“One day, Sherlock, you’ll go too far.”
My brother glared at me. “The idea was to make people think I just had.”
His right arm was in a sling; his right knee, under the split-open leg of an appalling pair of downmarket jeans, appeared to be bandaged as well. We were somewhere in the deeper reaches of St. Bart’s pathology department. A disused region of the morgue, in fact. I didn’t know that morgues usually had chairs for their guests; perhaps that explained why my brother’s looked so out of place. The woman in the lab coat, standing, looked far less incongruous.
“Very funny. You couldn’t have discussed this with me first?”
“I thought I had.”
“A list of things you might need for a purpose you wouldn’t pin down in an eventuality you wouldn’t specify hardly qualifies as a discussion. How badly are you hurt?”
“Nothing important —“
The mousy woman in the lab coat interrupted him. “He dislocated his shoulder and sprained his knee. I reduced the dislocation and strapped the knee. He needs to rest them.”
“You must be Miss Hooper—“
“_Doctor_ Hooper,” my brother corrected me. “Molly, this is my brother Mycroft. He’s the most dangerous man you will ever meet, and he’s a twit and a pedant and often a bully. But very good at his job. Our co-conspirator.”
“And your next of kin,” I pointed out.
“The most cogent reason I can imagine for begetting children, but useful under the circumstances.”
“I’ll take him off your hands as soon as I can, Dr. Hooper. How did you plan to leave here, Sherlock? And where will you go?”
“I had planned to walk out, and take the bus to Molly’s flat.”
“_Can_ you walk?"
“Of course I can walk—“
Molly actually interrupted him. “You’ve already tried. You can’t. Crutches are out, too. And you need prescription drugs, _soon_ to keep the swelling down.”
“I thought you were a doctor,” I said to Molly.
“Not that kind,” she said.
“Her patients don’t require her to have prescription privileges, Mycroft, do keep up.”
I turned to Dr. Hooper. “Pathology. The dead must be a welcome change from my brother.”
She ignored me. “And most people would want painkillers. I’ve given him a co-codamol left over from my root canal but that’s not really going to cut it.”
“Ooooh,” said my brother. “Mycroft, may I have morphine?”
“No,” I told him. His exhilaration must have been due to shock; I had believed him to be well-stoned. “When did you die?”
“About an hour ago,” said Molly. “It feels much longer.”
“How long will you need for the autopsy?”
“It depends on whether he’ll hold still.” There was a tone in her voice, ragged though it was, which suggested that Molly Hooper had unplumbed depths. And that she might reach them sooner than Sherlock expected.
“Molly, do I really have to be here for that? And don’t look at my brother if you want a pillar of sanity.”
“You can’t expect her to look anywhere else in the room, Sherlock. What is it, Dr. Hooper?”
“I’ve written a death certificate for a live man,” she said. “Who also wants an autopsy forged—”
“You can do it on your head, Molly.”
“I should think she’s fantasised weighing your liver and brain a number of times over the years—“
“Usually just the initial incision, actually,” said Molly.”Or sending off his head for a rabies check. But I’d also like not to lose my license. Sherlock said he thought you could…smooth things over.”
“In that, at least, he was correct, Dr. Hooper. If you, and less likely my brother, can behave with reasonable discretion I see no reason we should not sustain this travesty for as long as we need. Without any professional consequences to concern you.”
“Three months, tops, I told you, Mycroft.”
He had not seen the reports that I had. He hadn’t wanted to look. “You’re an idiot, Sherlock. And it won’t be over even after —“ It was obvious he hadn’t told Molly everything, and that he didn’t want to. I held my peace and turned back to the pathologist. “And you were going to take him home?”
“It made sense at the time,” said Sherlock.
“It never made sense,” I assured him. “Doctor Hooper. I have access to medical facilities and, I am certain, a much larger spare room.”
“Take him and welcome. I’ll get back to my office and start writing things up, I suppose.” She looked indecisive. “I don’t quite see how I can keep _not_ cutting open a body a secret. It’s not like I have that many visitors, but there’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing among the offices here. And I have two murder victims from last week coming in.”
“I wanted to see that insulin overdose,” Sherlock said, petulantly.
“Being dead is an inconvenience for everyone, dear brother.”
“Anyway, Molly, if you need a body to cut open there’s one on the rooftop. Damn.” My life is almost certainly richer in moments of the surreal than that of most Englishmen. It was as if he had realised he’d left his wallet at home.
Molly made a stifled noise, like a rabbit pushed to its utmost.
“I meant to tell you,” Sherlock said, like a guest who’s left the kitchen untidy. “Or someone. I just don’t know if it matters.”
How do you ask your brother how he killed the most successful criminal in Europe? Or why? “That’s unexpected. And yet you still—“
“I had to. You don’t think I went through this for fun, do you Mycroft?”
He had barely begun to go through it. The newly dead have no idea.
“Must we subject Molly to this? It’s bad enough I left a body on her rooftop. Though of anyone I know, she’s the most likely to do something constructive with it… I need to think. It’s been an hour, you said. There were snipers after John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade. My death was supposed to call them off.”
“Any attack on any of your regular contacts would have been routed to me.” I wondered if he knew John Watson was being treated for concussion in Whitechapel. It wasn’t the time.
“The mobile signal in here is rubbish,” Molly said.
I smiled at her benignly.
“Don’t patronise my pathologist,” Sherlock said. “Send your minions to do something about the mess on her rooftop. She can autopsy him, and produce the report on me in due course, and then you can claim the body and bury it. Quite handy, really. I wonder if Jim had loving relatives who will be devastated to learn of his demise?”
Molly broke in. “Wait now —Jim Moriarty? Jim from IT is dead on my rooftop? And you want me to autopsy him, too?”
“Single gunshot wound through the cranium; you’d probably want to keep his face covered while you work. Most people passing won’t look very closely anyway, will they? Am I notorious enough to be a body people will want a good stare at? Probably—”
“Sherlock, I slept with him. Several times!”
“I could never understand why. Surely it’s a bit late to be worried about the ethics of that? You’re not grief-stricken, are you? Was he that good a lover?”
“Sherlock, I think the young lady—“ I began.
She turned on me. “NEVER call me that again, understand?”
Why was I the target, when Sherlock was displaying his usual luminous disregard for the human heart? I nodded at her.
Molly continued. “It’s not really on, Sherlock.”
“As far as I can glean from the print and television media, most women would be very pleased to eviscerate their ex-boyfriends. You mean if you enjoy it, it’s not professional?”
“Something like that, actually,” she said. “Regular doctors don’t usually treat their families, and people are going to talk enough when they find I did your autopsy, let alone an ex’s.”
“They do little else. No one will be surprised to hear you wanted my body—“
She slapped him. It seemed to hurt. I wondered what their history was. Sherlock looked thoughtful for a moment. Light dawned. “I didn’t mean that.”
“I did.” She turned to me. “Minions?”
“Your taxes at work?”
“Do whatever we have to do to get this over as soon as possible. I’ll… process Jim from IT if you think that would be the best way to handle it. No one will expect a report on Sherlock before tomorrow afternoon. We brought him inside in a laundry cart. I think that’s probably the best way to get him out if you have a big enough van; it’s in the corridor, still. Can you keep the reporters away from here?” No one would ever call her mousy, if they heard her decisiveness in that moment.
“I can keep them from talking to you, I believe,” I said. “And I can help make the paperwork hard for them to obtain.”
“That won’t make this any more ‘discreet.’ Will there be police all over, as well?”
Sherlock looked at me. “I think not,” I said to the pathologist. “I think you’ve covered what needs to be done.”
She bit her lip. “I knew Jim was…bad, I knew he killed people, but it’s strange to think of him dead. Here, again. Strange enough to think of you, dead, here, even the way you are. Not dead, I mean.” She seemed to draw up some additional courage. “Did you have to shoot him?”
“If it matters to you, Molly, I didn’t.” It was strange to hear softness in my brother’s voice. “I don’t really understand why, but he shot himself.”
“You’ll figure it out. It’s what you do, figure people out.”
“Not very well. What they do, yes, but not why.”
She laughed a little. “I think that’s the truest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
“And it’s much harder when they’re as mad as a hatter.”
“Should I look for mercury poisoning, then?”
“More likely perinatal brain injury, abnormalities… not that there’s ideal preservation.”
“And you’re saying horrible things, once again. But that’s also what you do.” She smiled at him. Sweet and sad and fleeting. “Have I done my bit, Sherlock? Am I finished with your death?”
“This time.” Sherlock managed to stand up, using only the left side of his body. “I’m not trying to walk, Molly. Would you come over here?”
It’s terrible to see how clearly people’s bodies betray them. Molly had taken very clear possession of the room, of her own domain, but at my brother’s words she became gawky and and defensive. I doubt that she noticed my brother mirroring her insecurity. But he’s much better at working despite it. Hiding it. He put the hand of his uninjured arm on her shoulder.
“You’ve done more than a bit, Molly Hooper, and I wanted to thank you. You put everything in your life on the line to help me do this, and we won’t know what it means until the game is over. No one else could have done this for me. Thank you.” And he kissed her cheek. Very ritualised, but more than I’d have expected of him.
She laughed again a little. “Well. See you don’t need me to do it again.”
“And you’ll let me know how it turns out, and explain it?”
“Stay in touch … in the meantime?”
“No; right then. Yes. Good to meet you, Mr. Holmes, goodbye.”
I thought she had forgotten I was in the room. “Good to meet you, Dr. Hooper.” And she walked, full of tension, mouselike again, out of the room. To slice open an ex-boyfriend with power tools.
“You make some of the strangest friends,” I said.
I expected him to point out that he, at least, had some; but he just sank carefully back into his chair. “I think Molly did that, actually. Befriend someone strange.”