Greg switches his phone to silent, tucks the box into his pocket, grabs the take out cups and steps out of his car. Taking deep breaths of the crisp air - trying to clear his nose and lungs of the scent of blood and smoke that still clings to him from the scene – he juggles his load enough to lock the car and then starts walking. He knows he should have gone straight back to the Yard but he needs space to think properly - without Sally’s worried glances or Hopkins’ misplaced enthusiasm – and so here he is.
The rooks, in the pine trees at the far end of the graveyard, caw their greetings as he crunches his way down the gravel path toward the now familiar headstone. In the past eighteen months what he intended to just be one visit - to say sorry and try to get his brain to move on - has morphed into a regular pilgrimage every time his fingers itch to dial the number that, thanks in no small part to his own failings, will never be answered again.
In the last month he feels he’s spent more time here than at home.
The June sun is beginning to take the chill out of the air despite the early hour and the black headstone shines, still looking as pristine as the day it was laid. The plot really is beautifully cared for and he wonders, as he often has as he approaches it, whether it’s John or Mycroft who keeps it so immaculate; he’s never seen either of them here. Not that it matters really and he certainly isn’t about to ask either of them to satisfy his idle curiosity. It’s just nice that it’s being done.
‘Morning, Sherlock,’ he says, briefly touching the back of his hand to the top edge of the stone, feeling the warmth of the sun that has already seeped into it. ‘I’m back again … like a bad penny, I know.’
Carefully he sets the two coffees down in front of the headstone, shifting the flowers off to one side. Then, heedless of the dew still clinging to the grass, he sits down next to them.
‘I brought patches, too.’ He pulls the packet out of his coat and works his left cuff open. ‘Molly will kill me if I break my streak now but I’ve been awake for over a day and I don’t think the caffeine alone will cut it.’
Patch applied and the wrapping carefully stowed back in his pocket he leans back against the headstone and picks up one of the coffees, closing his eyes as he takes his first sip.
‘You’d love this case,’ he says once he’s swallowed. ‘I’m floundering around like a circus clown without a ringmaster but you’d probably have solved it already. Scratch that, I know you would. Hell, if you were still here last night probably wouldn’t even have happened as we’d have had the perps in custody for weeks already. Or years, actually, since … Shit, Sherlock, if this is what I think it is … I’m so, so sorry …’
He shakes his head vigorously, runs a hand over his eyes, and clenches his jaw until his teeth start to ache. Then he takes another, longer, drink of coffee, and tries again.
‘Right. I’ll start with what I know. There was another hit last night. A warehouse in Clapham this time – another one that DS MacKinnon had cleared as clean while he was seconded to the drug squad. Same basic MO as the other five places that have been taken out in the past month; anonymous male calling it in, the security guys taken out by a sniper – one shot for each body, all left where they fell – the bodies inside all fire damaged but dead before the fire was set and a winged heart graffiti-ed on the wall of the building opposite. Only difference this time is that it looks like it was the headquarters of the drug operation, and we found two men hiding in a shed out the back of the warehouse who practically begged to be taken into custody. ‘
Greg draws his knees up to his chest, lets his head rest against the marble again and gives a shaky sigh.
‘To start with they seemed relatively calm and asked for DS MacKinnon - which was enough to incriminate them in my book - but when Sally told them he was dead they lost it. Started gibbering about Moriarty and his soldier going rogue. One actually used the phrases “terminate with extreme prejudice” and “taking out his own”. And then … And then the other mentioned you. By name. Said it was vengeance from beyond the grave, that Moriarty had turned against his own, against the ones who’d helped him stitch you up ’
Greg clears his throat, takes another swig of coffee and presses his fingers to the bridge of his nose.
‘Once they’d been shipped off Sally said they were talking rot, that they’d change their tune if we told them DS MacKinnon had killed himself, not been killed, but … it makes sense. Not you suddenly starting some ghostly revenge, obviously, but that Moriarty would decide to wipe out everyone associated with framing you now.
‘Because I may have made some stupid decisions in the past but I’m not stupid. I know Moriarty must have more people in the force than just MacKinnon and so he must know what MacKinnon's suicide note said. He must know that the investigation into your death has been reopened. ’
He drains the last of his coffee with more vigour than necessary and ends up spluttering for a few minutes.
‘I just wish I’d gone with my instincts at the time ... I should have stopped Sally going to the Super and … Oh, who am I kidding, I can’t blame Sally for that. She was right to raise her concerns. She was doing her job and doing it properly. It’s not her fault she was being played by someone who could outsmart you, never mind the rest of us. But I should have told them what you said to me, that we were being duped to get at you. I should have stood my ground and I should have pushed back.’
He slams one balled up fist against the ground.
‘I put keeping my job ahead of what I knew was right and you paid for that with your life. And it made no difference … I still lost custody of the kids in the divorce! I sold out for nothing. And they won’t let me near the reopened investigation. I don’t even know what they think they’re looking for. And whatever it is might help with this investigation, dammit!’
He pushes himself to his feet and starts pacing in front of the grave.
‘I know all these deaths are linked to what happened to you. I know Moriarty is behind them. I'm certain, now, that MacKinnon killed himself because he knew Moriarty was coming for him. I just have no idea where to look to prove it! I don't have a clue how to start searching for Moriarty or his ‘soldier’ ... because I’m not you. There’s nothing. Not one scrap of useful evidence at any of the scenes except for the bullets in the bodies and they’re useless until I have weapons to match them with.
‘There must be something, though. No one commits a perfect crime. Well, I think you might have been able to but that wasn’t your thing. You proved you could beat the Police by solving the crimes we couldn’t, not committing them. And Moriarty wasn’t trying to beat us, he was trying to beat you through us. So I need to look at the interactions between you and him. Like what happened at the pool when … Oh God … John … He met Moriarty there. He could be a target!’
He has his phone in his hand before he’s had time to draw breath, thumbing through the contacts to find the number he’s stupidly taken off speed dial.
‘Don’t worry about him, Sherlock,’ he says to the headstone, patting the top of it in the way he would pat a friend’s shoulder and then lifts his phone to his ear. ‘I won’t let Moriarty hurt him.’
‘John, it’s Greg,’ he says, walking briskly back toward his car. ‘Sorry to call so early but …’