He raced across the rooftop after the killer and he was closing in fast. He could almost touch him, but then the murderer took a giant leap across a gap between two houses. Losing his footing, he skidded to a stop and cursed. He could not make that jump. He would lose him. Taking out his Browning, he took aim and -
"Boring!“ Sherlock yelled and threw another folder into the flames.
John flinched and put down the thriller he had tried to get into for the last half hour. Sherlock ripping old files to shreds and throwing them into the fire melodramatically while commenting on their banality also hadn't helped. At present, he felt the urge to commit the paperback to the flames as well.
"You remember this one, John, with the moronic husband who...“ His phone vibrated. John looked at Sherlock expectingly.
"Yes! Text from Lestrade about a murder-suicide on the South Bank.“ Sherlock had been bored out of his mind all evening and could hardly restrain himself from jumping up and down while he rushed to put on his coat.
"John, come on," he yelled while pounding down the stairs.
Sighing, John shrugged into his jacket and followed Sherlock. The detective already stood at the kerb flagging down a cab.
"Hopton Street," Sherlock announced as he sorted his long limbs into the back seat and waited for John to get in as well. In the darkness, he watched the lights reflect on Sherlock's angular features while they were speeding through the city, towards their next case.
Their cab stopped. They could already glimpse the yellow tape. Sherlock hopped out of the cab and strode off toward it. John sighed and reached for his wallet. He leaned forward and asked the cabbie "How much do we you?"
"'Bout 17 quid" he said.
John gave him a twenty, thanked him, and made after Sherlock. At the barrier, he was held up by an officer he didn't recognize.
"Sorry, you can't come in here now," the young woman said, apologetic but determined.
"I'm John Watson. I work with Sherlock Holmes," he told her.
"It's okay, Mel, just let him through," he heard Greg holler. "Good to see you, John."
"Hello," John smiled. He cordially shook hands with Greg, who was in a suit and looked more exhausted and worn out than usual. He quickly pulled Greg close to him in a half hug and whispered in his ear: “Thank you. You saved our sanity, I owe you one.”
“No problem,” Greg whispered back.
John smelled a hint of cigarettes. His breath ghosted across John's ear and made him shiver a bit. They broke apart and John nodded down the street where the forensic team milled about.
"So, what's this, then?"
Greg led him to another cordoned off area. Sherlock was already in it, crouching over two bodies. John saw a man and a woman on their backs on the asphalt, both of them very dead. Sherlock was in his element, John could tell from the way he carried himself.
John got closer and did his share of observing. The woman was middle aged and brown-skinned. She was sprawled on her back in an evening dress of startling azure blue. The elegant wrinkles were artfully arranged to obscure her pudgy waist. She had bled extensively from a chest wound, not quite in the heart. She had probably died fairly quickly. John couldn't help but look at her face which was frozen in an expression of surprise. Her eyes were still wide open.
The man was older. His white hair set off the contrasting gash of a bullet wound on his right temple. He had fallen down face first and his head lay turned to the right. His arms were sprawled out in front of him. There was a Glock next to his right hand, but he was not holding it. The unlucky fellow was wearing a tuxedo, expensive-looking. The couple probably had a night out, and they weren't poor, either. That was about as far as John got.
~ Sherlock ~
Sherlock checked the man's coat pockets and his jacket. Right tux pocket: Two ticket stubs (Tate, dated today). Coat pocket: cigarettes in expensive metal case (Marlboro), lighter, a clip-purse complete with credit card, debit card, driver's license and about 80 pounds of cash. Watch (Rolex) on his right wrist. Ring, too (still intact). Nicotine stains on the left thumb, fore and middle finger.
The woman: elegant hair-do (Elnette hair spray, professionally done); pearl necklace with matching earrings (real pearls, slight irregularities), perfume (Dior), bespoke dress (silk), coat (fur). Ring (matched the man's, married), nails polished, no chipping). Shot at close distance. He patted her down and looked inside her coat pockets. Nothing. Sherlock rose and searched the ground around the pair, glance darting here and there.
“Have you found anything? Did she carry a purse?” he inquired.
“Yes,” Lestrade answered. He procured the article which was already in an evidence bag. ID (Marita Carson), club membership, leaflet from the Tate, some charity thing, dated next month. No credit cards, no money.
“What do you think?” Lestrade asked him.
"The man did not shoot himself. He's left handed.” He glanced at John and Lestrade. “This is a double murder.” Suppressing a smile, he turned towards them. “I've seen everything I need to see. Have the files sent over.”
“Wait, that's all?” Lestrade asked.
Sherlock frowned. Lestrade was starting to annoy him.
“Someone tried to make it look like he shot himself in the head. That's all I can tell you right now. I need more data.” Sherlock turned toward John. “John, get a – “
But Lestrade protested: “Seriously? That's it? Usually you're a bit more helpful than that. Nothing to observe?”
“You want more observing? Fine.”
Sherlock gave him a careful once-over. Then he stepped into his personal space and sniffed.
“You've been staying at a hotel for the past four to five nights. You're not using your regular aftershave, but a cheap generic foam that is issued complimentarily at lower-end hotel chains. You slept at the office for some time before that. Your gait is different so as not to disturb the muscles in your lower back.“
"Sherlock," John warned. They had gathered a small crowd.
“The mattress at the hotel is also not helping alleviate the symptoms. You usually clip your nails on the weekend; their current length indicates a deviation from your routine. Your shirt has been to the dry cleaners. You usually iron them yourself, at home – yes, you, not your soon to be ex-wife. Your skin also shows clear signs of – "
~ John ~
"That's enough," John snapped. "Can't you tell when it's no use beating a dead horse?"
Sherlock looked at him thoughtfully and John speculated that he wasn't familiar with the idiom and presumably thought up an experimental setting in which equine tissue would play a major role.
"Oh, for God's sake, Sherlock, just shut up."
Greg bit his lip.
“Are you finished?” he asked, a slight quiver in his voice, which he tried to suppress with defiance.
“No, but John told me to stop.”
“Fine. Thanks for nothing.”
Greg turned around on his heel and stalked off down the street.
John shot Sherlock an exasperated look.
“You prat, he just did us a favor. Try to be a bit more sensitive.”
“How did he do us a favor?”
“I texted him earlier, asking if he had something on for us. You were building up to a massive sulk all evening. So you should be thanking him for letting you in on this.”
“It's not even a three,” Sherlock muttered.
“What? Come on, it was nice thing to do. He's having a hard enough time as it is.”
“He can stay with us,” Sherlock finally said, instead of an apology (Lord knew those were rare). “He hates spending money but he's too proud to ask for help.”
John mulled this over a bit. Yes, that seemed like something Greg would do.
“I'm going to go talk to him,” he thumbed in the direction the DI had walked off to. “You stay here and try not to make anyone cry, okay?”
John caught up with Greg, who was leaning against a doorway, having a smoke.
“Sorry about Sherlock,” he said.
“Yeah, sure,” Greg answered, taking a deep drag. His face seemed impassive, but worn.
“No, really. Sorry. He was out of line.”
“It's not your fault. It's just the way he is.“ Greg replied with a sigh. “Just caught me at a bad moment, that's all.”
“I'm also sorry about how things went between Jodie and you.”
“It's okay. Thanks, John. I just couldn't stay there anymore. She'd never leave on her own account, I had to. And Sherlock is right, the hotel is shitty. I'm looking for something more permanent, eventually. Things... are pretty final."
"I'm so sorry, Greg. You want to grab a pint and tell me what happened?"
Greg found he fancied a cool beer and an open ear very much.
When Greg and John walked back to the crime scene to join the others, Sherlock was nowhere to be found. “The git left without me,” John muttered. He should be used to Sherlock taking off like that by now, but he still felt left behind. They drove over to NSY where Greg had to file a short report before his shift ended. While John waited for Greg he texted Sherlock.
Where did you run off to?
Getting some things. SH
Going to grab a pint with Greg. Feel free to join us.
Busy. Bring him home with you. He can't afford the hotel. He'll need the money for a good lawyer. SH
How do you know that?
Two smart leather shoes came into John's view and he looked up.
“Ready?” Greg asked. “I could kill for a burger.”
They left NSY and finally, at around half past twelve, they were ensconced in a booth at the pub. They placed in their order before the kitchen closed and devoured two delightfully unhealthy burgers with gusto. After that, pints just kept appearing in front of them. And John just listened and let Greg rant.
“She cheated on me. With her fucking yoga instructor. For four months. And the best thing is, she isn't really sorry about it. She blames me, because apparently I neglected her.”
Greg had done a good job of keeping his anger in check. He had behaved so professionally at work that John hadn't even noticed that he was this upset.
“I don't even know her anymore. I...” He scrubbed his face with his hands. “I can't do this anymore. This is not the first time this has happened. I overlooked it then. But I don't even feel at home there anymore, it's like coming home to a stranger every night. And I took nights off work, to do something together, but she was busy, too, she said. I imagine screwing that guy's brains out is a tough schedule to keep...” Greg took a great gulp of beer. “I hate leaving home. I just want my own bed, not that unbearable hotel mattress. My back is killing me. I hate this. I hate being like this.”
John felt bad for Greg. "You know, you could always stay with us," he offered.
"Nah, I wouldn't want to impose. Appreciate it, though. I'm fine."
The dark circles under his eyes were telling another story, though.
"You're not fine. I don't need Sherlock's observational skills to see that."
"Well, I'll be fine, then." Greg scowled and leaned back in the booth.
"In fact, Sherlock suggested it. You, staying with us."
"Yes, in his way, of course. He said you're thrifty and you hate pouring money down the drain, and since you'll have to get a lawy – I mean, you would want to be more careful, and pffff..." John made a rude sound with his lips. He took another sip of beer. Greg shook his head and huffed.
"The bottom line is, though, we'd both like you to stay with us. And Sherlock may be unable to say it in a non-Sherlock, non-offensive way, but I guess he wants to help out. And I..."
John looked down into his empty beer glass and then directly at Greg.
"I want you to because you're my friend. And friends give friends a place to crash when they get screwed over by their bitch of a wife who can't even tell what a great bloke she threw away."
John had worked himself into a bit of a rage there and was surprised by his invective and the accidental compliment he had given Greg. Deciding to ignore that it had happened, he signaled the barkeeper for two more pints.
"Besides, you'll be utterly pissed when we're done here. And I'm a doctor with a secret hangover remedy, which is at home."
Greg laughed involuntarily and then sighed. He drained his glass and accepted the new one.
"All right, then."