Sherlock and I have been hard at work all week on this kidnapping case – a nasty one, and seemingly inexplicable. Six Londoners have gone missing since Monday, and not a thing seems to unite them. Men and women, old and young, wealthy and poor, no commonality in race, religion, political affiliation… Lestrade is at his wits' end, and I can't make any sense of it either. There must be some unifying element!
As for Sherlock, he won't say anything, but I have a feeling he has a theory or two that he's not letting on. When I ask him directly, he just gives that half smile of his.
Anyway, we've been chasing clues all week and barely had a moment to rest, so when Friday night came around with no new breaks in the case, I insisted, as Sherlock's doctor, that we get some sleep. No point racing around with our faculties half-muddied.
I awoke early on Saturday feeling much more in form and ready to start fresh, but when I came down the stairs, Sherlock was still in his blue dressing gown, over ratty pyjamas and a t-shirt turned the wrong way out. He was standing at the window with his violin in hand.
"Sherlock? What are you doing?"
"Don't you think you should be getting dressed? All those kidnappings? Remember?"
"Not my concern right now."
That's when I noticed the remnants of a soft boiled egg on the table, and a half eaten piece of toast.
"Wait a second, are you – are you eating?"
"You're on a case! You never eat when you're on a case."
"John, it's Saturday. Or hadn't you noticed."
"I had, at that. What does that…?"
"I don't work on Saturdays."
I stared at him blankly. "Yes, yes you do, Sherlock. I've seen you work on Saturdays. And there are – can you really be this unfeeling? There are people who need you, people who have been kidnapped, in God knows what condition right now, their families terrified…"
"They'll be fine."
"They'll be… I'm sorry? What?"
Heaving a huge sigh, Sherlock finally turned toward me and put his violin away in the case, still unplayed. "Have you really not put it together yet, John? I thought surely with a night's worth of sleep, even your mundane little mind would have worked it out."
I ignored the insult, as I usually do these days. "Ah, so you've figured it out, then. Care to take me through it?"
Sherlock flopped onto the couch with another sigh. "It's perfectly obvious, John, if you'd only give it a bit of thought. Six people, nothing in common, from all over. What does the kidnapper want?"
I shook my head. "You're going to have to give me a bit more."
Sherlock curled his toes into the couch cushion - a habit of his which did not in any way help me to focus. "Where have we seen this before? Five victims, all unrelated…" He lifted an eyebrow in my direction.
"The Great Game," I said. "But that was – "
"So you think – "
"I don't think. I observed."
"But why? Why would he do this? What does he gain?"
Sherlock curled up on his side and smiled. "Same as us, John. A week's diversion."
Sometimes it is very hard not to punch Sherlock Holmes, as I'm sure everyone who has met him can attest. "I am not doing this for a diversion Sherlock. I am doing it because –"
"Yes yes, because you care." Sherlock yawned. "We're all very impressed, John, and we all completely believe you."
I clenched my fists around the top of the chair and forced myself to stay calm. "So if it's Moriarty doing this, what makes you think those people aren't in danger? He's a madman, Sherlock – he'd blow someone up or poison them as soon as look at them."
"Because he told me."
"Yes, last night, John. You went to bed, and I broke into Jim's flat. You didn't really expect me to bed down at 10 o'clock when I was working on a case, did you?"
"Ah," I said tightly. "So you had a date, then?"
"If you want to call it that."
"And how was it?"
Sherlock sat up. "Yes, boring. I pulled a gun on him and he pointed out that there was a sniper taking aim at me, so we were rather stuck at that point. A mexican stand-off, I believe it's called. Perfectly dull. Anyway, to pass the time we got to chatting, and it turns out we both enjoy crossword puzzles, so…"
"Of course you do. How surprising that you should have something in common."
Sherlock cocked an ear toward the door.
"That'll be him now."
A moment later, a series of clicks became audible as our door was efficiently picked, and then the consulting criminal himself stood in our flat, dressed in jeans and white t-shirt, and carrying a paper under his arm.
"Jesus," I said, rearing away with a vague thought to grabbing my service revolver. God only knew what Sherlock had done with it last night, though. I pulled out my phone instead.
"What are you doing?" said Sherlock.
"I'm calling Lestrade. You have proof that Moriarty is responsible for the kidnappings, we've got to inform the police."
"Don't be obvious, John," said Sherlock.
"It's a bit rude," said Moriarty. "I was invited."
"Oh, that's nice. You two are beginning to talk like each other now too."
Sherlock turned to Moriarty. "You brought a paper! How thoughtful."
"That's our paper, Sherlock. He nicked it from our front hall."
"May I?" said Moriarty, indicating the couch.
"Please," said Sherlock. Moriarty sat down and unfolded the paper while Sherlock stretched again, his head on the cushion, his bare feet in Moriarty's lap.
Moriarty's eyebrows lifted. "Are you quite comfortable, dear?"
Sherlock closed his eyes and steepled his fingers under his chin. "Quite. Now go ahead – get started, and let me know when you run across any interesting clues. I prefer not to waste my time with the easy ones."
Having had more than enough of this strange game, I grabbed my coat and made for the stairs.
"Are you going somewhere?" said Sherlock.
"Shops," I replied through clenched teeth. "We're out of milk."
"Could you pick up some biscuits for tea, while you're out?"
When I came back a while later, having sufficiently calmed myself, they were in the same position. "Oh, here's one, Sherlock dear. 'Botanical producing death-like sleep.' 12 letters."
"Rhododendron," replied Sherlock. "You didn't know that?"
"Just wanted to see if you did."
"Right, then. You boys need anything, or...?"
"You don't mind making the tea, do you?"
"I like mine with milk, no sugar," said Moriarty.
"Yes, well... All right. I'll just put the kettle on, shall I?"
Neither man responded.
From the kitchen a few minutes later, I heard them arguing. "No no no," Sherlock was saying, "there can't possibly be a T there. Believe me, I know all 243 types of tobacco ash. You must have something wrong." I brought in the tea tray and found Sherlock shoving Moriarty a bit to make room for himself on that end of the sofa. "Let me see," Sherlock was saying, but Moriarty was holding the paper just out of reach.
"Don't you trust me, my dear? It's not my fault if you don't know the answers. Ordinary Sherlock, can't even complete the crossword without looking at it," he sing-songed.
"John, he's cheating."
As if this should be a surprise! This is what he gets for consorting with the world's foremost criminal mastermind.
"You boys play nice," I said, "or I'll have to separate you. We do still have those handcuffs upstairs."
Moriarty widened his eyes. "What a creative suggestion! I'm starting to see why you keep him around, Sherlock."
Suddenly I didn't like where this was going. I put down the tea tray, grabbed my laptop, and headed up the stairs.
From my bedroom, I could hear them bickering now and then over an answer, but after an hour or so I realized I hadn't heard anything in a while. The quiet was pleasant at first, then eerie. Not wanting to think what this madman might have done to my friend, I raced down the stairs to the lounge. Moriarty was still seated on the couch, his legs stretched out on the coffee table, and the paper folded up in his hand. Sherlock was nestled under his other arm, his head resting on Moriarty's chest, and to all appearances, fast asleep. Moriarty, his eyes still on the paper, had woven the fingers of his left hand through Sherlock's curls, and was just now idly winding and unwinding one around his forefinger.
"Did you drug him?"
"What? No, not today, though that's a lovely idea," he said as he stretched one curl to its fully extended length. I watched as it sprang back to its original shape, and Moriarty's finger slipped into it again. "I switched to the world news section. Sherlock said, 'boring' and dropped off almost instantly."
"Oh. So... did you finish the crossword?"
"No. He kept accusing me of mixing up the clues on purpose to confuse him, so we gave up on it to keep the peace. I do think he was this close to coming after me with that gun of yours again. Can't have that on a Saturday."
"Were you? Mixing up the clues on purpose, I mean."
Moriarty looked up at me with exaggerated hurt in his eyes. "Would I do such a thing?"
"You would, yeah."
He shrugged. "Okay I did. I couldn't resist that face he makes when thinks he might be wrong about something." He looked fondly down at Sherlock's sleeping face. "You must know what I mean." I did, but I didn't admit it. "Anyway," said Moriarty, distentangling his hand from Sherlock's curls at last, "I better be off, Johnny-Boy." He tossed the paper onto the coffee table, then tried to slither out from under Sherlock and get to his feet. Sherlock awoke in the process and gazed up at him, bleary eyed.
"Sorry, yes." Moriarty leaned over and mussed Sherlock's curls one last time, then kissed him lightly on the forehead. "Rest up. Back to work Monday morning."
Sherlock stretched himself luxuriantly the whole length of the sofa. "But tomorrow's Sunday," he said, his voice still clouded with sleep.
"Yes, darling. But I've got errands to run." Moriarty turned to include me in the conversation. "Picking up some suits at the cleaners."
Sherlock put his lower lip out in a pout. "Sounds dull. I'll get bored."
Moriarty smiled gently at him. "All right, then. I'll arrange for something to entertain you tomorrow morning. Something special."
So saying, he turned to look at me again, his eyes running up and down my body. Then he raised his eyebrows, ran his tongue luridly over his lips, and showed himself out the door.
I have a feeling I won't sleep very well tonight.