that I could live with.
I changed into ill-fitting cargo trousers and a faded, obviously many-times-washed t-shirt, and shabby trainers. Affected a simian sort of gait, carried myself so I appeared shorter, and went to the pub.
A few well-placed words in the right ears heated up the crowd. A few more words in a few more ears raised the temperature to the boiling point. And then, another word spoken loudly ignited the room.
During the brawl a knife found its way into McKenzie’s back, causing kidney damage and internal bleeding. By the time the authorities broke things up, it was too late for him.
The chaos of the fight completely obliterated any sort of usable fingerprints and DNA. Of course, even if they had recovered DNA they would have found that it didn’t match anyone in the system.
To my knowledge, the case is still considered unsolved, but is so low in priority that it may never be opened again.
Chapter 3: Auxilio ab Alto
In the twenty-first century, when everyone is connected to their mobile phones, netbooks, and tablet computers, no one thinks to monitor the old-fashioned methods of communication. Letters – hand-written, postmarked, and laden with DNA – can now pass almost unnoticed. Burn a slip of paper and it’s gone. Tear it up and scatter it in a dozen recycling bins. Drop it in a secure shredder along with medical or financial documents and it is unrecoverable.
Walk into an internet cafe. Find a public place with open wi-fi, or find an unsecured (or poorly secured) private network. Place an ad in a newspaper. For sale. Missed connections. Employment opportunities. Lost dog. Anyone can make any sort of deal without leaving a trace.
Or at least you can leave no trace that will be of any use.
Mycroft and I communicated by letters, leaving telephones (relayed, bounced, and forwarded round the world before connecting) for when it was critical. Typically he would phone me if there was time-sensitive information about Moriarty’s men.
Mycroft’s letters arrived with a meter mark instead of a postage stamp. The envelopes sealed with a sponge (wet in commercially-available bottled water) and addressed with a rubber stamp – the kind assembled from a kit so there would be no evidence of a cut stamp anywhere. I knew Mycroft’s kit would have an equal amount of ink on each letter so no one could point out that any letters had been used more than others.
Not that anyone other than Mycroft or me would notice a detail like that.
The paper was always generic – obtained from nearly any store. It was cheap, pulpy. The kind that fell apart easily when wet. The kind that also burns well.
The letters themselves were printed using neat, all capital letters, like the kind of lettering found on blueprints. Blocky. Common. Made to look so generic that a handwriting expert would be able to tell you nothing other than “he or she is right-handed”.
Mycroft is not right-handed.
The letters are written in plain English. No cipher is used. Typically they say things along the lines of “I’m going to be in the area for a conference. We should have dinner.” And then a proposed date and time that was easily converted to GPS input. Always a location where one of Moriarty’s men would be.
Finding and eliminating them was entirely my task. Mycroft, of course, didn’t want to get his hands dirty.
Chapter 4: Sed Idem Spiritus
"...but the same spirit..."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
New York City, New York.
Haircut. Short, spiky, and gelled in an effort to control the curls. Stubble to hide my cheekbones. The barest touch of cosmetics to change my skintone. Violin purchased in a shop on Broadway. Case from a pawn shop. Clothes acquired second-hand. “Shabby but trying” was the hoped-for effect. I called myself Simon Hooper (a small nod to Molly), and took a very cheap room in a less-than-reputable hotel.
I took the violin into the heart of the city and found a spot not far from a subway entrance – close enough to observe but not so close that the police would bother me. I put the case on the ground and played. The bow wasn’t quite right yet and the strings were too new, but it was passable. I assumed Mycroft had my violin, but getting it from him would be too risky. A little time and this violin would adapt.
I played classical. A few people listened. Traditional folk and a few less lingered. Pop songs drew the occasional small crowd. I searched my memory for songs I knew or at least things I’d heard and would be able to play. Some of them I didn’t even know the name of – the notes were just there when I needed them.
Two men emerged from the subway. The older turned sharply and glared at me, blue eyes so fixed on me I thought he recognised me. I pretended not to notice and kept playing.
“Do you have the time?” he asked. His companion (younger, too thin, and possibly ill) pinched the bridge of his nose and quietly said “house”.
“Sorry, I don’t.” I said.
“Then stop wasting it.”
His friend grabbed his arm and pulled. “Don’t. Seriously. Don’t take it out on him.”
“I’m not taking anything out on anyone. I just want to know when it became a thing to play ‘Kashmir’ on a violin. These days every idiot with a fiddle does it.”
“Whatever. Hey, look. Over there! A thing!” The man pointed randomly in a very obvious attempt to distract his friend. As soon as the older one huffed and looked away, he dropped two folded bills in my case. “He’s an ass. Sorry.”
“Stop being nice and come on. I want a hot dog.” The man limped away, his cane clacking against the pavement.
“Sorry,” his friend said again and followed him.
My fingers faltered. I decided it was time to take a break, retune, and check the rosin on my bow.
I spotted Donnelly on my third day. I waited three days more to make my move. By that point I’d become part of the scenery. Just another busker playing the same things as all the others (“Kashmir” was showing up in heavy rotation).
So it was that on my sixth day in New York City I packed up quickly and followed Donnelly by blending in with the commuters around us. I stayed outside of his hotel the whole night and noted the time he left in the morning. He was obviously doing what I was doing – learning the habits of his target.
I didn’t know – nor did I care – who his target was. He was mine and that was all that mattered.
The next day I showed up before he left. I didn’t look at all like Simon the Busker any more, of course, just in case he had noticed me on the street. I bumped into him in the lobby of the hotel, shouted at him in French, and swept past. He didn’t notice I’d lifted his key card.
“Sloppy,” I muttered. He’d kept it in the Tyvek envelope the front desk gave him. His room number was clearly printed on it. I took the lift to his room.
A quick sweep confirmed he was one of Moriarty’s men. The gun case beneath the bed was evidence enough.
I suppose an anonymous call to the authorities could have sufficed, but I couldn’t risk that he’d elude capture, or possibly escape conviction. I really had no choice but to wait for him to return to his room.
His cause of death was listed as erotic asphyxia. What an embarrassing way to die.
Please note: the information I have on New York City busking laws is possibly out of date. The laws might be different now and I apologize for any inaccuracies.
And just for your amusement, David Garrett – Kashmir on Spotify
Chapter 5: In Mulier
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.
Mycroft wasn’t forthcoming with information about the next of Moriarty’s men. Possibly because this man was a woman. Possibly because he thought she was already dead.
Soft. Perfumed. Slightly surprised to see me standing in her doorway.
“They told me you were dead,” she said as she folded the newspaper she’d been reading.
“They told me the same about you.”
“You knew better.” She took up her phone and tapped a quick message.
“You should have.” My phone vibrated.
She pouted. “You deleted my ringtone.”
“It disturbed Mrs Hudson.”
“It disturbed John.” She smiled.
“I should have let them behead you.”
“But you couldn’t. What makes you think you could do it now?”
“You’ve become dull.”
Her smile faltered as she considered my words. “You believe that, don’t you.”
I gave a curt nod. “You’re clever, but only to a point. Using sexuality and desire is your only real method of getting things. Predictable. Choosing sides based on a bank balance. Dull.”
Her expression went flat. The teasing lilt left her voice. “You really will do it.”
“Can I have a few minutes to get my affairs in order?”
I’d anticipated this. I handed her a pen and a sheet of paper. “I’ll see that your assistant gets your letter.”
She smirked. I took her phone and checked her message. The last one sent was the one to my phone. No activity almost half an hour prior to that. No photos of me. Good. She seemed to be playing fair.
“There,” she said and put the pen down. She sat primly, ankles and knees together, hands folded in her lap. “What’s to be my method of execution?”
She smiled just a bit. “How Victorian. And compassionate.”
“We wouldn’t want to leave an unattractive corpse, would we.”
“Oh, Sherlock, you do care.” She sighed and looked thoughtful. “How is John?” When I didn’t answer, she continued. “You should tell him you’re alive.”
“He’s safe this way.”
“But not happy.”
“He’ll adjust.” I handed her two capsules. She raised an eyebrow. “Enough to put you to sleep. Then I’ll inject the overdose.”
“Will you stay with me?” She took the pills without water and settled herself comfortably on the sofa.
“Of course. Can’t risk someone finding you and saving your life.”
“I’m sorry we never had dinner.”
“I don’t eat.”
“Except with John.”
I narrowed my eyes, understanding what she was implying, but not why.
“He loves you.”
“He’s not gay.”
“Not everything fits into tiny little pigeonholes, Sherlock. Some things are meant to be messy jumbles. Sit beside me and hold my hand. Don’t be such a prude. You can monitor my pulse.”
I sat beside her and flinched when her head rested on my shoulder. She laughed and I took her wrist.
When I was sure she was asleep, I opened the case with the syringe and vial. I tied off her arm and stroked the inside of her elbow to raise the vein. I wiped the injection site with an alcohol swab. It wasn’t necessary, but it was habit.
The needle slid in. I pushed the plunger.
She stirred just a bit and then fell deeper asleep.
An hour later I checked the room for recording devices. I cleaned everything I touched. I left the needle and vial near her body. I placed her suicide note on the table.
On the train out of France, I phoned Mycroft.
“I won’t even ask why this was necessary” he said. “Just tell me that it’s actually done this time.”
“Are you certain you didn’t let her go again?”
“Good. Take some time to rest. There are at least four others, but we’re having some trouble confirming their identities. I’ll be in touch.”
“Mycroft.” I stopped him just before he rang off.
“He’s fine. I wouldn’t say ‘happy’ but he’s adjusting.”
“Thank you.” I hung up before either of us could say anything else.