The black suitcase bobs gently down the river until it is caught in an eddy created by one of the pillars of Blackfriars Bridge, and kept there by the opposing currents of the Thames and Fleet.
A sloop drawn in by curiosity sidles up to it and fishes it out of the murky waters.
It is just after lunch when they are called to the bridge. The woman who found the suitcase has been taken to hospital, where she is being treated for shock; Donovan will interview her in a few hours. The woman is innocent, of course: an unfortunate passerby.
On a small motorboat below, a forensics team readies itself to comb the rivers for any additional evidence, but it is unlikely that they will find anything. The suitcase itself is nondescript except for its contents.
Lestrade sighs as he steps out of the car and slams the door, sauntering over to stand beside Anderson. He—they—had been hoping for a quiet day, but then this had come up.
Anderson is crouched over the case, unsuccessfully searching it for any defining marks.
‘Have you looked inside yet?’ asked Lestrade.
‘Yes, and it’s not pleasant.’
‘I’ve probably seen worse. Let’s take a look, then.’
They unzip it, and the stench of decomposition hits them full in the face. Anderson looks at him as if to say ‘I told you so’ before launching into his briefing.
'Male, late thirties or early forties. Body hair shaved off, scalped, decapitated, and teeth knocked out. Face mutilated beyond any recognition, partially dissolved in the victim’s own stomach acid, fingers cut off and the fingertips burnt, as with the toes. Heart, lungs and entrails cut out, limbs cut off and wrapped in the intestines. The killer did everything in their power to make sure that the victim is unrecognizable. Except for...'
‘Except for what?’
Anderson points to an evidence bag. 'That.'
'Let me see.'
Anderson passes him the bag. Inside is a ring, a gold band that appears unadorned to the casual observer, but upon closer examination is utterly unique. Finely engraved on the outside is a crown clutched by ivy vines.
Even though he had seen it only a few times, Lestrade would recognise it anywhere. He stares and the world goes out of focus as he makes the connections, and for the first time in his career, he feels sick on a crime scene.
On the edge of his awareness, he hears Anderson asking, 'Sir? Are you alright? Do you recognise it?', and he manages to pull himself together and answer with a simple 'yes, I am' and 'no, I don’t.'
Green leaves frame the yellow smoke and azure late afternoon sky, and St. James’ Park is oddly devoid of people. He sits on a bench near the edge of the lake, smoking and watching the ducks and black swans nonchalantly paddle over the water. The world thrums beneath his feet, indistinct words weaving their way through his mind.
At dusk, he leaves the bench and follows the paths out of the park and onto the Strand, footsteps imprinting into Fleet Street’s blood.
He walks the slow circle of what was once the London Wall, starting at Newgate in the east.
A decorative grating protects the London Stone, which holds the City together. It is the focal point of generations of life, disease, and death.
Cripplegate received its name from the disabled and the poor who used to beg there.
The waning moon shines through layers of pollution onto the half-asleep city while Lestrade sneaks into the mortuary at St Barts with candle, needle and thread in hand. When he asked Dr. Hooper for late-night access, he knew that she would concede and never question his motives as long as Sherlock still came to the lab. It was to be hoped that no one would notice that the CCTV was on a loop. Some poor sod (the pathologist with the morning shift) would be fired and stripped of their credentials for releasing the body for cremation.
It is fortunate and appropriate that Mycroft’s remains were brought here: this place is Sherlock’s, and by extension Lestrade’s, secondary home.
As he opens the drawer that houses the cardboard box full of flesh and blood, he is acutely aware that what he’s doing is wholly illegal, and a wave of guilt washes over him.
But it is a choice between the world, prison, and possibly discharge, and he chooses the world.
He pulls on latex gloves and grimaces as he opens the box and lays the limbs out on a table in an arrangement that resembles a human body. The scent of river water and charred flesh permeates the sterile air, but he ignores it. He has a job to do.
The candle is lit, and the needle threaded with bright crimson.
First, he patches the fingers and toes together, pushing the needle through flesh and bone and fashioning new fingertips out of the silky fibre. With each of Lestrade’s heartbeats, the ancient rhythm that had been pulsing through his veins for the last fortnight grows stronger, steadies.
He stitches detached ankles and forearms to their respective arms and legs, creating new tendons out of fine cabling.
The rhythm grows into a low hum, and by the time he attaches the extremities to the torso, it is a whisper:
This ae nighte, this ae nighte
Every nighte and alle
Fyre and fleet and candle-lighte
And Christ receive thy saule
The needle moves by itself: it has been given a hand of its own to make it work, and Mycroft’s heart begins to beat unsteadily in Lestrade’s hand. Neck and spinal cord seal seamlessly to the body, facial wounds suture themselves, bits of bone and cartilage crunch and grate together as they grow and find their proper positions.
Lestrade pries open the ribcage and shoves the vital organs into place, curling entrails fished from a bucket into their elegant spiral and fashioning a new stomach out of a white sheet.
The whispering has grown into a full song, and as he places (gently, so gentlythe heart and lungs into the chest cavity, the song deepens into an earth-shaking roar as the Y-incision and ribs heal themselves.
Fyre and fleet and candle-lighte
Shadows dance on the wall as the candle flickers, then goes out. Lestrade waits breathlessly for a moment, heart pounding against the inside of his skull, before he leans close to Mycroft’s ear and whispers, ‘And Christ receive thy saule.’
Slow seconds pass, dripping listlessly across the clock face, and