( Hello )
There is everything plus static persistently humming away at the forefront of his mind – like the noise you get when you turn to a frequency between two radio stations. Sherlock can’t decide whether it’s not enough or too much, letting grey particles create a barrier around his mind like a sea wall, filtering out all the ( Hello sir, can I help you? ) background noises – traffic/transport - so he can just concentrate on his thought process.
He’s been chasing down the heels of this case for days and for the first time in a long while, he feels he’s almost been blindly fumbling around for clues. Which for one is obscene; though he has to admit that’s he’s been standing in the same spot for about five minutes, trying to focus on what he’s doing next and ( Is it your first time here at West Kensington Library? ) what he’s doing in such a mundane place such as this one.
Hyper-aware of both the caffeine and nicotine sluicing around his veins, Sherlock tries to will it away, becoming increasingly annoyed at the fact he can’t, succumbing to these baseless feelings – which he has no time whatsoever for. He’s also adamant that at least more than 72 hours have been stolen from him somewhere and all he feels like doing is crumbling upon the floor.
He’s meant to be searching for some sort of code or cipher. ( I guess it can be a bit overwhelming. ) He doesn’t even know where to start, god damn it – there are six floors! ( Is there anything you’re looking for in particular? )
There’s a sizable weight in his right hand, which Sherlock finally remembers is a book:
Label on spine reads: 322.62
South-East Asian Politics
OXFORD – Second Edition 2007
The only guide you’ll need for your dissertation on…
…or even if you’re just visiting the continent…
Useless. What is he expected to do with this information?
At the same time he realises that nothing is particularly sticking out at him, he curses himself for being so inattentive - there can't be something he has missed - surely?
Sherlock moves a hand up to where he feels heat pinpricking under the skin of his neck ( Sir, are you alright? You're looking a bit peaked. ) and places it on the fact it's just one of the body's natural ( More than peaked actually - pretty dreadful. ) responses to frustration; increased heart rate, breathing, overall body temperature.
He aims to kick at the floor ( Steady on! ) and storm off outside, coat sweeping behind him, all set to stamp another patch on his already two-patched arm but in fact that never happens and he finds himself plummeting towards the ground, both legs failing, collapsing underneath him. ( Oh god. Okay. Right. )
John knows; the tremors in his left hand remind him.
For the second time during the space of a few months, he finds himself repeating something similar to, “Ah no, that’s good sometimes, that works.” But it’s the first time he takes anyone up on the offer.
‘Mundane’ works to keep the storage heater on, the kettle boiling, the blog going if he wants to, alongside his post-army doctor pension, works to keep him secure in his four-walled flat but not much else.
He pretends like static is good for him.
When John adds that he learnt the clarinet at school, he notices the eyes of the man sat opposite him crease when he smiles and he uses an index finger to stop his glasses from sliding down his nose.
“Well, there’s a piano on the third floor," he suggests tersely, gesturing as if it's above their heads. "And you’re most welcome to use it on your breaks. In fact I look forward to it, but I expect you to be pressing more keys on a database keyboard.”
John laughs - but he’s rather sure they’re two distinctly different instruments and when he had said ‘at school,’ he also means at least twenty-seven years ago – the reason why his career as a musician is nonexistent.
He leaves the interview, cane under palm, jacket done up against the cool air of the evening and sets off though a street of empty vehicles.
Finally have a part-time job at the library around the corner. Should keep me alive at least.
Good progress John, your job will help take your mind off things.
E Thompson 6th March 17:47
He knows that's one of the worst assumptions he's ever seen.
"Right, I can call someone to take care of him instead if-"
"It's alright, he just looks shattered - possibly feverish, but as a result I would imagine."
"Wasn't exactly in the job description I know, but I know you used to be a doctor so I couldn't think of a better man for the job."
"Hmm - it's fine. It's all fine."
Slowly, Sherlock becomes conscious of the haze in his mind dissipating. When he starts regaining feeling in most of his limbs again, he dares to remove his sweat-stuck forehead from the surface in front of him, feeling alarmingly awake.
He frowns, staring down at the few centimeters between him and the flat of a table - it seems. He brings both his hands in front of him and taps it just to make sure - from the angle he fell, he should have ended up on the floor but in fact he's sitting on a chair. A chair in front of a desk which stretches widely across the room, divided into individual sections.
There is a lamp positioned to the side of him and impulsively, he finds the switch on the inside of the shade, pressing it. Then swears at himself for turning it on as he shields his brow with a hand from the harsh light it emits and dives to turn it away.
When he recovers, he takes his time to lean back on his chair to the point he can see over to the other people working in the seats next to him. He scans around, recalling everything quickly:
bank - break in - symbol - Van Coon - locked apartment ∴ assumed suicide - left handed ∴ murder not suicide (idiotic) - Lukis - locked flat - skylight opened - murder - connection = library - book -
He lets the chair thunk back down again.
Sherlock looks along the table and the book is not here, why is it not here, it should be here. He pats down all the pockets in his coat, knee jumping impatiently. He clenches his jaw and sighs irritably as he stoops to glance underneath the table.
"You're awake, then?”
Startled, the detective hits the back of his head on the underside of the desk. He grumbles crossly and snaps his gaze upward to a man who is now hovering overhead and judging by the distance is quite short – shorter than him anyway. He’s not quite near enough to read the badge pinned on his right - if that wasn’t betraying enough to say he worked here apart from his subtle mannerisms, paper cuts across both hands, job-friendly appearance - uninteresting.
"The book - what have you done with it?' - he says urgently whilst continuing to frantically search for it.
The man in front of him pauses, frowns, then folds his arms. "Well, a thank you wouldn't have gone amiss first."
Sherlock speaks forcefully through clamped teeth whilst hauling himself up, “For. What?”
“For keeping an eye on you. You’ve been out for about three hours, we’ll be closing—“
"I don't do thank you’s,” he states as a matter-of-factly, “crucial seconds used for pointless sentiment, time in which I have more important things to do than to thank you, all you have achieved is preventing me from finding what might be a—"
"Sir” – the man holds his hands up compliantly. “Please keep your voice down - if you haven't grasped to realise yet, you're in a library," and then gestures a hand to line of people sitting at the work desk behind them who must have peered over at the sound of Sherlock's crescendoing voice.
Sherlock, not perturbed, doesn’t turn to look at them. Instead he grips the man either side, where he has rolled up the sleeves of his jumper.
"Just show me where you put it," he stays at the same disruptive intonation all the while bristling at the odd feeling of being ‘told off’.
Surprisingly, the man doesn’t even try to twitch and manages keeps his counter-gaze fairly fixed upon him, pupils flicking. "If it will keep you bloody quiet," he hisses, an obvious resistance showing in every inch of him as he turns sharply on his heel, shrugging out of Sherlock’s tense hold.
The detective tails close behind him.
They end up surpassing three floors by stair – quite quickly he might add, leaning an arm on the top of the handrail for a while before catching up with him.
“Here,” – the man jabs an index finger into a spine of a book and Sherlock pulls it out, hurriedly flipping through the pages. He stops just inside the front cover.
The date, smudged yes, but he can still manage to see it was taken out the same day the victim died.
Apart from that there’s nothing to suggest tampering when he scrutinises it carefully like a slightly dog-eared page or a gap in the spine. He flits his attention from the book when the man, standing a few feet away, makes a sort of frustrated groan.
“This have anything to do with you?” – he points to the back of one the shelves, having to waver on tiptoes in order to look at it.
Sherlock shuts the book with a satisfying snap and goes to shift the man out of the way by his shoulders; he staggers backwards. He peers over the shelf, getting a glance of a yellow scrawl at the back and at once he knows what it is. He throws an arm behind the line of books and pushes them off, not caring about the crashing that can probably be heard downstairs.
The man looks torn about the books strewn across the floor and as well as the graffiti – both of which he’ll have to eventually have to clear up. His resistance however, stays caught up in his throat.
The symbol resembles the one back at the bank, which confirms the fact it’s being used as a sign for a person’s impending death. Which in his opinion is not the most original way to do things. He rolls his eyes; there is nothing new under the sun, after all. It’s exactly like leaving a fingerprint; it’s all traceable. Sherlock just has to follow the string.
He saves a picture on his phone for any closer analysis later, finishing up here.
“Oh no. No you don’t – you’re helping me clear up before you clear off,” the man near-sprints after him as he makes his way towards the staircase, but manages to somehow get a hold on the back of Sherlock’s coat.
Sherlock wheels around and pins him with his stare, glowering at being stopped in his tracks once again.
“I am trying to investigate a succession of connected murders, believe me when I say there will be more if you keep getting under my feet—“
“You work for the police?”
Sherlock rolls his eyes and turns to go again. He starts to feel the insistent, almost magnetic pull of The Work urging him towards the staircase.
“No. Not that’s any concern of yours but I wouldn’t work for them even if they begged me to.”
“Like a freelancer, then?”
“Nothing to protect you but that coat of yours? And librarians who pick you up off the floor?”
“It’s a good coat!” Sherlock lashes out lightheartedly, both of his hands go to adjust his collar but for some reason the man doesn’t look very convinced.
“I have myself?”
“Yeah?” Across the room, the man looks increasingly critical, clenching, unclenching a hand.
“Yes,” Sherlock affirms, though frowns slantedly.
The man shrugs dismissively and looks around the room like this all he has; row after row of books; sodium light filtering through the tall windows and nothing but the sound of the second-hand of the clock disturbing their shared silence.
“Right.” Sherlock raises an eyebrow and looks down at the man with a contained amount of skepticism. “So I’m off then?”
The man huffs a little and proceeds to turn back. “Can’t exactly stop you, tell me if you catch them will you, it gets a bit mundane around here sometimes and…”
When the man doesn’t hear a response but his own voice volleying off the walls, he glances over his shoulder.
He is alone.
Sherlock was already out of the door, the second he was out of his field of vision.
He puts it down to the fact a case might prove a while to solve.
Sherlock watches from a distance the man stamp the book before handing it over.
Intermittent tremor in the left hand = date smudged. Therefore present when not under stress.
A static tremor, then. Sherlock concludes and grins to himself, tapping his outstretched fingers on the same desk he had awoken on before. His mind obviously back to it’s potential again. Across the other side of the room, he notices the man go back to his default position; resting his head on one hand; glancing periodically at the clock whilst he fills out an array of tedious forms.
Admittedly, he finds himself intrigued in the small way the man who is seemingly ordinary is actually proving to be the opposite. Hiding in plain sight. That is probably the reason he finds himself sitting back here, not liking to leave assumptions which had proven to be incorrect.
He reaches for the switch on the lamp in front of him.
- . - . / . - / . . - / - - . / . . . . / -
- / . . . . / . / - -
John huffs and uses his hand to rub his face as if to forcibly remove his tiredness, he could quite easily fall asleep at his desk - if he’s not careful enough. He arches his back, trying to stretch it off, that not ameliorating it either. Instead, John returns to slogging through his work in silence.
From the corner of his eye, he notices a flashing. At first he puts it on a reflection – like light splitting from the dial of someone’s watch. But it continues, almost intervallic, almost like—
He looks up.
C A U G H T
T H E M
John squints, making out the man sitting by the desk, then huffs out his amusement.
He talks at a normal level as it carries easily in the empty room.
“Yeah, good. I’m glad,” he trails awkwardly, still trying to work out what to make of the whole situation still when the man starts up again.
T H A N K S
John blinks and then has to replay what he saw in his mind just to make sure that was the correct message the light had spelled out. He was not expecting to be thanked, especially if this was still the same hostile man he had first met.
“Oh well, you know... it wasn’t anything... I used to do that kind of thing anyway,” he rubs at the back of his neck absentmindedly, and his attention sidles back over the other side of the room when he realises the man is still clicking out patterns on the lamp switch, interrupting John’s uncomfortable stammers.
Sh? Was that really what he just saw?
John tilts his head and frowns at the man and he responds with neither confirmation or any sign of repeating the message.
“Why are you telling me to ‘sh’? I’m the librarian around here, if anyone’s doing the shushing, it should be –“
A low chuckling disrupts the otherwise quietness of the ground floor.
“Those are my initials,” the man rumbles slowly and John returns a puzzled grin.
His eyes return back to his work but he does take notice of his own desk lamp in front of him. John sits up and taps his pen on the table whilst making his decision.
This is so childish – John thinks to himself, shaking his head incredulously but the wide grin on his face completely betrays him.
T H A N K
Y O U
T O O
From a passerby’s perspective, they would have looked like two idiots trying to blow the electrics.
Sherlock breathes out silently, relieved for having put his phone on silent as he feels it vibrate. He continues to observe the man through a bookless gap in a shelf.
It’s not bad, he tells himself, it’s certainly not the most exciting career choice, in every metric. There’s an increasingly large pile of medical journals back at his flat and no one usually visits the library this early in the morning so it’s quiet at least - well, it’s quiet anyway. There’s no rush to catalogue the newest book so he can spend as long as he likes pecking in the details, sees the students who study at St Bart’s and tries to have a word with them, and by ‘try’ - he means hover around and overhear their conversations.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
John hears the question posed from behind him.
“The travel section is upstairs,” he says, locating shelves in his mind as he turns around. “Turn left and go straight on until you…”
And realises that wasn’t quite the right answer to respond with. He is met with the familiar tall man in a near ankle length trenchcoat.
“You heard what I said,” he says in a way that didn’t really have a questioning tone.
“I did,” John feels both of his eyebrows raise and uses a hand to brush them back down again, “I did, Afghanistan, yes but how-“
“It’s easy to see.”
John subconsciously checks himself over, like perhaps there are words written all over him, like he is really that translucent to see through. “I don’t see. You didn’t seem to notice the other day.”
“Ah, wasn’t really a-hundred-percent then,” he then picks out everything he ‘sees’ on John in some sort of light-speed list, leaving nothing unturned, picking details as if he were picking unwanted lint off of his coat. “…You also have a psychosomatic limp, your therapist told you that too.”
John nods shakily, “Wait, how do you know I have—“
“She’s correct about that at least but it’s not caused by stress, no, not at all,” the man rolls his eyes like marbles in a drawer. “You practically ran up three flights of stairs four days ago.”
Giving a huffed laugh, John rubs at the back of his neck. He did, didn’t he? “That’s brilliant – you can see all that purely by me standing in front of you?”
The man nods warily, narrowing his eyes deliberately before tapping the book that he had kept under his arm, pointedly. “Are you going to get back to your job or am I going to have to wait around for you all day?”
John mumbles an apology and unhooks his cane from where he had rested it on the handle of the shelf.
- as the pin badge clearly reads, seems to more interesting then first observations revealed. Sherlock reprimands himself, knowing that the sleep deprivation made him miss an obvious detail such as someone’s name.
It’s almost akin to a magic trick, he thinks, revealing a card from underneath a silk cloth but instead it’s a man with a detailed past under a polyester mix cardigan.
Unexpected - to say the least.
“Have you got your card?” – John asks as he sits down behind a desk.
Sherlock nods fervently whilst rummaging around the right inside pocket of his coat. He eventually pulls the card out and slips it along the desk towards him. John looks down at it and Sherlock is equally puzzled when his expression becomes miffed.
“This is a debit card.”
Sherlock reflects John’s frown and John dissolves into laughter.
“That’s not what I meant.”
Sherlock responds by diving deeper into his pocket, this time wielding out a different card in front of John. He takes it in both hands, looking at it carefully.
“Well Mr Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective,” John looks up, amused. “It’s a start.”