The train ride from London to Paris takes exactly 2 hours and 22 minutes. From there it’s another four hours ride to Zurich, but if all goes according to plan they’ll be finished with Moriarty before arriving in Paris.
Molly fidgets in her seat and looks out the window of their train compartment. It’s still dark outside and she watches her reflection carefully as she takes a sip of her coffee. She looks nice, that girl in the mirror, nice and harmless. Nice, respectable clothes, if a somewhat odd combination, a girlish pony-tail and big, slightly uneasy eyes. Molly grimaces at her. The reflection girl sticks out her tongue at Molly, too, and Molly cannot help but smile in return.
“Could you try to concentrate for once?” Irene’s soft admonition makes Molly jump. She can barely keep her coffee from spilling.
“Sorry,” Molly mutters and sits up straighter. She ignores the reflection girl who’s still watching her from the corner of her eye and lets her gaze wander around their train compartment instead. Irene’s attention has shifted back to the files she’s reading. Moriarty’s files to be sure. Molly’s read them too, of course, but Irene is always the one re-reading and planning and getting all the little details right. Next to Irene sits Kate, playing with a pencil while calculating some complicated chemical reactions of hers. Molly hopes the chemicals for today are all ready. But they will be – Kate is reliable and does her job well. Or so Irene’s told her.
Molly has planned to read a tour guide of Paris while waiting for the next stage of their plan to start, but she finds she cannot concentrate on it. So many houses and places are swirling in her mind already, it’s hard to focus on new ones. And anyway, it won’t do to mix some of them up accidentally later, so maybe better not to clutter her mind with tourist information about a city that she won’t have to use today. Molly sighs. She’ll have to save Paris for later. If all goes well, they’ll have more than enough time to explore the city for real.
Just then the compartment door slides open and Sally pokes her head through the gap. “He’s all settled in now.”
Instantly they all snap to attention. Forgotten are files, chemical calculations and travel guides. When Sally’s sat down in the seat beside Molly, Irene taps her perfectly manicured fingernails against her file folder to command attention.
“Remember that Moriarty is a dangerous man. So let’s go through our plan again, just to avoid any possible mistakes. You know how much I hate it when stupid mistakes are made because someone has forgotten what to do.”
It’s not like anyone has forgotten their plan already, but Irene always loves to do these recaps. Molly suspects it has something to do with Irene needing to ascertain her leading position in their group. Not that anyone would dare to question that, of course. At least Irene has a pleasant voice and Molly likes listening to her. So they all lean closer and listen as Irene goes over the details again.
“As you know, Moriarty has managed to acquire some of the most secure codes existing – codes for bank accounts at Credit Suisse. Now, usually they say Swiss banks are invincible against hacking attacks and they of course have a lot of additional security, but if anyone can break their system, it’s going to be Moriarty. Thus, our first goal is to extract these bank codes from his mind. However, it won’t be enough to make him forget the codes. If Moriarty even remembers that he used to have these codes, he’ll try everything to get them back and he’ll eventually find us. And since we’re not willing to play such a dangerous game, Moriarty needs to forget he ever had the codes in the first place. And this, ladies, is where our distraction enters the game: ‘Sherlock Holmes’ a consulting detective with the most brilliant mind who can deduce everything from the smallest of details.”
Molly cannot suppress a giggle at the name. Sally’s come up with it, inspired by the hero of one of those crime novels she loves to read. As if anyone was really called ‘Sherlock’! Apart from the name, Sherlock Holmes is modelled after one of Molly’s work colleagues, one on whom she’s had a crush for ages. Joe isn’t a detective of course, but he also has the annoying habit of noticing every little detail about you, especially the ones you’re trying to hide. Amazingly he hasn’t noticed Molly’s crush yet, though. Of course Moriarty won’t be able to trace anything back to Joe – they aren't so stupid as to put him in any danger.
“Our plan has three stages. One: Introduce Moriarty to the name ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and connect it to the bank codes. Two: Implement the concept of Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective who threatens Moriarty’s criminal career. And three: Have them meet and somehow exchange the codes. Obviously, even if we manage to get the bank codes earlier, we still have to follow all three stages so that the distraction is properly implemented.”
“If all goes well,” Irene concludes, “by the time we arrive in Paris, Moriarty will not only be relieved of the bank codes, he’ll also be convinced he’ll have to go to Zurich in order to steal exactly these bank codes from his archenemy, said ‘Sherlock Holmes’. That should provide him with enough distraction that even the Swiss authorities should be able to catch him in one or two days.”
She smiles half to herself and they all relax for a moment. Then Irene nods towards Molly who quickly sets down her coffee, stands up and smoothes her skirt. Kate hands her a small sealed cup and gives her a quick smile.
“Just drop this anywhere in his compartment. Once the drug comes into contact with air, you’ll both be sedated immediately. I’ll be right behind you and start all necessary procedures as soon as Moriarty is out.”
When Molly clears her throat and nods nervously, Irene puts a hand on her shoulder. “You’ll be fine.”
And that’s as much encouragement as one will get from Irene Adler.
Molly makes her way through the small corridor. The train runs so smoothly, she can hardly feel it moving at all. But it must be because her legs are much more wobbly than usual. Luckily she doesn’t have to go far. Their seats are only two compartments away from Moriarty’s and Irene has taken measures to keep the ones in between empty. Molly takes a deep breath when she stands in front of Moriarty’s compartment door. Maybe she should have stayed in London after all... But Irene has been right; this life is far more exciting than anything Molly’s ever done before. And she’s not going to disappoint Irene.
So Molly pushes open the door and squeezes herself through. Moriarty takes his eyes from the paper he’s reading and lifts one eyebrow at her. He looks younger than in the pictures Molly’s seen and not as dangerous, either. Molly knows very well how she looks like – the reflection girl, nice and friendly and slightly confused. The game is on.
“Excuse me! Is this compartment 221? It’s just – I lost my luggage and my train ticket’s on there and I can’t really remember my number anymore,” Molly babbles away. If she’s expected Moriarty to be annoyed by her appearance, he disappoints her.
“You’re lost then?” he asks and Molly can almost see a hint of a smile on his face. His voice is calm and deep and much friendlier than should be possible, but Molly won’t let pretend friendliness distract her from her plan. He’s amused at her, then, not suspicious. Good. She pretends the movement of the train causes her to sway and slumps against the seat opposite Moriarty where she drops her cup. Instantly it crushes open and a dark liquid spills all over the leather of the seat.
“Oh, stupid me,” Molly squeaks, “I seem to have dropped my coffee! I’m so sorry!”
And then everything goes black.
2. Looking for a Name
“How very nice to finally meet you, Mr Moriarty,” Irene smiles at him. They’re meeting in a pastel coloured sitting room that doesn’t quite suit any of them, but it’ll have to do. Later, of course Irene will call Molly’s attention to all the mistakes she’s made and the little details she’s forgotten which are necessary to make a scene feel completely real. For a first project, though, Molly’s work is rather impressive. And Moriarty doesn’t seem to notice that anything’s off.
Otherwise he’s a pro, Irene has to grant him that much. Even while looking around the sitting room and noticing in all the details – the couch, the two armchairs, and the mirror that quite obviously hides a safe– he never takes his eyes off her. Irene leans forward. She’d offer him her hand, but she’s quite certain he wouldn’t accept it.
“Irene Adler. You might have heard of me. People do love to talk about me. I even have acquired a little nickname – The Woman. Do you like the sound of that, Mr Moriarty?”
She cocks her head, as if genuinely curious. Actually, she knows he must have heard of her. They’ve made sure that there were several articles in public papers and quite a few mentions on blogs about ‘the Woman’. Not enough to cause suspicion or particular interest, but enough so that the name would sound familiar enough to be remembered afterwards. They want Moriarty to remember only ‘the Woman’ and never Irene Adler, after all. It’s a tricky business with names.
Moriarty smiles back at Irene. “I do. I like the look of you, too.”
He shows her more teeth than Irene cares to see. They’re obviously meeting as business partners, so Irene has expected fake friendliness. She hasn’t quite expected this sliminess, though. But of course she won’t show any surprise. Instead she rings a small bell. Almost immediately the door is pushed open and Molly enters with a tray in her hands.
“Tea?” she asks shyly, avoiding Moriarty’s eyes which predatorily dissect her. Irene has to hold back a smile. Molly plays this insecure girl perfectly, though Irene likes her better when she’s herself. What happens next is over so fast, Irene cannot interrupt.
Suddenly, Moriarty grabs Molly’s arm as if to pull her towards him. Molly draws back and tries to hit Moriarty with her tea tray. He manages to duck, though, and the tray together with two cups flies through the sitting room for a split-second before they crash on the floor. Porcelain shatters and exquisite tea spills on equally exquisite carpet. The tea stains can almost be called beautiful. Irene wonders if the form of the stains actually means anything, being in a dream, before she chases that thought away. No time to be distracted.
Molly’s just regained her composure, too. She claps her hands over her mouth and tearfully whispers “I’m so sorry”, until Irene tells her in a stern voice to leave. Moriarty, however, hasn’t moved nor does he show much of a reaction. He simply watches them with narrowed eyes.
That’s bad. He must suspect something now. And sure enough, it takes only seconds before Irene can hear gunfire outside. Blimey! She’ll have to work faster than planned now. Sally and Molly will be able to hold off Moriarty’s defence systems, but not for terribly long.
Feigning nonchalance, Irene walks over to the mirror. She looks Moriarty square in the eye.
“Sorry for this incident, Mr Moriarty. But let’s not pretend anymore. I am sure you know why you’re here.”
He raises his eyebrows at her. No precise suspicion, then. Irene has to be very careful now. Careful and fast because she can hear the gun shots getting closer.
“I’ve asked you here because I need something you have.”
“Many people do,” he grins. “Not many get want they want, though. I might make an exception for you, but don’t count on it.”
Irene ignores the impulse to sigh. He still thinks he’s in control. Good. She runs a hand over the shelf beneath the mirror until a hidden switch clicks and the shelf retreats to reveal the badly hidden safe.
“I want to get into this safe, Mr Moriarty. And you will tell me the codes to open it.”
Moriarty looks at her in a wide-eyed way, miming a lack of understanding. “Codes?” he echoes in mock surprise. “I don’t have any codes.”
Irene abandons the safe and walks over to Moriarty instead. Hidden in her palm is a small syringe. She sits on the arm rest of his chair and leans closer, so close he must feel her breath on his skin as she whispers: “Ah, that’s because you’re working for him, aren’t you? I know he wants those codes for himself. Probably doesn’t want to share them, not even with you.”
When he looks at her, this time with genuine surprise, Irene uses the moment to run the syringe into his arm. She can hear him inhale sharply and knows that there’s no time to lose now. The drug doesn’t take long to have an effect. So she puts all her strength into the effort of pushing Moriarty to the floor. Then she grabs her riding crop, slaps him right in the face, to stop him from getting up.
Moriarty lies there gasping. A trickle of blood runs down his temple. But Irene shows no mercy – it’s important that he gets no rest, no chance to think. And there’s not much time before he’ll fall unconscious from the drugs. She hits him again.
“So who are you working for? Who has the codes? I want to hear his name!”
“I… don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a name.”
Part of Irene wants to stop right and there treasure the fact that she’s just made Jim Moriarty, one of the most dangerous men in the world, stutter. But the less emotional, bigger part of her drives her further, lets her waste no time, hits him again.
Carefully avoiding the tea stains, Irene crouches down besides Moriarty who’s almost completely out from the drugs. He still fights against them, but it’s clear he’ll lose. She smiles at him and asks quietly, but in a clear voice so he won’t miss a word: “Tell me you’ve never heard of Sherlock Holmes?”
His eyes flicker open once more, pierce her with an intense look, then he loses consciousness.
3. The Only One in the World
Sally’s wanted to be a police woman ever since she was five years old. When most of her friends in nursery talked about becoming princesses or dancers, Sally dreamed of chasing criminals, fighting crime and preventing injustice. Not that she knew what injustice really meant other than that she wasn’t allowed to eat biscuits after bedtime, but it was her dream nonetheless.
Now she sits in her own office at Scotland Yard. The sign at her door reads Sally Donovan, Detective Inspector. And opposite her sits one of the most cunning criminals she’s ever tried to catch. He looks ridiculously young to be a criminal mastermind, but Sally always takes precautions not to underestimate her opponents. And it’s vital she doesn’t get anything wrong here.
Not that this is the real Scotland Yard or that she really is a Detective Inspector. As much as she likes the idea of it, Sally’s found that police work includes too much bureaucracy and not enough action for her to really enjoy it. Working with Irene, the excitement always outweighs boring paperwork and Sally gets to chase criminals all the same. Still, it’s a nice touch to have her be a police woman once more.
Sally rustles the files in front of her to get Moriarty’s attention. When she does, she almost wishes he’d look away again – his gaze is penetrating and cold. But Sally doesn’t give in. Instead she clears her throat and regards Moriarty with a frown.
“Mr Moriarty, I’ve had reports of very grave accusations against you.” She shuffles through the papers. “Thirty-one cases of theft – including one inside the Tower of London – twenty-four cases of kidnapping and twelve cases of assistance in murder. Plus rumours of several contact to terrorist cells. These accusations can send you to jail for the rest of your life, should they be verified.”
Moriarty leans back in his chair and has the nerve to laugh in her face. “Ah, but Detective Inspector,” Sally can barely refrain from hitting him for his condescending tone, “that’s the problem, isn’t it? You have all these nice accusations but no method of actually verifying a single one of them. Because I am untraceable. I control everything but no one can control me. You’ll not find a single person who will be able to help you.”
Now it’s Sally’s turn to smile and she does so with grim determination. “Oh, but we already have, Mr Moriarty. I take it you’ve heard of Sherlock Holmes?”
She can see the recognition in his eyes, even as he tries not to flinch. Irene has done a good job then. She’s not only implemented the name Sherlock Holmes in Moriarty’s mind, but already connected it to a vaguely uneasy feeling. That’d make Sally’s work much easier. It was always a pleasure to work with a professional like Irene.
“Good,” Sally continues. “Then you’ll also know that Holmes is a consulting detective who occasionally works with us. The only consulting detective in the world,” she adds overly dramatically, rolling her eyes. It’s best to let Moriarty know early on that she’s not a fan of this Holmes.
“The best one, at any rate. He’ll find the smallest trace you may have left, read all of your crimes from the tiniest of clues. One look at you and he’ll know all of your secrets. There’s no hiding from Sherlock Holmes.”
Sally knows she’s laying it on thick. No one can be that clever. But there’s no place for subtlety in dreams. Moriarty will only remember the vaguest notion of it at best. They have to make sure Sherlock Holmes will stick.
Moriarty has stopped laughing now. Sally’s happy with this development, but her work is not yet done. It’s not enough to make him afraid of Holmes – he has to admire him, see him as an equal. Only then Moriarty will want to meet the detective himself and not leave him to his minions. Obviously it doesn’t take a genius consulting detective to outsmart Moriarty as they make him believe. A group of well-equipped dreamers can do the same and Sally’s proud to be one of them. But she’s not going to ruin their work by telling him that.
Instead she says: “As you can imagine, a man that smart and observant doesn’t only make friends. That’s actually why I’m telling you, Mr Moriarty. A warning if you wish to regard it as one. I do believe you’ve found your match in Sherlock Holmes. None of you is as unique as you like to think. However, I do not particularly care which one wins that little game of yours in the end. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I think I understand you perfectly, Detective Inspector. A little jealous of that great Holmes, aren’t we?”
Sally stands up from her chair and avoids Moriarty’s gaze, seemingly because he’s hit home, in reality because she doesn’t want to start laughing. It’s so easy to manipulate Moriarty once they’ve found his one weakness. Apparently even criminal masterminds don’t want to be alone and prefer to share their mad plans with someone they perceive as equally clever.
She walks over to a vending machine in the corner of her office.
“Coffee?” she calls over her shoulder, changing the topic. Moriarty doesn’t answer but she buys two cups of coffee anyway. She sips at her own and sets the other one on the table in front of Moriarty. After toying with it for a moment while observing her carefully, he takes it. Not even he suspects being drugged at the heart of Scotland Yard. Well, his bad.
4. Phone Numbers
Molly knows St. Bartholomew’s Hospital by heart. After all she’s worked here for years while completing her medical studies. She knows the shortest way to the canteen, she knows which labs are often forgotten to be locked and thus provide an excellent place to study (or sleep) and – most importantly – she knows the people who work there. Jim Moriarty doesn’t.
And still there she is, walking the so well-known corridors of Bart’s with Jim Moriarty by her side. Jim who works in the IT department and who is her boyfriend, her brain supplies helpfully. As soon as this information’s sunk in, Molly feels her cheeks blush red and hot. She wants to run away, hide in some dark closet, just get away from Moriarty. They were supposed to be work colleagues, sure, but this? This wasn’t planned. And Molly knows how much Irene hates things that don’t go according to plan. Besides, Moriarty as her boyfriend? What has her subconsciousness been thinking??
Molly lowers her head to hide her blush and from below her eyelashes watches Moriarty. He looks even younger now that he’s not wearing a suit anymore. Younger and – yes, she has to admit – rather handsome, too. That’s a thing about dreams Molly hasn’t grown used to yet: Even if you design dreams for other people, you always end up learning something about yourself as well.
Suddenly, Molly feels Moriarty’s eyes on her. He regards her curiously, but with no apparent distrust. Good then. Her dream has passed the first test. Quickly, Molly starts talking before Moriarty can start to suspect anything.
“So, Jim, as I told you, I work in that lab right at the end of this corridor. Mostly boring lab work, nothing special. Not like your computer stuff. I’m sure that’s really complicated. Um. Well, mostly I need to catalogue the dead bodies. But I’m sure you know what a mortuary assistant does, don’t you?“ Molly laughs nervously, hoping Moriarty will buy her story. And if she talks a bit too quickly and stumbles over words occasionally, surely that’s just her playing her role perfectly, yes? It’s to be expected from a young, shy girl showing her boyfriend around her work place. Yes, nothing to worry about.
“Sometimes, though, this detective comes to me for help. Sherlock, I mean. He’s so smart – oh, not smarter than you, obviously, but really smart anyway – and he helps the police solve crimes,” she continues babbling. Moriarty stops walking, only for a split-second, but Molly notices it anyway. He recognises the name. “And sometimes I can help Sherlock with it – help him solve the crimes, I mean. He comes to my lab to ask me for favours. Not that I’m really allowed to give him information about our bodies, but if it helps solving crimes, that’s kind of alright, don’t you think?”
Molly looks at Moriarty sheepishly and to her surprise he smiles back at her.
“Yes, that sounds fair. And if this Sherlock Holmes is such a genius as everybody says, I’m sure helping him is a smart decision.” He pauses as if suddenly having an idea. Obviously it’s been his plan all along. It’s impressive how fast he’s managed to use the role Molly has created for him for his own purpose. “Oh, Molly, wouldn’t it be fun, if I could meet him, too? Do you think he’ll be in your lab today?”
This time, Molly almost misses a step. How can he know her name? Then she remembers the name badge on the front of her lab coat and starts giggling in relief. To cover up, she quickly says: “Oh, not only today! He’s there practically every day! I’m sure you’ll be able to meet him. Come on!”
She’s been prepared for many things, but not for Moriarty grabbing her hand to drag her along the corridor. His hand is warm and his touch surprisingly soft. And she can’t really withdraw her hand now that she’s supposed to be his girlfriend, can she? Besides, she doesn’t have a tea tray to defend herself... Molly’s very conscious of her heart beating loudly as she follows Moriarty to the entrance of ‘her’ lab. Working with Irene certainly brings a lot more excitement than her last job, though Molly’s not quite sure this kind of excitement is what Irene had in mind when she offered her the place. But no matter how soft Moriarty’s hand feels, Molly’s determined not to let her team down.
When they open the door to the lab, Molly holds her breath for a second. Will Sherlock Holmes look like they’ve planned? Will there be a Sherlock Holmes after all? And most importantly – will he be able to convince Moriarty?
At least there is someone sitting at a desk, studying something through a microscope. He’s a tall dark-haired man, wearing a suit and a coat that looks far too warm to be worn insides. Hopefully Moriarty won’t notice this little slip. When Molly and Moriarty enter the room, the man looks up from his microscope and regards them with a sharp look.
“Molly,” he says and Molly jumps a little at the sound of his voice. He sounds just like Joe.
“Um, hello, Sherlock,” she stammers. “This, this is Jim. My boyfriend. He wanted to meet you.”
Moriarty lets go of her hand. He doesn’t take his eyes of Sherlock Holmes. His face is practically shining.
“Hello,” he says in a tight voice. “You’re Sherlock Holmes, then? Wow. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“I can imagine. Molly loves to gossip, doesn’t she?”
Molly can’t believe her ears. How can Sherlock Holmes, the man they’ve created as a distraction for Moriarty, start belittling her? Time to put the last part of their plan into action. She turns to Moriarty again.
“Jim, um, Sherlock is always really busy. Solving cases and all. Why don’t you let me give him your number, so he can call you later?”
Now this is the tricky part. Theoretically, Moriarty can tell her any combination of numbers that is somehow meaningful enough to him to remember during the dream. However, if Irene has done a good job connecting the name Sherlock Holmes to the bank codes (and Molly’s sure she has), these codes should be the first numbers on Moriarty’s mind. It’s a bit of a gamble, sure, but Irene knows how people’s minds work and she’s devised this plan.
Nevertheless Molly keeps the fingers of one hand crossed behind her back while she notes down the numbers Moriarty dictates her. The length of the code seems to fit. Of course, they can’t be sure whether it’s the right code until they’ve all woken up. But Molly is confident. She notes down the numbers in her best handwriting, memorising them as she does, then hands the slip of paper over to Sherlock Holmes who takes it without paying it much attention.
Molly almost breathes out audibly. That’s done. Now what was the sign to wake them up? Ah, yes. There was supposed to be an explosion. And judging from the state of the chemicals Sherlock Holmes is watching through his microscope it’ll happen any time now. Molly’s not afraid. Of course she isn’t. Irene has told her the plan in all details and she trusts Irene. But when she sees foam starting to rise from the test tube next to Sherlock, she blindly grabs the first thing to hold on to. Which happens to be Moriarty. And maybe she’s just imagining it, but for a second Molly could swear she feels him holding on to her as well...
5. Arriving in Paris
When Molly opens her eyes, she finds that she’s back in her own train compartment again. Sally’s also just waking up, stretching and yawning beside her. Kate is busy hiding their machinery inside a huge flowery shoulder bag. Only Irene notices that Molly’s awake, watching her with a curious expression. Molly feels a blush creep up into her cheeks. Irene wasn’t in the last dream – there is no way she could have sensed Molly’s confused feelings! Or could she? Anyway, Molly’s done what she was supposed to do. If her stupid subconscious has chosen to cast Moriarty as her boyfriend, at least it hasn’t affected their mission. And isn’t she free to do whatever she likes in her dreams? Though of course no one is completely free when working with Irene...
Molly avoids Irene’s eyes and takes a sip of her coffee instead. It’s cold. Molly grimaces and forces herself to swallow. She looks up to see that at least the girl in the mirror is having the same troubles, but finds she can no longer see her. It’s become light outside. Instead of her reflection, Molly can see buildings outside. They are vaguely familiar, but it takes Molly a moment to place them. Then it finally sinks in – they’re arriving in Paris.
With her bag packed and wrapped up in a jacket, scarf and hat, Molly follows the others through the corridor towards the doors. The train will stop at the station any second now. When she passes Moriarty’s compartment, Molly cannot help but dart another look at him. Wearing his suit again and talking animatedly into his mobile phone, he doesn’t look like her boyfriend Jim at all. And of course he isn’t. For a second, though, Moriarty catches her eyes and Molly can see how he tries to place her face. She knows she should look away quickly now, but – well, why shouldn’t she wait and see whether she’s made an impression? The moment is over as quickly as it has begun and Moriarty doesn’t recognise her. He looks away from the strange girl outside his compartment to continue his phone conversation.
Molly swallows. Of course this was to be expected, but is it wrong that for a moment she’s hoped differently? Though this also means that their dreams have gone well and that’s a reason to be happy, isn’t it? Molly shrugs and turns to follow the others again when she hears it. Quietly and muffled by the door, but still clearly recognisable. A single name. Sherlock Holmes.
Suddenly smiling from ear to ear, Molly follows Irene and the others as they disembark the train. There’s no need to tell them right now. None of them will have doubted their success anyway. Maybe she’ll tell Irene later, in private, hoping for a word of acknowledgement. For now, Paris is waiting to be explored.