Sherlock was pacing again, his eyes and muzzle scrunched up in thought. John hung back with Lestrade, who was steadily digging a hole big enough to bury the body of the young rabbit. Anthea regarded the whole event dolefully from her perch on the fence, as always accompanied by Mycroft, who was eyeing John suspiciously.
“We need to find this hound before it gets too far.” Sherlock muttered, half to himself.
“There are footprints,” Lestrade pointed out, pausing in his frenzied digging.
“Yes but we have no idea where they lead. This is a pointless kill. I can’t rattle up a single motive—which means that this is either an impulsive murder, or a trap.”
“What, you think the hound is trying to get us to follow its footprints?” John asked, cocking his head to the side. Sherlock cast him an approving look and nodded. “Precisely.”
“Why, though?” The notion struck John as quite odd. Why would a killer want to arrange a meeting with people who are bound to arrest them?
“I haven’t the faintest.” Sherlock grinned, his whiskers twitching excitedly. He turned to John, suddenly serious.
“John, I’ll have Mycroft escort you back to the dam. You’ll be safer there.”
“Wh—no! I want to come with you!” John waddled up close to him and gave a reproachful glance up at the stoic Mycroft . Sherlock tried to keep his expression impassive, but a flicker of affection crossed it as he looked down at John.
“John—I understand your concern but—”
“I’m not helpless!” John cut him off, exasperated, “I may be small but I do have defense mechanisms of my own.”
As if to demonstrate, John’s quills rose threateningly, making him look like an overly-full pin cushion. Letting out a huff of amusement, Sherlock dipped his head to inspect his spiny comrade, only to receive a relatively sharp poke in the nose.
“Alright, alright I see your point.” Sherlock clutched at his nose as it smarted with pain.
Lestrade lifted the rabbit up with one paw and set her down gently in the makeshift grave. He then pushed the dirt back over the grave, his voice sombre. “Right, well- Sherlock, John, you come with me. The sooner we catch this hound, the better.”
Sherlock dipped his head to pick up John by his striped jumper once more. Reluctantly, John allowed him to, avoiding Lestrade’s eyes. Mycroft clicked his beak, whispering something to Anthea before taking off with a flurry of sleek black feathers. Stooping low to the ground, Lestrade sniffed the earth around the footprints. As he picked up the scent, he started off through the tall grass lining the path, tail tucked between his legs.
Sebastian was just beginning to drift off to sleep when he heard it. The grass surrounding the hollow waved forebodingly around him, providing a constant cacophony of nearly-inaudible crackles and pops from the underbrush. Shaking his head, Sebastian closed his eyes once more, huffing out an exasperated breath. There it was again, the rustling louder now, as if someone was skirting around the perimeter of the hollow. This time, Sebastian rose to his feet, teeth bared.
“You wouldn’t bite me, would you Seb?” came a sing-song voice to his right, “That would be very unfortunate for the both of us.”
Moriarty strode into view, his angular face highlighted by a sliver of moonlight cutting through the canopy above.
“I’m sorry, Sir.” Sebastian dropped back onto his haunches, assuming his version of a military stature.
“No matter.” Moriarty flicked his tail from side to side, his yellow eyes glowing in the dark. “Was the deed carried out sufficiently?”
Sebastian hesitated, running his tongue over his teeth, tasting the irony residue there.
“I miscalculated, Sir. I thought I had him—the otter—but—”
Moriarty hissed softly, cutting Sebastian off.
“You had one assignment, my dear,” He whispered, lamp-like eyes flashing dangerously, “And you couldn’t follow through. Oh dear, Sebastian.”
“You created me for one purpose, didn’t you?” Sebastian spat, suddenly bitter, “You made me a monster. I don’t want to kill anyone, Jim!”
“If I remember correctly—you volunteered for the experiment. You were fully aware of the job I was asking you to perform.”
Jim circled Sebastian slowly, his tail twitching back and forth, ears pinned to his angular feline head.
“You will do as I say,” Jim hissed, “And you will run.”
Sebastian hesitated, kneading his front paws into the soft earth of the hollow.
“I’m trying to protect you,” Jim mewled, his disposition shifting dramatically, “Please—just do as I say and run. They’re coming, Seb.”
Giving in, Sebastian stood and trotted away reluctantly, glancing over his shoulder at the lone cat in the center of the clearing.