Chapter 1: Carpe Noctem
Carpe noctem: seize the night
The quote is from Allen Iverson.
Thanks again to whyimmathere for being the moral support for this fic's creation, and to offering advice on concepts. Your help is always appreciated, even when you get stuck with my rambling. And of course, providing source/research material. You're a real jem - not like I would forget, but thanks again for making a fic cover for me. <3
And a bit of a warning, there isn't a beta for this one, so please ignore any grammatical or structural mistakes you see. I try to go over the chapters every once in a while to catch them. Finally dear reader, I hope you enjoy the story. xx
A storm overshadowed London, a vicious thing. Beast like in nature, it snapped its teeth and howled. Frothing with its hunger, it forced the inhabitants of the city into their homes, to seek shelter from its appetite. Molly was one of these people, curled in her bed after a tiresome day of work. The clock had just struck midnight when a loud knock was heard throughout her home, she groaned, turning over. Laying in place, she then noted the sound of her dear friend Meena getting out of bed, her room the door across from her's. The knocking continued until she stumbled down the dark hallway and to the front door.
Amongst the grumbling of the storm, Molly could hear Meena talking, tone filled with annoyance. After a short while she called out to her, but used her male counterpart's name, "Mark!" Molly promptly sat up, a stone settling in the pit of her stomach. Unsure if delusions made her hear incorrectly. "Mark, someone wishes to speak with you!" Cursing, Molly quickly climbed from her bed, peeling the blankets off.
"One moment!" From the front she could hear Meena distracting their guest, giving Molly some much needed time to ready herself. Grabbing a ribbon from her nightstand, she wrapped her hair up in a bun, and true to the mastery she had, took her wig from the dresser and pinned it on with spirit gum in practiced ease. After she finished with a few pats, she moved on to the moustache, which admittedly proved tedious. Bending near the roaring fireplace, she pressed it above her upper lip. "Mark!" Knowing there was little else she could do, Molly donned her robe that had been left on a chair, and tied it around her person. Pleased as much as she could be, she walked out of the room and down to where their unexpected company awaited.
A lantern lit the image of Meena's profile, face, squinting with dislike at the figure beyond her. Cautiously Molly approached, sparing a look at her friend before nudging her out of the way.
Now playing the part of Mark, he stared up at the man in the doorway, visage painted in a ghoulish light with the lantern in his hand. "You are needed, doctor." Mark nodded, glancing behind him to send Meena back to bed. Turning back to the nameless man he said, "Let me get my coat."
After a tense carriage ride, Mark entered St. Barts. Shadow following as he made his way through the hospital and down to its bowels, the thunder clapping in the distance disguised their presence. His escort left him by the entrance, mute behaviour signalling he now had to complete his destination alone. Shuddering, Mark walked down the stone steps to the mortuary. He never feared this place, it was the closest thing to a home he had. No, Mark was filled with dread at the thing waiting below.
An unfamiliar corpse was on the slab, covered in a thin sheet of mocking decency. Wary of the work ahead, Mark strode over it to the sink, washing his hands before he started. Turning off the faucet, he flicked his hands dry, rolling his sleeves past his elbows. He crossed the room, lifting the fabric to peer underneath.
A middle-aged man, face disfigured from a multitude of blows. From a mere look Mark could tell he was beaten to death, but as it was often in his line of work, things tended not to be so easy. Further, if that was the cause of death, why take the time to send him here? He reached for the tools set to the side, picking up a scalpel. Just as his fingers touched it, a body pressed into his back. Sucking in the stale air, Mark froze, willing himself not to react.
Warm breath heating the side of his neck, a voice asked "Did you miss me, dearest?"
"I-is that why you're here?" Shit. Mark chewed on his bottom lip, hoping he didn't notice the stutter. The lips on his nape formed into a grin, of course he did.
"And what if it was the reason?" A hand went around him, resting on the slab. The other went to Mark's hip, thumb rubbing against the hipbone. "Would you be upset?"
"I-I..." Mark swallowed, closing his eyes, trying to gather his wits. Ever since they met, he's been like this. Sexuality coming off of him in thick currents, washing over everything he touched. Always there, whispering, teasing. Those fingers skated across to Mark's stomach, splayed. To think the man blackmailing Molly could still have this effect was disturbing, how easily she was wound up. "I d-don't..." Mark breathed in. Just as the words came to the forefront of his mind, emerging from the fog, he stepped away.
With a satisfied smirk in place, Professor James Moriarty strolled to the other side. "I think you've met before."
"W-whom have I...?" Mark glanced downwards. Ah.. "Fred Porlock, he's seen better days."
"I rather prefer his current form," Professor Moriarty started to inspect his fingernails for invisible dirt, "he talks a deal less."
Mark stared at the corpse with increased interest, how he only had a brief acquaintance with this petty criminal, and already the light had been snuffed from him. To be honest it wasn't much of a surprise. They swam in different circles, and when they did see each other, Fred was occupied with selling information to Sherlock. Wordlessly, he moved the sheet further down, funny how they always come to him in the end. Almost poetic. Shaking his head, Moriarty watched the movement in fascination, he began his work.
The major and obvious wounds were noted, he focused on the finer details. And following the guidelines of their deal, Mark voiced his findings.
"Small abrasions to head, face," he lifted Fred's arms "back of hands, knees and the toes." Gently he set them down.
"Not from the beating?" Mark shook his head, knowing the other was leaning his head on the palm of his hand, taking in every movement he made with those dark eyes of his. Mark suppressed a shudder.
"Most likely from striking hard objects, rocks or stones, sir." He moved on to the torso, taking up his scalpel. A hum of pleasure came from his companion, this was Moriarty's favourite part. Making a Y incision to the chest and abdomen, he set the scalpel to the side and reached for the saw. Moriarty beat him to it, grinning as he showed off his recently rolled sleeves of his fine suit. "Sir, you don't have to partake."
"I know," Moriarty sung, teeth flashing in the blackness of the room. "I dearly want to."
Mark could do little but watch Moriarty round the slab and use the saw to remove the rib cage. He winced, the cut was crooked and not as neat if he'd done it, but still impressive. "Thank you, Doctor Hooper." Mark's head snapped up, quick enough that it hurt. He didn't realize he said that last part aloud. Moriarty winked back at the attention, gaze returning to his task. Hands covered in blood, he gave a triumphant hiss as he set it on a tray. The saw was given less care, it was tossed to the other instruments, rattling them with the impact.
Sighing, Mark picked his scalpel back up. With the serenity of having done this for a number of years, he severed the lungs, picking them up one at a time with forceps and placing them onto a tray. Now, to verify his theory. Making a series of precise cuts, he peered inside after he opened a lung up. Nodding, he mumbled "dry drowning."
"Pardon me?" Bloody fingers drummed on the surface of the slab.
"The cause of death." Mark straightened himself. They held each other in their eyes for a moment longer, until Moriarty made a slight nod. Explain yourself. "Fred was submersed in water by his murderers, but he didn't die. Although water didn't enter his lungs, it instead went into his larynx. As rare as it is, a form of mucus developed." He gestured to the dissected organs, "Producing a plug. He died afterwards." That drumming stopped. Startled Mark remained rooted, the distance between them covered in remarkable speed. Moriarty was beside him, grabbing a hold of either side of his head, and forcing his gaze to meet his.
Mark gulped weakly, feeling ill with such sticky hands on him. "I always appreciate our little sessions together, but I'm afraid I have business elsewhere." Both of his thumbs rubbed the skin of Mark's cheeks, smearing the blood. "You wouldn't be too lonely, Doctor Hooper?" Mark opened his mouth, then promptly closed it, skeptical if whatever said would satisfy this man. Moriarty studied this with rapt amusement, breath on the other's face. Both were still, feeling the air electrify with that same fantastic tension from before. Unwillingly Mark's eyes fluttered, wondering if it were an optical illusion that their faces were closer.
The scent of the professor's breath warmed him, sweet from chewing mint leaves and underlying coffee. Molly's eyelids lowered, heart pounding as their lips nearly brushed together. How corrupt her soul must be, for her to want this - to lust over a devil. All of her childhood time in church came rushing back, the teaching of temptation. Moriarty then whispered softly, "You haven't answered, dearest." All of the air left her in a gasp, Moriarty moving away with a saucy expression. "I expect one at our next reunion, my doctor."
Molly stood there, gaping as Moriarty offhandedly wiped his hands with a rag and left. The doors behind him closing loudly, he departed with her in a pitiful state of shock. Blankly she stood there a moment longer until one of his men slipped into the morgue, making sure she cleaned herself and escorted her out into a carriage. It was raining heavily outside, shaking everything with each barrage of thunder and lightning.
When Molly arrived back home her apartment was alight, the fireplace going as the windows let in the early morning sun beyond its cloud curtains. In their small dining room, Meena sat at the table, still in her nightgown. Squinting as she lifted her head at Molly's entry, she gave a disapproving sound. Molly went to her, bending down to kiss the top of her head. "I hardly needed you to stay up."
"I know that." Haughtily Meena sniffed, "I also knew you'd be tired to your bones and cold from the weather." Molly shivered as if on cue, she took the seat across from her friend. Smiling as a teacup was slid along the wood, she took the cuppa, raising it to her mouth. Eagerly she drank the hot liquid down, scalding her tongue. "Careful" Meena tsked, lips twitching.
Now empty, Molly set the teacup down. "Thank you," she breathed. Meena responded with a nod, standing up to gingerly remove Molly's wig and set it on the table. Peeling off the wads of spirit gum, she was mindful of her friend's hisses of discomfort. "Ssh, I know infants less fussy than you." Molly exhaled, but made no move. Untying her hair, Meena let it fall down, displeased with the tangles. And in one final swift movement, she pulled the moustache off, leaving Molly to curse with a red streak on her upper lip.
She patted Molly's shoulder, "I'll fetch the brush." Left to sulk, Molly glared after her, sure she heard a few chuckles. Sighing, she looked down, hands wrapped around the empty cup. She shivered, thinking of what possible answer he could want. The rain pelted the building, taking with it Molly's solace. How can one be happy knowing the devil is on their doorstep? Cursing, she leaned backwards, praying to erase the memory of their embrace from her thoughts but failing. Like smoke, he clung to her, pouring into her mouth and down to her throat and finally to her lungs, where he went everywhere; until she smelt of him.
"Love?" She sluggishly rose her head. Meena stood behind her, concerned. "I have the brush." Molly made a noncommittal sound, grateful when her friend understood. Grabbing a lock, Meena carefully brushed it, getting rid of the mess always left from the wig. Combined with the rain, the sifting of hair was highly relaxing. Her eyes closed, breathing slowing until she was unable to fight. Sleep was the one to claim her tonight.
Chapter 2: Graviora Manent
Graviora manent: more severe things await/the worst has yet to come
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Pace sluggish with the desire to sleep an hour or two longer, Molly forced herself to lift her feet as she enters the morgue. She had hoped that perhaps she’d get the chance to... reflect if there was no visitors, it was a foolish and selfish thought, but she was of no use in this drowsy state.
Upon entry she saw that there was no one present, no awaiting corpse nor staff, she mumbled a prayer of thanks. Lumbering to her office, Molly closed the door behind her and sat behind the desk with a sigh. Immediately her eyes began to lower, pleased with the peace and quiet. However, it never does last long.
Molly flinched awake with the abrupt sound of the morgue doors being slammed open. Wheels squeaked loudly, joining the approaching of a heated debate. She began to climb to her feet with a groan, she knew those voices all too well. They were, after all, the ones that haunted her. Not allowing her a moment to herself, her office door flew open. Standing before her was Sherlock in all of his passionate glory. For a second she was in awe, staring at the light that filtered from behind him, casting the detective in an angelic glow. Before she could fall deeper into that feeling, she turned away, slipping once more into her role.
Mark jutted his chin out, giving a slight nod as he gave Sherlock a grimace. “And what are you on about, storming in like that?” He watched as the other’s brows knitted together, expression darkening.
“Alerting you of your job, a task I shouldn’t have to do.” Mark grit his teeth, walking around the desk and past Sherlock, shoulder grazing the other’s coat.
“You don’t, so please keep the pleasantries to yourself.” He heard a snort of dislike behind him, but he ignored it. To understand Molly’s character, it must be known that she took no delight from her actions. It was indeed the opposite, it sickened her to be so rude to a man she deemed misunderstood, although a tad rude at times but she reasoned that he was unable to help it. Like how Molly was unable to waltz properly, she often tripped over her words and nothing itself. Still, the distance between her and the detective behind her was very much needed.
A mouse such as herself didn’t need a bloodhound sniffing around, not when already too many people knew. Meena, the surprising observant John, and of course Professor Moriarty. She was unable to keep from shuddering at the thought of the latter, a detail that was gobbled up by Sherlock, who shockingly remained silent.
“Who is it today?” Mark strolled over to the slab, the body’s sheet had partially slid down in its journey showing the swollen face. Grabbing a hold of the fabric, he drew it further down. The bloated and wet form was an apparent case of drowning. He clucked his tongue in pity, peeling the sheet now fully off and tossing it to the side. Floaters have never been nice to see nor smell, but little bothered Mark and his nose at this stage in his career. Inspector Lestrade whom had remained mute to the side the whole time gagged, unlike our dear pathologist, his facilities around them weren't as in abundance. Not as if any could blame Lestrade, this was a type of corpse that few liked to come across.
Dr. John Watson, who had seen mangled corpses in the second Anglo-Afghan war looked on. And although he hated to admit it, he'd been desensitized a long time ago on the battlefield. You can be broken only so much, friends dying readily does that to you. The professional side switched on, keenly observed, "A sailor from the docks in Portland Street, he's unclaimed so no name."
Likewise to Mark he noted the bruises of violence and the marks of the deceased struggling. Homicide was apparent to everyone, hanging above their grim heads. "Is it like...?" Lestrade cleared his throat, "that Spaniard from '84?"
"Exequiel Rodriguez Nunviez." Sherlock mumbled, eyes narrowing into slits as he remained fixated on the dead man. "Unlikely, this isn't a simple mugging gone wrong."
"It better not be, because Sherlock." Lestrade shook his head, blood draining from his face. "We can't have another one of those, Mr. Nott-Bower and Justice Day would have my head on the cutting block." He rose a hand to his throat, rubbing it anxiously as if a guillotine was present.
"It isn't," Sherlock hissed. Lestrade loudly sighed, gesturing for Mark to do something, anything. The pathologist rolled his eyes, but went on to state the findings he'd acquired in the silence of their conversation.
"He was submerged until death."
"Obviously, we all possess the ability to see." Mark pointedly ignored the detective, tone sharp like a dagger as he continued. "The cause wasn't the water entering his lungs, but the blow to the head." He leaned forward to grab a hold of the corpse, lifting him so everyone could see the gaping hole. Lestrade started to gag again, the scent of decay and the dirty water the victim had been taken from rose to greet them. "He's been bludgeoned by someone of considerable force."
"Sledgehammer?" Sherlock finally asked.
Mark dropped the head down, unconcerned by the sound it made. "I would reason so." Lestrade opened his mouth, surely to thank him for his time and hurry out. "And there was one last thing." The inspector paused, gaze flickering over to Sherlock. The consulting detective held Mark in an unblinking stare, hawkish eyes taking in as he gestured to the corpse's face. "It may just be from the aquatic life, but there's damage to the face, mainly the cheeks and mouth. Something small and uneven, it could be nothing but..."
"If it was," Sherlock cut off "you wouldn't have mentioned it." Mark slowly nodded, standing in place as Sherlock said "Hooper" and made his exit. Lestrade was quick to join him, Dr. Watson on the other hand paused. He waited until he was certain the others were gone, turning back to Molly he said "You've been a great deal of help today." Even if he didn't agree with her working in the morgue, he tried to but was unable - maybe he was stuck in his ways, but was dearly attempting to overcome that. For the future he had with his wife, he was looking beyond the traditional roles, how Molly should be rearing her children and tending to the home instead of working with the dead.
Molly gave a ghost of smile, tension in shoulders easing. She knew he was a good man, saying in a whisper much higher than her usual gruff facade, "Thank you, doctor." Pleased with the trust, John smiled.
"Doctor" he mumbled back, tipping his hat before he too left. Door closing, Molly rose a hand to her face, forgetting the filth on them as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Onslaught of a headache approaching, she dropped her hand and retreated to the safety of her office. Free to now take her place behind the desk, and lean in her chair, she closed her eyes. She had wished for a dreamless nap, but sinister tendrils ensnared her as a memory rose.
Three months prior
Eyes downcast, Molly watched the floor disappear underneath her feet as she walked. Suddenly she had been taken from her home, and the men with her uttered only 'it's for your own protection'. She had reasoned that this was it, she'd been found out and was now headed for the executioner. But she wasn't taken down to Scotland Yard, and these men clearly weren't police officers. Though they were still clearly dangerous.
Molly peered up, they were in an university taking the less travelled corridors. Not like it would matter, she had been snatched from her home in the middle of the night - there was no students present, maybe a stray professor staying late but that was unlikely. One of the men in front came to a halt, stopping by a set of large wooden doors. As he moved to hold one open, gesturing for her to head in, the man behind Molly gave a slight push.
It was a large lecture hall with a table in the centre of the room, a young man stood beside it, clothing well made and of a high quality. He was tending to a cadaver, lifting his head to sneer at the image of her entry. Molly would not flinch, grimacing in return. She stood in a dress made for comfortable lounging - or as comfortable as one can be with a corset, not at all for respectable travelling. She looked away, figuring she was to sit next to the man reclining in the front. All the chairs next to him were empty, and he seemed bored as if he was waiting for something... someone. Chilled by the stares on her person, Molly gingerly walked over to him and took her spot. Remembering to place her hands in her lap and to sit up straight. She may be on the threshold of death, but she would have at least good posture when she went on the other side. She spared a glance, taking in the stranger's profile. He was annoyingly handsome, with strong and blunt features. His eyes were a stormy blue, skin tanned from years spent working in the sun, and well-kept dark blonde hair with an almost copper sheen from the lamplight.
"Ms. Margaret Hooper" he drawled, deep voice skating along the skin of her spine.
Molly wet her lips, not trusting herself to talk and instead nodded firmly. Silence arose between them, accompanied by the sound of scalpel on flesh. "Yes, sir." She croaked, resolve to sit properly dissolving with the need to cower.
"Do you believe you're better?" Molly frowned, unsure what he meant. The stranger nodded to the man before them, "Better than him?"
"I..." Molly paused, turning her head to study the other's movements. His cutting was sloppy, like he had no idea what he was doing and how to achieve it. A newly titled professor, he reeked of wealthy parents that bought him into the university. Simply put, he had no skill to speak of but held his own self in high regard. "Yes," she hissed, frowning.
"Then go on," Molly's brows knitted together in confusion, "prove yourself." There was a delay in her action, until she spied another look at the man beside her. The expression he gave her was one of deadly annoyance, and hastily she stood to her feet. Eyes felt on her, they followed as she walked to the operating table. Approaching the young man, she asked softly, "What were you attempting?" He gave her a severe look of dislike, sneer having Molly bristling.
"Removal of the heart," he spat, "think you can handle that without retching?" She glared back at him, holding her head up. Snorting, he finally handed her the scalpel, taking a step back to watch her. Anger boiling her blood, she set about her task. The incision, though horribly, was still done. She removed the layer of flesh to get to the rib cage, reaching for the tray of tools nearby, she picked up the saw and began to cut the bones. It was always tiresome work, but she didn't let that stop her. By the time it was broken and then placed to the side, she was sweating and panting slightly. Molly tossed a glance behind her, catching the eyes of the young man.
He didn't appear as confident as before, but a bitter glare still met her. Rolling her eyes at the sight, Molly finally grabbed her scalpel once more and cleanly severed the organ. Poor attitude flaring as she forwent the forceps and picked the cold heart from the corpse's cavity, in her bloody hands she stared at it.
The sound of clapping vibrating on the walls took her from her admiring, and flushing with anger and pride, she saw a man standing up in a dark corner. He stopped, emerging into the light with a crooked grin. Dressed in a fine suit, he was an odd man to look at. By all accounts he was attractive, but his visage was still something people could miss in a crowd. The most interesting part of him was his large dark eyes, expressive as they told of their pleasure. Pleasure in what Molly herself had just done. Wordlessly she placed the heart on a tray, trying to remain calm as the man behind her left.
She had finally met her executioner. Strolling over to meet her, he came to a stop a mere foot away, eyes drinking her in. "What a vision," he mumbled approvingly, "you've really outdone yourself." Molly shook her head free from its cobwebs, that Irish lilt was tangling her in a dangerous web.
"Thank you," she whispered, hoping her death would be a quick and painless one.
"No, thank you." He grabbed one of her bloodied hands, placing a kiss at the knuckle. Molly shivered. "You put on quite the performance, I was spellbound from the start." He stood back up, still holding onto her hand. A fact she tried to ignore and the smear on his mouth. "But, how rude of me, my name is Professor James Moriarty - feel free to call me Jim."
"Thank you, sir." She forced out, "You're being most... kind."
"Kind?" Moriarty laughed at the thought. "I've never been mistaken for that before. I'm sure you'll learn that soon enough. Now! I'm not sure about you, but I'm famished, how about a bite?" He gave her another a grin, yanking her to his side and forcibly hooking her arm into his bent elbow. If he was annoyed about the mess on his suit he didn't show it, asking cheerfully "What are you in the mood for?" And so began the start of their complicated relationship.
1 In 1884 an event that would be later called the Blackstone Street Murder by the newspapers took place, an E. R. Nunviez was returning home from a day of work at the docks when he was approached to hand over his belongings. He was then beaten with belt buckles, kicked, and then fatally knifed by a group of delinquent youths. The outrage of such blatant violence and years spent suffering from the threat of gang violence had the populace in an uproar, and many in the justice system scrambled to clear the impoverished streets.
2 In Nov. 1886, Mr. Justice Day declared that no such gangs existed and were able to commit such crimes(Blackstone). In a move to show that the docks were indeed safe from such killings, he 'toured' the district himself. He was of course escorted by the city's Head Constable, William Nott-Bower and two detectives. They saw no gang activity along their route, but were appalled by the squalor present in the area. The brave action was applauded, and three months later a group from a gang went on a rampage on the storefront, killing and robbing shopkeepers.
Chapter 3: Ad Augusta Per Angusta
Ad augusta per angusta: to rise to a high position over coming hardships.
It was Sunday, the Lord's Day. The afternoon sun casts the gardens Mark was strolling through in oranges and pinks, the scent of the flowers was a rarity among the common scent of filth and smoke. He had just finished his shift at the morgue today, filing more records for their recent body - all in all, a bore.
The meal awaiting him back home was far more exciting, it was Meena's day to cook. There was a pork roast with a side of potatoes and carrots that he was more than happy to devour, even the residue of death couldn't put him off of it.
"Dr. Hooper!" Reluctantly Mark came to a halt, wishing now that he had taken a different route. The feminine pitch was disheartening, as there aren't a lot of young ladies that he converses with, at least while in this costume. Thinking it would be a nurse, he turned to look upon a woman he didn't recognize.
An inch shorter than him, she appeared to have barely matured from being a child. Wrapped in a coat too big for her, it made her appear smaller than she already was. "You are in fact Dr. Hooper?" Mark ignored her messy hair and obvious lower-class way of speaking.
"Yes, I am, how can I help you, Miss?"
The stranger held her hand out, grinning when Mark shook it. "My name is Florrie, I'm here to collect you, sir." Mark gently dropped the hand, raising a brow.
"Who sent you to collect me?"
Florrie tapped the side of her nose with a wink, "Our mutual friend, sir. 'M' is the letter of the day." Both of Mark's eyebrows shot up. Jim didn't tend to be so bold when he needed his help, and when he did send someone, it was never any girl from the slums. Just what exactly was he playing at? Mark gave a glance over his shoulder, turning to face Florrie again with a wary smile.
"Then we ought to be off."
They took a carriage to Southwark, where the scent of the River Thames seemed stronger that day. Florrie directed them to a private residence, where Mark paid the coin to the driver when they arrived before they both climbed out. The building in itself was suitable, fenced off with stones. Praying silently to himself that today wouldn't be too much of a hassle, Mark followed behind as Florrie opened the gate and led them to the front. Knocking on the door thrice, she turned to him with an impish smile. Action not helping to ease Mark's dread.
Another young woman opened the door, at a tiny height under four feet, she had brown hair and grey eyes. Introduced as Maggie, she closed the door behind them. Led through the home, Mark noted the decor and furniture, all mismatched. It was like someone had up-heaved a store, and had bought... or had taken what looked the shiniest among the lot. Mark wasn't a fool, as they headed to one of the corner rooms, he recognized the atmosphere. This place was barely above the neighbouring squalor, and the endless amount of women that peered at him as he went by, reminded him of that.
Any doubt of his assessment was erased when he finally met her, the obvious leader. In a meeting room of sorts, a woman of the age of twenty sat on a plush chair. She was tall and handsome, body, broad-boned and strong. She had donned a fur coat, importance coming off of her as she met Mark's gaze. He immediately greeted her, "Hello, I'm Dr. Hooper. I assume you're the one I'm here to see?"
She waved to the chair across from her's, wordlessly telling him to sit down. When Mark finally did, she began to talk. "Alice Diamond." It took Mark a second to realize that was her name, quietly asking, "The one from the papers?" Alice showed off her hands in response, they had diamond rings on each finger.
"I see..." He had first properly heard of her in passing from Lestrade, complaining of the infamous gang leader of the Forty Elephants. He learned more about it from the papers, where they spoke of stores being robbed of expensive clothing and jewels. Alice in particular had gotten a name for herself for being a fighter with powerful punches. It was a bit of surprise that Professor Moriarty was invested in this all female gang, but he did appear to be a strange advocate for women's rights. Perhaps one day Mark could ask him about it. "I understand we have a mutual acquaintance, so what exactly, am I here to help with?"
Alice placed her hands on the table, "Some freak has been killing my girls, and I need him found."
Mark opened his mouth, unsure how much of an assistance he could actually be. Alice cut him off, saying "You work with that Holmes, right? Find out the way he kills 'em, and lead us to his doorstep. We'll take care of the bastard ourselves." There was a gleam in her eyes that neither Molly nor Mark liked.
"Ms. Diamond, I can observe the bodies of your friends and tell you the how, but I don't have the same abilities Mr. Holmes does."
Alice spat onto the ground, startling Mark. "Horse shite. Mr. M told me you'd be best, and he's never wrong. He gives us what's due... all of us." Mark wet his lips, wanting to look away from the stare she was giving him.
"You know that I'm a...?'
"A gentleman with a surprise between the legs? Yes. Mr. M goes on about you a lot."
"Um... He does?"
Alice rolled her eyes, "Thinks you're a real bricky girl, and how nice that present must be."
Blushing hotly, Molly tried to drop her pitch again to match her facade. Failing as she stuttered around the question, "I-I don't mean to be rude, but... h-how do you know... him?" It was hard to continue their discussion, not when she just found out that Jim talked about her and what made her a natural woman. She wasn't sure how to deal with that, to deal with that someone like Alice knew of both accounts.
"Same as you, there was a doctor that visited me and the other children in the slums. Dr. James Barry." Molly stiffened at the name. "Now that I've answered your questions, are you going to help us now?' Absently Molly nodded, distracted by the memory that name brought up.
She first met Dr. Barry under his natural name, Margaret Ann Bulkley. Befriending the other Margaret, Molly had become inspired to pursue a medical profession after witnessing her friend do so under the disguise of being her own twin brother. Of course she didn't have siblings, but far from her country town, the people of London didn't know that. When Molly had wanted to try her hand at it, Margaret introduced her as a distant cousin, helping in her enrollment at the university.
Molly owed a great deal to Margaret and her family, her mother and uncle's influential and liberal friends who coaxed her into schooling. Without them, Molly would never have prospered. And it didn't hurt that she had been sponsored anonymously, later she reasoned it had been Professor Moriarty. How even though he was younger then, still he held the power and resources to do a great deal of things.
A number of years after she had graduated, Jim made his presence known that fateful day. Though it still perplexed her as to why it took him so long, especially after she learned of his impulsive character.
"Dr. Hooper." She snapped out of it, forgetting where she was.
"Sorry," she mumbled, "does that mean you already have a body?" Alice nodded.
"Our Mad Frankie, found her last night in an alleyway. We'll have you come around tomorrow, after the mourning is done." Molly wanted to protest, to state that her seeing the corpse was better if it was sooner, but didn't press it. These girls were all a second from popping, they needed a fight and Molly wasn't going to be the one to give it to them.
"Right, tomorrow then." They both stood up, Molly's stance a tad shakier than Alice's. Saying her goodbyes, Molly hurried out of there and took a carriage home.
The rest of her evening went by quickly, she told Meena of what happened. Perhaps not as much as she should have, but she didn't like to see her worry so much. After dinner, Molly stripped of her costume and put on her gown, climbing into her cold lonely bed. Staring at the darkened ceiling, Molly couldn't help but think of Alice's words. The sexual attraction really shouldn't surprise her, but the thought that he talked so openly about it did.
One and a half months prior
It had been the very start of spring, the winter weather holding on desperately until the end. The morgue in particular had a heightened chill to it, making the working conditions there troublesome. They could light a fire, but the heat was just as unkind to the corpses as was the cold. Mark worked with the freezing temperatures as long as he could handle, frustration mounting with Anderson's whining as the fireplace had wood added.
"Oh, shut up!"
Anderson flinched, dropping the rag he'd been using to clean. "Just.." Mark threw his hands into the air, "leave! You're being more of a bother than you're worth!" Mark glared until Anderson scurried out of the morgue like the rat he was. And yes, his tone with dealing with the idiot was probably sharper than needed, but Sherlock's visit had the worst effects on him. It was depressing how attractive Mark found him, pitiful that he left someone like Molly in this state.
The sound of the doors opening had Mark sighing, thinking that Anderson had crawled back. "Oi!" He shouted, not looking up from the body before him. "Why don't you piss off!" In the middle of a cut to the torso, Mark couldn't look up at the approaching footsteps until they were close. When he did, he dropped the scalpel into Mr. Evans.
"Professor!" Molly gasped loudly, like she was performing in some play.
"I have to say," Jim crooned "I never thought I'd hear you talk like that, love." Shadows dancing on his face, he walked around the slab. Molly went to get off her stool, heart hammering in her ears. She just told Moriarty to... She shuddered, wondering if he'd let her live even with the insult. Before she could clamber off, Jim was grabbing her by the shoulders, forcing her back down. "Don't be so rash, it's impolite. After all, we have much to discuss."
"Discuss" Molly choked out, shoulders periodically squeezed. "W-what?"
"Well," Jim said slowly, like he had to think it over. "I heard you had an eventful encounter with the lovely Sherlock Holmes, poor Lestrade and Dr. Watson had to pull you apart. I wonder what that looked like," Jim's hands drifted down from her shoulders and along her arms "red in the face screaming at each other, panting as they tore you two away."
"I.." Molly felt like she was about to combust at any moment, staring at Mr. Evans. His hands dropped from her arms and went to her sides, everything he touched feeling like it was hot.
"I wanted," he breathed into her ear, "to see the damage. I imagine that virgin Holmes is so excitable after, but nothing to match how messy you'd be." His fingers skated over the bump of her waist and to the beginning of her bottom. "Would you like that?"
It took a second for Molly to remember how to talk, "W-what?" Jim snorted, amused by her inability to get a hold of herself.
"The damage, dearest. I know you're a doctor, but I may have advice and possible treatments for your..." he squeezed her ass "condition." If ever asked about her slow manner of connecting the dots, Molly would point out her lack of sexual experience, and the fact she had to deal with a man who was a glutton for sensuality and oozed confidence. As far as she saw it, her lack of insanity was baffling.
"Oh..." Molly breathed in sharply, "where...?" She glanced down at Mr. Evans. He wouldn't want to... would he? Jim began to laugh into the nape of her neck, his shaking nearly having Molly falling from the stool. Amongst all of the quakes he said, "Y-you have an office, don't you?" Ah, yes she did. Molly flushed with embarrassment.
"How was I supposed to know?!"
"Dr. Hooper, you continue to surprise me." Molly tried not to be too annoyed, given a helping hand down and led into the small joined room. The papers that were stacked on her desk were flung to the floor, Jim carelessly steps on them as he shocked her by lifting her up and putting her on the furniture.
On it for only a few seconds, Molly had little time to adjust to this change before Jim was leaning over her in a needy kiss. Moans muffled, Molly rose a hand to run it through his hair but he broke away. She was confused why, but then Jim walked around the desk. Grabbing her chair and bringing it back with him, he set it behind him. That done, he took her in another kiss. The muscles in Molly's neck began to hurt with the effort, eventually becoming tired, so she dropped her head onto the desk. Panting as she felt Jim kiss the skin shown from her collar, his hands were busy working on her trousers.
Skill apparent it wasn't long before he had them undone and peeled off, the tricky part was the drawers. Which Jim gave a hiss of disapproval to, quickly undoing the tiny buttons for the beige underwear. Covering her face with her arm, Molly lifted herself to help Jim take them off. Hearing the clothing being thrown to the ground, Molly gave a yelp of surprise as Jim yanked her to the edge of the desk, making sure her legs were parted. In her bewilderment, her hands grabbed at the wood of the desk, finally seeing Jim between her legs, grinning. She shuddered, feeling as if she were staring a beast directly in its eyes before the kill.
Molly dropped her head back down, eyes squeezing shut as she felt warm breath on her. She never thought this would be how and where she'd lose her virginity, in the morgue of all things while Mr. Evans continued to decompose. She let out a high pitch yelp at a kiss being placed at her inner thigh. The light nip that came afterwards, the sensation of teeth scraping skin nearly had her losing her mind. On the verge of cursing out one of the deadliest men in this country... In this world.
All of the air in her lungs left her, his strong hands holding her to him as he began his feast, devouring her whole. Molly forced herself to release her grip on part of the wood, putting her stiff hand against her mouth in a pathetic attempt at masking her moans. When she asked Meena about taking a man into her bed years prior, she always thought it be would her husband and not some criminal. From what her nurse had told her, first times were never a delight, at least Meena's wasn't.
Molly shuddered, Jim clearly wasn't a normal man. At this point, with his tongue dragging across her like she was a delicious dessert, she wasn't sure if he was even human. That thought reinforced when one of his hands let go of her thighs to touch her clit. She would have jumped a foot in the air, if it weren't for his grip, holding her down.
Quicker than any of the other lonely times she's pleasured herself, Molly found her release approaching her in blinding speed. Legs trembling as she tried to simultaneously get closer and away from Professor Moriarty, and saying the litany of her praise, the chanted "Professor!" She whimpered at a sudden vibration, and like she'd been slapped her eyes opened up. Barely able to lift her head, she peered down the length of her writhing body, realizing he was laughing as he ate her out. Jaw hanging open, she blinked weakly at the dark eyes that bore into her. Smirking as he dragged his tongue and gave her clit a flick, Jim had to hold Molly at bay as she came. Although the idea of being strangled by her thighs was a delectable thought.
Gently putting her down, Jim winced as he got up from his sitting position. His trousers were unfortunately tight, but he didn't mind too much, licking his lips. Molly groaned at the sight, and Jim winked in response. Sauntering around to where Molly's head was, he gave her a kiss to the forehead before he pulled away.
"W-where" Molly cleared her throat, voice hoarse. "Where are you going? Don't you want me to...?" Blushing, she glanced downwards to the tent in his trousers.
"As lovely as that is, I have to get back to work. Crime doesn't wait for no man," a smirk stretched across his glistening face "or woman. I'll be in touch, darling." He left her like that in the morgue, lower clothing on the floor and dishevelled. Molly dropped her head back onto the desk with a curse.
Chapter 4: Causa Latet, Vis Est Notissima
Causa latet, vis est notissima: the cause is hidden, but the result is well known
A lifetime ago
"Let's not be foolish now, your tension is enough to startle an elephant."
Molly bit hard on her bottom lip, on the verge of splitting it open. Maybe the pain and the taste of blood would convince her that this was real, that she was not dreaming for once. It was a curious feeling, on one part of it she felt as if she was drifting in excitement, or swaying in dizzying fear. She had worn this bizarre costume a handful of times, not nearly enough to get used to the caterpillar on her upper lip. Ever so often she caught her nose scrunching, desire to sneeze overwhelming her. In these heart stopping moments, hurriedly she pressed her sleeve into her face, hoping to muffle the sound completely.
There was an exasperated sigh to her side; Molly mumbled a "Sorry" under her breath.
"I can hardly fault you." Margaret - er, James said. They stood in a hall, an end to a series of social gathering, a meeting of potential peers. As an already established doctor, James was the perfect person to show Molly... Mark, yes she must remember it was Mark now.. around. Neither one had a preference of meeting the older men, but if Dr. Barry didn't show his distant cousin around, that would raise a far greater amount of questions. "I remember my first time," James took another sip of his brandy "like stepping into a den of wolves." He eyed a particular gentleman on the sofa, head thrown back as he snored loudly. "If the wolves were all half dead."
"Is this place really needed to aid me in securing an occupation?"
"My dear, Mark. This" James gestured to the room with his goblet, liquid sloshing over the edges "is precisely the place where to begin your search." Molly doubted it. "Now if you're quite done being so nervous, we'll start with the introductions." She was afraid of that. "Do you see that gentleman in the corner?"
He followed James' line of sight, settling on a man helping himself to some pastries from a servant's platter. The bespectacled gentleman seemed agreeable enough, kind disposition drawing one easily with his light conversations. If any, he appeared the best suited for playing the part of a mentor. Still, Mark still felt wary approaching the man, of striking up a conversation while masquerading as the opposite sex. It was easy enough for James, he had after all, been doing this for a number of years. A hand on his shoulder gave a nudge, "Why don't you start with him? Off you go then."
Breathing in deeply, Mark tried to walk upright with confidence as he strolled over. He offered a hand, "Hello, I don't believe I've had the pleasure of your acquaintance." The gentleman looked up from his pie, the side of his mouth covered with crumbs. He swallowed loudly, gaze darting before he managed to put his plate on a table, hands free to offer a shake.
"I don't believe we have, Mike Stamford. And you, sir?" Hand clasped in the other, Mark smiled as they shook.
"Mark Hooper. I hear you work at St. Bartholomews?"
"I do, as a doctor. Why are you in need of one, or.." Mike studied him further "are you in need of a job?"
"Good morning, Dr. Hooper."
Mark smiled, shrugging out of his jacket. "Good morning, Dr. Stamford." If only his past self knew how much of a blessing this older man would be, a light within a fog of struggles. Placing his possessions into his office, he reentered the mortuary with a smile. "Anything of interest today?"
"There should be another body arriving shortly."
Mike snorted, "Thank merciful heavens, no. The scent has only begun to leave."
"Ah" Mark begun to roll his sleeves up "The unfortunate effects with dealing with the dead. Never polite with their own dignity." Mike laughed, shaking his head.
"There's truth to your words, Dr. Hooper." The sound of creaking wheels on the tiles reached them, signalling the journey of the corpse down the hallway. "And that would be our guest." They both stood to the side as the two workers entered, tasked with lifting the sheet covered form onto the slab, grunting with the effort. What first caught Mark's attention was the scent, and although the smell of decomposition was there, it was something he had gotten used to. No, he was drawn to the unusual flowery scent - most definitely the deceased was wearing expensive perfume before their demise.
Pulling the sheet back, the two doctors stared down at the corpse as the workers left. The frail elderly woman before them was of high class, clothes made of quality fabric. The rouge on her cheeks stood out on her pale visage, the natural colour quickly leaving the flesh. Gingerly Mark touched one of her cheeks with the back of his hand, there was warmth there, telling how recent the death had been. Hand moving downwards, he noticed the jewelry, bending down to remove the black onyx drop earrings. Setting them to the side so they could be collected by the family, he then moved the collar, brow furrowing.
Mike who noted the change in expression, asked with concern "Is there something wrong?"
"I assume that this woman was of high standing, is that correct?"
"Yes, the Yard is in a fit over it. Her family runs a jewelry shop, and have quite a voice. Why do you ask?"
"It just.." Mark shook his head "strikes me as odd, that she would be missing a necklace."
"There was a robbery, so maybe it got snapped off?"
"No that doesn't make sense to me." His brows knitted together "Why take the effort for a single necklace, while they could take from a whole shop?"
"I'm not too sure, but we aren't detectives. Let the Yard and Sherlock reason that, our efforts are best suited here." A tad disappointed, Mark let out a sigh. He knew that the other doctor meant well, but he couldn't help but feel underestimated. Not just from Dr. Stamford, but by everyone... well, nearly everyone.
After a long shift of documenting the cause of death, an obvious case of stabbing, Mark couldn't enjoy his afternoon walk home. Instead he found himself taking a cab, having to rely on his memory to get him back to the all-women home. Driver paid, Mark clambered out of the carriage with a heavy heart, shoes kicking stones as he hurried to the door. Hand an inch from rapping on it, he was startled when it was suddenly flung open.
Florrie gave him only a second to react, grabbing onto his sleeve and pulling the poor doctor inside. The door was closed and then locked.
Eyes felt on his person, he was ushered to a room upstairs. A small bedroom made up of a few things, it was quite the contrast to the rest of the house, which seemed to be bursting at the seams. On a bed that was made up was the body, still in her gown. A few of the girls were already huddled inside, standing by the bed like the laying body was that of a sick person rather than one of the dead.
From the doorway Mark could already see that the face was deformed from a multitude of hits, the beatings must have been horrid. But being from the slums, he reasoned she may have been used to that. Lightly he brushed the tips of his fingers on the bruised flesh, tracing the large patches of purple.
"She was... found in an alleyway?" There were some mumbles of agreement. Mark frowned, peeling some clothes back to inspect the body. "She... she wasn't dead then was she?"
"No, doctor" a voice mumbled. Mark peered upwards at Maggie, hoping his expression would encourage her to speak further. "S-she," Maggie blinked harshly "she was alive then, we took her back here."
It was a bit of effort to move the clothes back, the dried blood stuck the flesh to the clothing. "I take it she didn't make it through the night." Mark sniffed, breathing in a familiar scent. "Did any of you bathe her?"
"We tried to." Dropping the fabric, Mark stood up. Looking over his shoulder to stare at Alice, who stood in the door frame, leaning against it. "Wanted her to be sent off proper, but she died far too quickly. Washed her up a bit, but we couldn't get rid of the stench." Mark hummed, nodding absently as he breathed in again. Not something he was fond of, but it was tugging at the corners of his mind, wanting him to place it. What was that?
"Can you take me to where you found her?"
Alice shrugged, standing up straight. "If you don't mind a bit of a walk and the filth."
"Getting my hands dirty doesn't bother me."
"Well..." Alice grinned, looking Mark up and down. "Let's not stand around any longer, c'mon let's put those legs to good use." Silently praying that this wouldn't be a mistake, Mark followed the gang leader out of the room and down the hallway.
Chapter 5: Factum Fieri Infectum Non Potest
Factum fieri infectum non potest: it is impossible for a deed to be undone
True to Alice's word, it was a bit of a walk but eventually they arrived at the alleyway. In that time the wind picked up, slamming into their backs as they weaved through the crowded streets. Mad Frankie's supposed place of death was further into the slums, the salty scent merging with the nearby docks and the squalor. Molly's nose scrunched up, but she made no move to cover it.
"Here." Alice suddenly turned, entering a narrow passageway. It was isolated, in a permanent state of shade. They walked until they reached a dead end, there was bits of garbage on the ground like a makeshift bed. What blood that must have been there was long washed away by the prior rain. She slowly turned around taking in her surroundings, ever aware of her companion's gaze. "Well?"
"It's... It's a very daring place to die, isn't it?"
"Daring?" Alice drew out, like the word offended her. Not wanting that in the slightest, Molly tried to recover their momentary alliance.
"There's only one way to enter and leave, so if someone caught the killer in the middle of his heinous crime, there wouldn't be a way to flee. That and.."
Alice crossed her arms, "And..?"
"Either Frankie knew her killer, or someone yanked her into the alleyway - both are incredibly risky. Do you know if she was seeing anyone?"
Alice scoffed. "We have a clear code amongst us, a man wouldn't come between us and the family."
"Never?" Both of Molly's eyebrows shot up. "Even yourself, you never enjoyed the company of a man?"
"Careful, doctor. You're here to learn of one of my girl's death, not who has spent a night in my bed."
"I had no desire to offend you, Ms. Diamond."
Alice rolled her eyes, "No one with a lick of sense does. Have you learnt everything from this place, Dr. Hooper?"
Molly gave another glance around the alleyway, "The weather has already claimed most of the clues, there isn't much I can learn from here." Alice nodded, not pleased with the answer but she still accepted it. With a gesture of her hand, she lead the pathologist to the entrance of the alleyway.
"Even so, I appreciate your care into this matter."
Molly sighed, shoving her hands into her coat pockets, "I'm glad I-"
Both Molly and Alice's head snapped upwards in surprise, taking in the figure standing before them. It took her a few moments to recognize him, his disguise was well crafted, making him nearly a stranger. Dressed in a poor man's clothes with a cap pulled down over his eyes, Sherlock Holmes drank in their equal appearances. From what Molly could see, there was no sight of Dr. Watson behind him, so the detective was doing some investigating on his own time. Quickly she was forced to overcome her surprise, tone gruff and filled with annoyance.
"Holmes. Can I help you?"
Sherlock sniffed haughtily, "I doubt it, your company seems to be already tending to the task." Mark spared a glance to the woman beside him, worried how the implication would affect Alice and if her infamous temper would flare up. They couldn't afford that and risking a chance at rousing Sherlock's already piqued interest. Instead, Alice surprised them both with a cruel laugh. She stepped into Mark's personal space, placing a hand on his chest as she peered at the tall detective.
"You're all too correct about that, sir. Now if you don't mind us, I was about to entertain our doctor... Unless.." Her gaze dragged up and down his form, causing a response of bristling. "You have enough coin to join us...?"
Mark bit the inside of his cheek, mildly amused by the expression of disgust that flared up on Sherlock's features. Although his gaze did linger on that hand, caress promising as Alice pressed further into Mark's person. "That is nothing to tempt me, a cheap woman such as yourself is only an unwelcome distraction. Tend to Hooper as if our paths never crossed, now if you excuse me..." Sherlock paused, sparing one last look at Mark "I held you in better respect than carnal desires, Hooper." With that he was gone, entering the slums further. Watching his back disappear into a crowd, Alice dropped her hand and took a step back, spitting onto the ground.
"Arrogant isn't he?"
Merely Molly hummed, asking quietly "But what would have been done if he didn't reject your advances? We would have been discovered." Alice took the accusation with a sharp laugh, placing a hand on her hip.
"A man like him? I'd have a better chance at getting a fish to dance. C'mon, I'll buy you a drink for the trouble." Feeling a tad parched, Molly followed afterwards, wondering if their meeting had changed their relationship further - if so, what was there to be done about it?
Sherlock kept his pace steady, form hunched over to create an illusion that he was shorter than he actually was. He was trying to avoid thinking of the previous events, but they kept rising to the forefront of his mind. Truly it shouldn't have shocked him, men had appetites had needed to be sated. He just never thought of Dr. Hooper in that context, couldn't think of the shorter man in the opposite sex's intimate embrace. The image was seared to his thoughts, raising to the surface behind his eyelids.
He fought to not analyze it further, but he kept pondering it. The air of discomfort that came off of Mark, he wasn't sure if that was because he had interrupted the exchange, or there was some shame involved... That loose woman, stature taller than the young doctor's, her long limbs gave the feeling that she ensnared him like a spider. Sherlock thought of that hand of her's, drifting down the other man's chest.. He locked it away in some dark dusty corner of his mind palace, to be forgotten forever.
With a shake of his head, he focused on the task at hand, heading towards the docks. Wind biting his cheeks, he found the man he was looking for. He was tall and tanned, strong from time spent in the sun and wrestling with the sails and ropes. Overlooking a fishing boat coming in for a day, he gave an occasional shout, talking to the sailors as if they were dogs rather than men. He lifted his head at the sound of Sherlock's approaching, expression hard as he considered him. "What are you looking at?"
In a thick accent, Sherlock inquired, "I'm looking for work, do you need an extra set of hands?" The man across from him sniffed loudly, giving him another look over. Satisfied by whatever he saw, he jutted his blunt chin toward's the boat.
"I might. You're good for it? I won't have anyone who dabbles around."
"I'm not scared off by a little of sweat and blood, if that's what you're asking?"
"We'll see about that. The work is tough but I pay well, how do you fair on the water?"
"Better than on the ground." Content, his new boss gave a nod. He'd secured himself a job.
"Off you go then." Sherlock mumbled his thanks, then headed to assist the other men with the nets. He worked well until darkness came over the city, skin on his hands rubbed raw from the ropes. It wasn't too bad, he was already used to working with his hands and playing violin had toughened his flesh to a degree. The worry came of the stench of fish, and whether it would ever leave his person.
In a seedy tavern, Mark dragged his beer across the table and closer to himself. "You aren't above it, are you?"
Alice peered at him, "Whoring?" She gave an offhanded shrug. "A bit of coin for time on my back or knees isn't much of an effort. I did it often when I was younger, I didn't have much inspiration for being a woman of business. It gave me money for some hot food in my belly, it did more for me than the state ever did."
Mark might not like it, but he had no room to judge Alice's choice in profession, they hardly had the same advantages. Even if he became a doctor thanks to the kindness of others, it was apparent that Alice did without that same tenderness. He took a lengthy sip from his beverage, grimacing when he swallowed it down.
Alice grinned at his reaction, resting her elbow on the table. "It's not pretty, but it sure get's you drunk." The buzz to Mark's temple left no doubt in his mind of Alice's truth, grunting through narrowed eyes. Other's laughter tinkling in his ears, he felt a slap to his shoulder, nearly knocking him from his chair. He had forgotten how strong she was, as powerful as a man - he reminded himself never to tarnish their amicability.
Night had long since passed overhead when he finally returned home, head feeling as if it were placed on backwards. He struggled to hang onto the door, lifting a hand to knock without falling. Mark got two knocks in when the door was opened, setting him off balance. Meena caught him before he fell, nose scrunching as she hissed "You stink like you've bathed in a ale barrel!"
"Might have" Molly mumbled with cracked lips as Meena gave an angry tsk, and pulled her inside, door shut firmly behind. Strong from dealing with stubborn patients, Meena pulled her to the dining table, sitting her down in the chair. Immediately Molly lowered her head to the table, closing her eyes as she tried to ignore the room spinning around.
"Have you eaten?" Molly grunted. Meena rolled her eyes, "I have a bit of bread and cheese you can nibble on. I'll draw you the bath you so desperately need while you eat."
Meena sighed once more, shaking her head as she went to root through the pantry. The pathologist let out a groan, determined never to drink with Alice Diamond ever again.
Chapter 6: Lapsus Linguae
Lapsus linguae: inadvertent speech error, slip of the tongue
Hello everyone, I hope you all are having a wonderful day. I just wanted to thank everyone for the sweet birthday wishes, and in exchange this is my belated gift to all of you. Thanks again! <3
Breath hissing through her teeth, Molly turned on her side, pressing a hand over her eyes. Her temples were insistently aching, a pulsing right behind her sockets. "Shit.." The knock upon her bedroom door wasn't helping, and warily she called out "What?"
The sound kept up for another few moments, and louder she shouted "What, Meena?!" Barely opening her eyes, she squinted against the sunlight. Even then she knew the figure standing in the door frame wasn't her friend, the form was clearly masculine. Eyes widening, she went to sit up, panic rising as she tried to identify his face in the light.
"Oh don't bother getting up, stay where you are."
All of the oxygen left her lungs in a loud gasp, and swiftly Molly drew the blankets over her person.
Ignorant or uncaring of her inner turmoil, Professor Moriarty stepped into the room, critical eyes scanning what few items she possessed. It was if he was noting everything, all of the knowledge about her character. He was doing what Sherlock did so well, the deductions, but in his own right he didn't state his findings. No, Jim was far too greedy for that. He kept everything to himself.
Finding her voice in the quietness of the room, Molly whispered "What are you doing here?" She knew that he was aware of her lodgings, he made that obvious and even sent his staff over to collect her. But he's never made an appearance like this, never bothered with the risk. The idea of her murder rose to her mind, that she was going to die this morning. Molly wet her lips, leaning into the bed frame as her brows furrowed. She had suspected this moment would come, but so early into their relationship? No, she hadn't-
"So" he sung out, strolling over to her dresser and lifting a glass object up. "What did you think of our little fighter?"
"...Fighter..?" She sat up rod straight, staring hard at him. "Are you speaking of Ms. Diamond? Is... is that why you're here?"
"Clever as always, Hooper." And yet he didn't answer her, instead putting forth his own question. "Where did you get this?" Reluctantly she stopped her study of his visage, and dropped her gaze to what was held in his hands.
"My late grandmother gave that to me, on my fifth birthday." She couldn't help the fond smile at the sight of the object, pleasant memories lingering in her thoughts. In a tall glass dome with a wooden circular bottom, there was a colourful stuffed exotic bird. So very different from a common and plain blackbird or pigeon.
"What an odd gift." She smile dropped. "Such a delicate thing to give to a small child. When I was in my fifth year of age..."
"Yes?" Molly breathed out. A chance to hear and understand more of Jim's character was always welcomed. He never spoke of his childhood, or his family. There was so little she knew of him, and with a painful twist of her heart, she realized she wanted to change that.
He shrugged, as if the importance of finishing his sentence was insignificant. "I've never been delicate. Certainly not at that age. Curious, yes, but I was never one to practice being gentle unless it benefited me. There is only so much the dead can do, Hooper, to be of some indulgence."
"I think you're wrong." His gaze slid over to her, staring deeply until Molly's gaze moved away. A heat was creeping to her face, cheeks flushing. "There's a beauty to them... to..." She closed her mouth, not wanting to speak further of the topic and to embarrass herself.
"Now don't be shy, dear." He set the dome back onto the dresser, and took a seat on the edge of her bed. The intimacy and sudden closeness behind the action made Molly want to be swallowed whole by some creature, to be whisked away to a realm far from him and his eyes. God, he burned into her as if he wanted her placed in that glass. "Finish what you were saying."
A shaky breath escaped her, legs drawing towards herself. "There's something peaceful about... Sir, please.." He rose a brow at that, smirk tugging at his lips with her "Why are you here? Surely it isn't to hear me ramble on about dead animals."
"No," he admitted with a soft smile. "Although I find this conversation a splendid substitute." The softness to his look, the amusement behind it rid Molly of her breath. It was such a contrast to his general countenance, unlike being dangerous or carnal, she was at a loss what to do or feel about it. "But there is truth to your claim, I'm attending you for a matter of business."
"What business, sir?"
"Ms. Diamond." Ah, it was as she speculated. She adjusted her spot on the bed, trying to control her excitement and curiosity. "I want to know your opinion of her."
"She's..." Molly chewed on her bottom lip, "She's an interesting character. Sir, I don't want to overstep my bounds but..."
"What is my relationship with her?" Professor Moriarty offered, leering at her timid nod. "I will say it is one of giving and taking."
Giving and taking? She frowned at that, wondering it was as suggestive as it sounded.
"A lot of my ventures end that way, my dear Hooper. Although it depends entirely on the circumstance, but it all ends in me taking what rightfully belongs to me." Molly fought with the blankets and her trembling hands; Jim continued on as if he couldn't see her trouble. "You might say I've placed some investment in her, and so I want Ms. Diamond and her business to flourish. Now, she told me you went on an expedition together. Tell me about that, was there anything to be found?"
"I..." There was still so much that confused her about Alice and Jim, she wasn't any closer to finding an answer. At this point she realized that Jim wasn't a person to give knowledge away so freely, not without a cost. She wasn't sure if she could afford whatever it is that he wanted, so she'd have to look elsewhere. Momentarily distracted by his inquiry, Molly chewed on her bottom lip, struggling to remember her findings before that night's drink clouded everything. "We went to the alley where Mad Frankie perished, I couldn't find a lot in terms of clues but.."
"But?" Jim leaned forward, cocking a brow.
"It... There was a peculiar air to that place."
She shifted on the bed, letting the blankets fall from her hands. Jim caught the movement with a flicker of his eyes. "Where she died was rather risky, downtown near a busy street. Anyone could have saw, I'm not sure if she was actually killed there."
"Or," Jim interrupted, "perhaps the killer is confident? If there's a crime there, it isn't the people's problem - only that poor girl's."
"Sir, if you were to.." Molly cleared her throat, "say you wanted a man dead. Could you do it without the fear of someone recognizing your face?" Jim's smile deepened and immediately Molly regretted asking the question, she waved it off, "Forget it, sir."
"No, it was a fine query." He slowly got off of the bed, stepping closer to her side and then taking a seat once more, he leaned forward. Swiftly Molly tipped backwards, hands balled into tight fists against her chest as his proximity neared her person. "Would you.." he drew out, eyes peering down at her lips "say anything if I were to kill someone before you? Not even for a sense of justice or duty?"
"What.." Molly whispered, peering at the door around Jim. "W-would it be a man who deserved it?" A tiny whimper escaped her, she trembled as he slowly raised a hand to her face, fingers threading through her locks of hair. He hummed under his breath, high trill having a shiver race down Molly's spine.
"It depends on your definition of the word, my dear Hooper."
What was the answer he wanted? What would he do if she got it wrong? She swallowed anxiously. "I don't know, sir." He smiled at the truth behind her voice, gently undoing a knot.
"Nothing wrong with that, Hooper." He let go of her hair, lingering for only a second before he withdrew to his feet. Jim lazily brushed his trousers free from invisible dust, "As always, it's been a delight, but I really do have other matters to tend to." Before he could walk out of that door, to leave Molly to wallow in her doubts, she called out to him.
"Wait." It surprised her when he did, turning to cast her a look over his shoulder. "Ms. Diamond, she said her... her family wasn't allowed to have a man as company." After a minute of silence she continued, "Do you know if she keeps the same code?"
"My," he sighed, "aren't you a busybody." Molly's face burned. "Hoping to find something in her dresser drawers, love?"
"Sir Moriarty, please. It's for the case."
Jim grinned at her, "I'm sure it is. To answer your question, no, she's never warmed any bed of mine. Although I can't say for others. Is that everything, or will you be asking me to stay next?" Jim chuckled at her shaking head, giving a light wave of goodbye as he headed out.
Cursing only when she heard the front door shut, Molly peeled the blankets back and tip toed out of the room. Hissing at the coolness of the floorboards, lightly Molly called out, "Meena?" Her room was empty, and the bed was made up. She ventured out into the parlor, brushing a curtain away from a window to peer out, a black carriage was seen leaving. Jim's... She pressed her head onto the cold glass, eyes falling shut. Her heart was beating so quickly, she laid a hand on her bosom to still it.
It still alarmed her that she had wanted him to stay, to keep her company. With their reunions she found herself forgetting more and more of how truly dangerous he was, that he held the knowledge to destroy all that she has created. With one word she would be ruined... it was shameful how thrilling that was, how it was out of her control.
Sighing she opened her eyes, staring out onto the grey raining street. In a few minutes she would find a letter on the kitchen table, which would say that Meena had saved some breakfast for Molly to eat, and that she wouldn't be getting back until later. It didn't matter too much to Molly, although she didn't know it, she would be called on once more tonight.
Chapter 7: Facta, Non Verba
Facta, non verba: acts, not words. Actions speak louder than words.
"And you're sure you didn't see anything?"
"Sir, please. I was locked in the back, there was no way I could glimpse a face."
Lestrade exhaled, running a hand through his hair. "Right well..." He peered up from his notes, offering a comforting smile. It came out as a grimace. "I'll take my leave for today, but if you remember anything about the incident..."
The clerk hastily nodded, joining the inspector in climbing to his feet. He wrung his handkerchief a moment longer in his hands, realizing with a start why the other man was holding an outstretched hand. Immediately after they departed from one another's presence, Greg swiftly wiped his hand on his trousers. The clerk's flesh was clammy, enough that Lestrade couldn't help but imagine a slug or a sort of slimy creature as he left. His team was collected from the jewelry store, all unable to find any remaining clues.
The mastermind of the heist was thorough, a clue that would hint his identity would not be discovered - at least not today. Stepping out onto the street, Lestrade frowned, fighting the curse on his lips. If only Sherlock was here, he would be sure to sniff something out. The only issue was that the detective hadn't been found at his flat when Lestrade paid him a visit, only his elderly landlord. She'd been kind to offer a cup of tea, but besides that she hadn't heard from him since last night. Simply put, he'd vanished.
That didn't bother Lestrade too much, Mr. Holmes had a habit of disappearing in a puff of smoke. Seemingly emerging as if at random. He firmly made up his mind to try again during the afternoon, all the same still pondering his troublesome friend's whereabouts.
Stumbling down a twisting street, Sherlock blinked against the sweat running down his face. At the sting of it, he dragged the back of his arm on his forehead. Staggering up the front steps, he fished in his coat's pockets for his key. He was still searching for the bloody thing when the door was flung open, the force nearly catching him off balance and falling into the muddied street. Before he could do so, a surprisingly strong hand gripped his arm.
"This isn't a hotel, Mr. Holmes. Where have you been?"
Blinking at the angered tone, he simply said "At work."
"Work?" Mrs. Hudson scoffed, dropping her grip to let him pass. Her nose scrunched up in disgust when she caught a whiff of him. "Since when did you start working at a bar? Have..." She gave her head an incredulous shake, "Have you been drinking?"
"As astute as always." He mumbled, starting the irksome task of climbing the stairs.
"But..." He sighed, coming to a stop as he waited for his landlord to finish her question. "But if I'm not mistaken, you don't drink? Don't you?"
Needing a hand on the banister to keep from falling backwards, Sherlock admitted "Not if I can help it. It murks my thoughts."
"I thought." He interrupted, tone sharp with his tiredness. "That if I appeared like a simple drunk sailor I might be mugged, but sadly they stayed away tonight. Good evening, Mrs. Hudson." He didn't bother to wait for her response, trekking the rest of the way to his destination - his couch.
Opening the door to his flat, he firmly shut it behind him. "Why?" He mumbled, "Why didn't they bite the bait?" Had he been too obvious?
No. He was unyielding that his disguise was accurate and convincing, and yet none had tried to stick a knife to his side. Perhaps they had a bigger treasure in mind than a couple of coins? If so, who did it belong to?
Lazily he unbuttoned his coat, tossing it to a nearby chair. Muscles tense and aching from a long shift at the docks, he lumbered to the parlor room, grunting as he plopped down onto the sofa. Whoever this person or group were, they would be reeled in by him. He was certain of that.
Wig and moustache in place, Molly Hooper closed the door to her home, making sure it was locked before she lightly jogged down the stone steps. The weather had calmed momentarily, to which better time was there to clear one's mind with a lengthy stroll? Staying indoors had become unbearable, the air was thick with Professor Moriarty's memory. It was as if his very footprints had been burned into the floorboards. Clearly that was a bizarre thought, but she still caught the lingering fragrance of his cologne there.
She needed the crisp air to relieve her mind, to balm the blisters on her soul. Hands tucked into her coat's pockets, she buried her chin into the wool fabric of her collar as she weaved through the streets.
The pace was relaxing, comfortable besides the surrounding chaos. Shouts from people trying to sell their wares to the masses, carriages speeding down the cobblestone, uncaring if someone got within their path. This was familiar, it was home. It's understandable why Molly didn't realize someone was following her, she couldn't very well hear anything above the ungodly noise. It was only when the distance from downtown grew that she noticed, glancing curiously over her shoulder as she walked through a park. There wasn't many couples out at this time of day, and they were far too busy admiring each other than to pay any attention to a small peculiar man. At least that's what she hoped.
However every time the clacking of shoes got suspiciously loud, she'd pause before turning on her heel. Of course there was no one there, or anyone that alluded a sense of ill intent. After several moments, Molly had come to the conclusion that she was hearing things, that her fear of being caught had finally seized her. Admittedly it was difficult not being afraid all of the time. At any slip up she would be found out, career and the life she had worked so hard to establish would be ruined - forget her for a moment, heaven forbid for what they would do to her beloved Meena. Surely she'd be punished for her lack of action, for being a conspirator as it were.
Molly shuddered, believing her imagination was playing a trick on her. The hand clasping her shoulder dispelled that notion. Mouth agape she turned around, sputtering what may have been a greeting or an excuse - An excuse to what you may ask? She hadn't the faintest clue.
It took her a second to recognize the feminine form before her, to force her voice to gruffly call out, "Maggie? What on God's green earth are you doing here?" He studied her appearance further, taking in the paleness of her complexion, the way her eyes anxiously shifted to glance around them. This young woman was terrified, but of what?
"Sir," she uttered on a hushed breath, "I've been searching for you."
"Searching?" Mark bit his bottom lip, gently grabbing Maggie's elbow and ushering her from the main path. They took shelter from unwanted eyes under a tree, ducking behind it, Mark leaned in close. "Are you all right? You've taken a mighty risk coming to me like this. What if someone saw you?"
"No one did, I made sure of that."
Mark sighed at her forceful confidence, "Even if that was the case, that still doesn't answer my question. Why are you here?"
"I wanted to..." Maggie took in a shaky breath, "I came to confess."
Chapter 8: Quaere: Part One
Quaere: to seek
"Confess?" Mark parroted. The shock of the declaration had all thoughts clear from his mind, leaving him to blankly stare at his companion.
"Yes," Maggie whispered, "I... I haven't been honest with you. I'm..." She bit her bottom lip, casting another anxious glance over her shoulder. When her gaze returned back to her moustached companion, she seemed on the verge of tears. "P-perhaps it would be better to discuss this somewhere more private?"
At that moment his wits were still lost, but after mumbling "Private?" - thankfully they soon returned. With a shake of his head, he said "Right. Private... well, er - follow me!"
The pair walked back onto the path, continuing along it with a hastened pace. Or at least as quickly as their equally short legs would permit. Departing from the park, they would eventually reach their destination at what seemed a lengthy journey. It was by no means as arduous as it felt, but the excitement and terror made it appear so.
When they finally arrived, Maggie tipped her head back, taking in the building fully before she joined Mark on the steps. While he fetched his key from his pocket and unlocked the door, Maggie would occasionally glance back onto the busy street. "Are you sure this place is safe?"
Mark nearly dropped his keys. "I... I assure you no harm will come to you here." To add weight to his statement, he held her gaze steadfast. "You have my word." Pleased with the force behind it, Maggie nodded her assent and followed him inside.
While she stood in the entryway, Mark fluttered around the flat, drawing the curtains closed. Successfully his home was soon doused in darkness, gloomy atmosphere matching what would soon be their conversation. Ever the host, he led her to the parlor room, offering to fetch a cup of tea.
Disposition ever aware of herself, Maggie sat down on the sofa, eyeing the room nervously.
Hurriedly he exited the room, bustling around the kitchen as he set some water to boil. For once he was glad that Meena was preoccupied at the hospital, he wasn't sure if he would be able to explain this. At least in a way that Meena would accept. Of course her dear friend knew of Molly's predicament, but only to a certain extent. She didn't want to needlessly worry her, as already the nurse had to many things to fuss over - she didn't want to become another one.
Mark sighed, tiredly rubbing his brow with the back of his hand. On the other hand, it would be nice to have someone to confide in, someone who would listen and offer advice. He most certainly needed it. Professor Moriarty wasn't a person he could ever imagine doing that with, at least at this point. Only God and the angels above knew what that path would lead to, and perhaps the demons below his feet. Thoughts troubled and mind at war, he carried a tray in several minutes later.
Gently placing it onto the coffee table, Mark took the chair opposite from Maggie and gestured for her to help herself. "I'm afraid," he started slowly, "I couldn't find much in a way of biscuits."
Maggie shook her head, leaning forward to tip the pitcher of milk into her teacup. "You've done far more than you needed to, doctor." Mark watched as Maggie's hands trembled. "Not only for me, but for..." She choked on her next word.
Mark waved the notion away, "I'm merely here to help where I can. Now..." He chewed on his bottom lip, mulling how he should approach this next topic. "Earlier you said you wanted to... confess?"
"Yes" Maggie breathed, "I did." Not wanting to appear too eager, Mark nodded while he folded his hands on his lap. However, it still took a considerable amount of mute minutes before Maggie could find the courage to elaborate. When she finally did so, Mark was nearly screaming with anticipation.
The words she said next were quiet and drawn out, like a butterfly getting used to flapping its fragile wings for the first time. "I want to be honest, even if I may be punished for being so."
Punished? Mark chewed on the inside of his cheek, barely restraining himself for asking what she meant.
"I... I haven't told the truth, or at least told you things that may have benefited the case."
"Ah, so that is what you meant by confess."
Maggie lifted her gaze from her teacup, "It wasn't an act against you, Dr. Hooper. I did it for a personal stance. We..." She paused as she thought of the proper word, "Ladies of our unique position, already have had so much stolen from us. I didn't want this to be another one."
"And what exactly are you referring to?"
Maggie lowered her gaze once more, "I know it isn't proper, telling a secret that isn't mine, but... if it helps to catch Frankie's killer, then it ought to be all right...?" All of the air left Maggie's chest in a sigh when Mark nodded, at least some part of her conscience was soothed.
"Not many know of this, but Frankie had been seeing someone."
Mark thumbed the slip of paper in his coat pocket, verifying it was in fact still in his possession. He had an ongoing fear that he would lose it, and that would be the swift end to his only lead on the case. Case... He used his other arm to cough into his sleeve, hiding his flabbergasted smile. Mark never thought he'd see the day where he and Mr. Holmes would switch places, that for once he'd be trying to solve a murder.
Pace brisk along the street, Mark was mindful of the bustle of impatient crowds and carriages as he weaved through. A detour through the a few streets, and Mark was set on the path to Frankie's secret lover. He didn't have much beyond a surname and an address, but Mark felt as if he had struck gold. He was certain this mysterious man would shed light on everything.
Mind still on his future conversation, Mark was ignorant as he went around a particular vendor. Startled by his name being shout out behind him. He was only able to muster a shocked "What-" before he was swiftly and suddenly gripped from behind and pulled into a carriage. Being manhandled with such ease was baffling, to the point it took a few precious moments for Mark to realize what had precisely just happened. When he came to his senses, seated between two burly men, immediately Mark tried to launch himself forward to the door. His attempt to scramble out was of course foiled, as was the case with the scream that had been building up in his throat. The hand clamped on his mouth made sure of that.
Directly across from him was an equally small form, but with features Mark could only describe as rat-like. Glaring at him, this apparent leader to the kidnappers said, "Relax, Dr. Hooper." Certainly Mark did no such thing, why would he take any advice this man said to heart?
Struggling further even if it was pointless, Mark only ceased his movements when the annoyed leader said "We're not here to harm you, only to take you to our mutual boss, the professor."
So Jim was behind this? Figures...
Noting that his fighting spirit had left him, the two men on either side returned their hands to their own person, but still kept a wary eye on him. Angrily Mark brushed off his clothes, "This was hardly necessary. If he wanted my presence, why didn't he take me earlier?" He was further vexed when his companion shrugged.
"He does as he wills."
The rest of their journey was troublesome and quiet - none had anything they would like to say to one another.
Carriage coming to a halt, Mark frowned as he was helped out of the carriage and shown inside a building. Barely a handful of hours ago, Mark found himself entertaining Professor Moriarty in his home. Now, he was facing the man again but this time in a coffee house.
Ever unsympathetic to the problems he caused others, Jim sat at a small table enjoying his breakfast. With the sound of their approach, he lifted his head from his meal and gave a toothy grin. With a wave of his hand, he gestured for Mark to take the seat across from him. He did so reluctantly, form stiff when he sat down.
"I hear," Jim drew out "you've been quite busy today, running amok London."
Mark took the time to study the backdrop to their meeting before speaking, letting his mind clear from its previous state of panic. While the room was spacious and luxurious, they were the only inhabitants aside from the servants keeping to the shadowy corners. The large window pane on the adjacent wall let the sunlight reflect off of the fine silver; this was an utter contrast to what Mark was used to, he was all the more cautious of the impression he gave.
"I see I've been kept under your watchful eye, sir."
Jim glanced up, raising a brow. "Of course, I do like to..." He waved his knife around - Mark watched this gesture with a grimace, "enjoy progress. Now, on the topic of precisely that." Setting his cutlery down, he favoured to clasp his hands and lean forward on his elbows. "What discovery have you found?"
Mark debated whether he should share Maggie's information, if revealing his informant would have dire results. Despite his mixed emotions about Professor Moriarty, Mark couldn't help but admit he knew very little of his character and how he would respond. Sighing lowly, he fetched the paper and slid it over the table, eyes lowered to the cloth while Jim plucked it up.
He only peered upwards when he heard Jim hiss through his teeth. The expression awaiting him wasn't that of anger, no, it was... excitement?
"My" Jim said with a breathy laugh, "how thrilling." Thrilling? Raising his gaze from the note, Jim flashed a grin. "You've been sent on a hunt, haven't you?"
"I..." Mark flinched at the other man's sudden hand clapping.
"It's settled!" Handing the paper over, Jim then tossed the napkin that had been resting on his lap onto his plate. His chair screeched as he pushed it back.
"Er- sir?" Realizing his mouth was a gape, Mark closed it as he followed suit. "What's... what is happening?"
Jim sent what appeared an exasperated look his way, "Obviously Dr. Hooper, I'll be joining you." Joining-
"Sir!" Mark exclaimed while Jim was helped into his coat, "That is hardly necessary."
"Please, dear. Everyone knows every reputable detective needs a companion, now come. We must find this man of your's." With a tight grip on his shoulders, Mark was spun around and ushered forward, leaving behind a series of sputtering sounds.