Sherlock sighed. “No, Lestrade, no more dull cases!”
“This isn’t your run-of-the-mill assignment, Sherlock. Six people have disappeared without a trace. No note, no anything - it’s like they vanished into thin air! We’ve practically scoured London looking for them, but it’s no use.”
“Well, obviously you haven’t scoured like you say so, or you wouldn’t be coming to me now, hmm?”
“Who are the people we’re looking for?” John interjected. Lestrade gave him the folder containing files of the missing persons. Sherlock peered over John’s shoulder. The vanished were all male, ranging from eighteen to forty years old, with considerable skill in construction or engineering. Each had been seen walking home from work on the days they disappeared but had never reached their destination.
John turned to him. “You think so?”
Sherlock frowned. “What do you see, John?”
“Ah, well… They’re all skilled engineers or laborers, none of whom have any sort of criminal past. My guess is someone wants to build something and needed help, but couldn’t exactly advertise it because it was illegal. The suspect knew they wouldn’t freely aid him, so… he kidnapped them.”
“She, you mean.”
“What makes you think that?”
Sherlock sighed. “The suspect had to have lured them away, there was no evidence they left behind of any struggle of some sort. A woman would have done the trick since men can often be made to be controlled by their desires.”
“There’s a problem with that, however,” Lestrade cut in. “Most of these men are- or were- married. We interviewed all their families. They’re all faithful.”
“Hmm. And what about the bachelors? Any girlfriends? Boyfriends? Familial connections?”
“None of these men were liable to just disappear, Sherlock.”
Sherlock nodded. “Kidnapped, then. I’m afraid this isn’t enough to go on. I need more evidence, Lestrade, or at least a witness’s account.”
Lestrade sighed. “Very well, then. We’ll contact you when we have more information.”
After the DI left, Sherlock paced the sitting room, his mind picking at the problem. Maybe Moriarty was playing more games with him - although he had no proof whether it was the psychopath or not. He mentally ran over the missing persons files. Hmm. Where’s the link…. Oh. “Power containment.”
Sherlock whirled around. “Think about it, John! Where do these people work?”
“Um, well, the engineers work at different nuclear power plants, while the construction workers work for companies that… supply those plants….” he trailed off. “Oh. Maybe it’s not power containment, Sherlock, maybe our suspect-“
“Is building a bomb,” Sherlock finished. “And with the access the technicians have to radioactive materials-“
“London could be in danger. Or any other place in the world, for that matter.”
Sherlock slammed his fist in the wall in frustration. “Dammit! I need more info!” I hate being stumped! he mentally added, but both men knew this, so it was pointless to voice it.
“Well, at least let’s try to figure out who could be the target,” John suggested. “I may not know anything about nuclear containment, but I’m not sure the suspect’s roster is complete yet. We’ll have to wait and see what he- she, I mean- does next.” He paused. “D’you think it’s Moriarty?”
“I briefly entertained the idea, yes.”
John nodded and yawned. “I’m going to bed, then. Like a normal person.” And he tramped off to his bedroom.
Sherlock watched him go and wondered, What if one of us was the next target?
Finally, a witness! Sherlock thought giddily as the cab raced to the scene where the seventh worker was last seen. As soon as the detective and army doctor arrived, Sherlock made a beeline for the witness, a middle-aged women who sat on a crate in front of a relatively empty alleyway. When she saw him, she gave a cry of relief. “Oh, thank heaven, it’s Mr. Holmes!”
“I need to know what happened exactly as you remember it, ma’am,” Sherlock said.
“Yes, right. Well, I was walking along this very sidewalk. And there was this young man in front of me. He, um, sort of stopped in front of this alleyway and looked in, like there was something unusual in there. He went in and I followed him.” She paused.
“Yes, keep going,” Sherlock encouraged.
“There… there was this beautiful young woman. With long, blonde hair. And she was, um, tall. About six foot. She was decked in a long green gown, very expensive, and some golden jewelry. And, um… she took hold of the man’s wrist and poof! Both of them disappeared!”
The brunette detective frowned. The woman didn’t seem to be on any drugs or alcohol…. “Did you notice anything strange about the air?”
The woman laughed. “The air? Of course not, dear! Although it felt kind of… shimmery… when the two vanished.”
Sherlock shook his head and made his way toward Lestrade, Anderson, and Donovan. “Have you scanned for hallucinogenic gas, Detective Inspector?”
“Already did,” Anderson replied. “That woman has lost her marbles, probably had a nervous breakdown.”
“Shut up, Anderson, you’re bringing in the stupid yet again,” Sherlock growled.
Lestrade interrupted. “There’s no trace of any such gas, Sherlock. The woman seems to be perfectly fine, although she’s pretty shaken. Her story’s all we’ve got to go on.”
“No, no, there must be something you’re missing! People don’t just randomly disappear, Lestrade, there has to be something in the alleyway that can give us a lead!” Sherlock brushed past the little group, John following, and swept into the narrow alley.
His keen senses probed every nook and cranny, leaving nothing unseen. Too engrossed in his perusal, he stopped abruptly in front of the wall at the end. He looked back towards John, who stood near the entrance. Well, that’s disappointing, he thought-
“Well, well, well.”
Sherlock whipped around at the unfamiliar voice and gave a start. In front of him stood the very woman the witness had described!
“Sherlock Holmes. Midgard’s greatest detective.” The woman smirked. “I have to admit, your skills don’t really live up to all the- what do you call it?- hype. Although your features are… shall we say, surprisingly exceptional.”
“Oh?” Sherlock’s mind was stuck on a single detail. Midgard?
“No, darling. Just appraising. It confuses me why you don’t have women falling at your feet.” She hummed. “Get out much?”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at her. What was her play? Her speech is a bit off….
“Never mind that. I’ve got things to do, so I’ll just get out of your way.” The woman turned as if to leave, and on an impulse Sherlock grabbed her wrist. Suddenly, he felt a great pulling sensation in his stomach and wind whipping around him, John’s shouts fading away into silence. His head swirled and black spots danced before his eyes. He let go and fell….
“Ngh…” Sherlock moaned, his vision swimming with darkness. He closed his eyes- and realized he was lying on the ground. The silence around him was thick and suffocating.
The brunette opened his eyes and sat up, blinking away the wooziness, and surveyed his surroundings. Filthy walls, plenty of dust, bits of blacktop crumbles and rusted metal… He stood up and gazed around, keen mind taking in details….
I’m not in the alleyway anymore.
A trickle of fear slid down his spine, making him shudder. He forced down the rising panic and tried to remember everything that had happened. I could have been drugged- but I never felt a prick, and nothing sprayed my face…. The woman must have known he was coming, had set the whole thing up. She must have had him dosed with something, activated by his touching her skin, and had him carried off to this abandoned factory to dispose of him.
In broad daylight? With the police about? Not likely!
I wonder…. How long have I been gone? That should give me a clue as to what happened, it was about 3:41 when we arrived at the crime scene and 3:46 when I grabbed that woman’s wrist.
Sherlock sighed and pulled out his phone, turning it on.
And started. The screen read 3:48.
But that’s impossible! I couldn’t have been gone only two minutes! Sherlock trembled. No… no, that’s… she couldn’t have messed with my phone…. or did she? He frowned and unlocked his phone, scanning through to make sure everything was fine. Nothing was out of the ordinary; even the date and time zone were correct. He huffed. There’s only one way to find out what happened.
John couldn’t believe his eyes. His best friend, standing and talking to a woman that fit the witness’s description only two minutes ago, and then him and said woman vanishing into thin air! He shook his head. Sherlock, you better be all right or I will kill you if that woman doesn’t first!
His phone rang. The doctor frowned and pulled it out- and immediately answered. “Sherlock! Sherlock, are you there?”
“John! Oh, thank goodness!” Sherlock had never been more relieved to hear his friend’s voice. “Where are you?”
“Where are you? You disappeared right before my eyes! I’m still in the alleyway and the police are going nuts!”
“All right, listen. How long have I been gone?”
John looked at his watch. “Only a couple of minutes, Sherlock.”
Sherlock bit his lip. Once you have ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to believe in magic just yet.
“Sherlock? Are you still there, mate?”
“Yeah, I’m still here. I think one of the things our suspect has been working on is… teleportation.”
He could practically hear John’s jaw drop. “Teleporta- Sherlock, are you sure?”
“I have to find out. I’ll call you later. In the meantime, I’ll see what I can dig up in this facility-“
John cut him off. “Where are you?”
“Abandoned warehouse. Can’t find any identifying details just yet.”
“All right. Keep me posted.”
Sherlock hung up and glanced around once more. Sliding his phone into his coat pocket, he set off towards the faint, flickering light at the end of the hall.
About fifteen minutes into his search, the young detective spotted a set of closed double doors through the cracks of which emanated a soft red glow. He slipped in and stopped short in surprise. Before him stood a tall, rectangular black pillar made of a strange stone he had never seen in his life. The top half of the pillar was suspended a few inches above the bottom half seemingly through a magnetic field generated by the red substance in the gap between. Mesmerized, Sherlock crept closer and leaned over to examine the mysterious red blob. This must be the power source, he reasoned. But I’ve never seen a power source that’s fluid! What exactly is this woman trying to do? Why would she be working on alternative forms of energy without legitimate aid? Perhaps she tried to acquire said aid and all her potential sponsors felt the project was too dangerous? But how does the teleportation fit in? And why was her speech strange?
Too many questions, not enough data.
He heard a soft whispering and closed his eyes, concentrating. A moment later he realized the sound came from the luminous fluid and opened his eyes. He didn’t notice his hand reaching for the crimson until he felt a sharp heat in his hand. He gasped and glanced down as the red liquid shot through his hand, up his arm, and into his body. Overwhelmed by the sudden rush of power flowing through his body, he fell to his knees and swooned.
He lay back, suspended in midair, surrounded by red and fluid and power. He felt it flowing around him, through him, flowing on and on….
Cold, hard ground.
Sherlock opened his eyes. Bit by bit, everything sharpened and came into focus. He realized he was lying on his side where he had fallen in front of the containment pillar. He blinked and sat up slowly, glancing around. How long have I been out? Were there any alarms raised? He looked down at his hand and sucked in a breath at the momentary red glow flowing in his veins.
I… I… absorbed their source of power! I’ve gone radioactive! Sherlock panicked. I’ll be sent to quarantine, and I doubt I’ll live long enough for the doctors to extract this from my body, and even if they get it out in time, I’ll still have radiation poisoning, and I probably won’t be able to go near John or Mrs. Hudson or Molly ever again and Sherlock get your damn self under control!!
The young detective paused in his internal freak-out session (Dear me, what is wrong with me today? I haven’t been able to keep my emotions under control ever since I got here!) and took a deep breath, letting his stress out. Okay. Think logically about this. That’s what you’re best at, isn’t it? Figure out a plan and carry it out.
He stood up and brushed off his coat. First things first, I have to get out of here. And maybe I should update John on my situation. He pulled out his Blackberry and turned it on. 10:55! I’ve been out for hours! The screen showed thirteen texts and two missed calls, all from John. Sherlock bit his lip. He opened Maps, but the app gave him an error message. Great. Interference from whatever freakish substance is running through me. What else could go wrong? He then went to his contacts list and selected John’s profile. Just as he pressed the call icon, his phone died.
I had to ask.
Sighing, the brunette pocketed his now-useless phone and set off toward the double doors, slipping noiselessly through them for fear of being discovered.