Dropping the phone and spreading his arms, Sherlock prepares by taking a deep breath. Stepping off the ledge is the only logical decision, so he takes it.
Within seconds, the fall strips him of everything rational. When the nylon blue airbag completely fills his field of vision, the illogical takes over: a primitive, instinctive reflex kicks in and obliterates all his careful planning. In the final seconds, Sherlock cannot stop himself from turning away, curling his head into his chest, bringing an arm up to protect his head, changing his angle of descent.
When it comes, the landing is far from ideal. Instead of absorbing the shock as planned — which would have been taking the hit through his legs by going feet-first and then into a safety roll on the airbag — Sherlock's reflexive action brings him down on the back of his right side, with his hip and shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. It punches every molecule of oxygen out of his lungs, and before he can draw in a breath to replace them, his chest is gripped by searing pain. As the airbag immediately starts collapsing around him, his last conscious thought is the memory of Moriarty's taunt, 'It's not the fall that kills you, Sherlock… it's the landing.' He is unconscious by the time hands wrest him free of the blue nylon of the collapsed airbag.
He is lifted onto the waiting ambulance trolley. It is the same one that had carried the prepared dead body now being arranged onto the pavement as a gory tableau. Complete with make-up expertly applied with the skill learned from a theatre professional who owed him a favour. The contact lenses are a perfect match to that unique eye colour that is as distinctive as the Belstaff coat now worn by a dead body, with the latex mask made last night in place. It had been Molly Hooper's suggestion, and it is now her masterpiece. She had argued that the body should wear the old coat; the new one could be worn by Sherlock because Moriarty would be less likely than John to realise it was a different article.
The homeless network swarms into action, tossing the collapsed airbag onto the flatbed truck as it drives away. Just as John manages to get to his feet after being hit by the cyclist, the trolley bearing the live version of the dead body on the pavement is wheeled to the back of the ambulance parked to the left of the station.
While the pre-planned tragedy takes place on the blood-stained pavement, the ambulance drives away south on Giltspur Street, waiting until it reaches the junction with Holborn before turning on its lights and sirens. To any onlooker who cares to notice, it is just another call-out from the Barts ambulance station.
The MI6 paramedic on board is taking vital signs and does not like what he is seeing. He slides open the plexiglass window between the back and the driver. His command of "Re-direct UCLH A&E." is met with a nod. The paramedic then calls a number that rings on the seventh floor of a building at Vauxhall Bridge.
"Status?" asks Elizabeth ffoukes in a clipped tone.
"Injured but alive. We'll find out how badly in A&E."
"Keep me informed."
There is something pressing on his chest. It's annoying. Next, the pressure moves to his fingers, a pinching squeeze on the cuticle of his right index and pointer fingers that makes him vaguely nauseous. Some odd sound in his ear; he can't make sense of it, even though he recognises it vaguely as human speech.
"Wake up, Mister Sigurson. Lars. OPEN YOUR EYES."
The noise slowly penetrates the fog to become words, and a name — that name — invokes a recent memory. He’s on the rooftop, talking to Moriarty.
“I am you — prepared to do anything; prepared to burn; prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell? I shall not disappoint you.”
“Naah. You talk big. Naah. You’re ordinary. You’re ordinary — you’re on the side of the angels.”
“Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” Aware that the phone in his pocket is recording their exchange but determined to keep Mycroft from knowing what he needs to communicate now, Sherlock locks eyes with Moriarty and silently mouths the words, “I’m Lars Sigurson.”
Jim is clearly shocked by the revelation, blinking and closing his eyes as he realises the extent to which he has been played over the last six months. When he speaks again, it is softly, a voice full of realisation. “I see... You’re not ordinary. No. You’re me.”
He shakes hands with Sherlock, as if greeting him as a colleague, a compatriot in crime. Giving a delighted laugh, he declares, “You’re me! Thank you!”
Sherlock remembers his own realisation; he had agreed with that statement, accepting that he had to become someone new, someone able to pass muster as the unseen and anonymous Viking, the Norwegian who had become an important part of the consulting criminal’s network for the past six months. It had brought him to the roof-top show-down and to Moriarty’s decision to kill himself.
He knows he has to open his eyes now, get on with the plan of keeping John alive but it isn’t happening; there is nothing connecting what is going on in his head with the rest of his Transport.
A disembodied voice reports, “Blood pressure stabilising; pulse increasingly tachycardic."
When the pinching fingers move from his fingers to his orbital sockets, reflexes kick in and he squirms away, eyes opening a crack. Light lances in like an arrow, right through his eyeballs and up a nerve to explode its pain deep in his head. A strangled shout rips from his throat and reflex drives him to move his right hand to bat away the thing that is pushing on the bone above his eye.
Mistake. Pain rips up his right side and he cries out.
A calm voice, a different one from the earlier one, commands, "Oh point seventy-five alfentanil IV, please. Can't afford him getting too agitated so chase that down with three milligrams midazolam."
He wants to laugh; for him, with his tolerance, those doses are a joke. He has, however, overestimated the energy reserves of his battered body: soon the gap between his mind and the rest of him widens, then snaps completely.
The unconscious patient is admitted as Lars Sigurson, ID provided by the ambulance crew. When a suited young woman arrives, claiming to be Cecilia Sigurson, the next-of-kin of the injured man, the medical team accept it as given and explain the patient's condition: "Two cracked ribs on the right, a hair-line fracture of the pelvis, also on the right, dislocated right shoulder with associated tendon and soft tissue damage. He's sedated, in Radiology right now getting a CT scan, because we are concerned about head trauma. The EMTs said he'd fallen from a second storey scaffold."
Over the next six hours, the blonde-haired agent provides a running commentary to Elizabeth ffoukes, charting Lars' movement from the trauma CT package scan and then from A&E into the ITU. "He woke up briefly, threw up. Scans say no fracture of the skull, and they're saying there is no sign yet that he has oedema — that's swelling of the brain, ma'm — and no sign of major haematomas. That's bleeding in or on the brain. Apparently, any combination of those things happen a lot in this sort of fall. As yet, no one is talking surgery, but…"
The young woman is not sure how to explain the tense faces and sense of urgency in the medical professionals that occasionally appear to tell her something. She decides to sum it up, "The nurse said it looks like Grade 3 concussion, although the doctors used the initials mTBI, that's short for mild traumatic brain injury."
“Advise when and if there are any changes, no matter what time of day or night.”
As she faces the door to her flat, Molly’s hands are still shaking, the key rattling in the lock. It’s been a long day, and quite possibly the worst in her life. Last night’s preparations had been a whirlwind of activity that had given her very little time to think through the finality of what was about to happen. She’s been running on adrenaline bolstered by copious amounts of caffeine.
Now that the plans had unfolded exactly as Sherlock had promised, Molly has had time to consider just how mad, how awful it has been.*
As soon as she’s inside, the door safely shut behind her, Molly kicks off her flats.
She heads straight for the kitchen and the pinot grigio that is in the fridge. Only half the bottle is left and she wonders if it will be enough. A vague memory stirs in her exhausted brain that there is some brandy in a cupboard somewhere, a left-over from Christmas. Molly thinks that the day she’s just had warrants getting very drunk indeed.
Annoyingly, her hand is still shaking as she pours the glass. Even after hastily taking two large gulps down, it’s only then that she realises she’s missing something.
The cat should be stropping her ankles and complaining in a loud voice about not being fed.
She heads for the living room, carrying her glass, which she almost drops in shock at the sight of someone sitting in her chair.
The immaculately-suited man has Toby in his lap and is stroking him gently. "Good evening, Doctor Hooper.
I trust I have not startled you unduly. Do you remember when we met over the body of the woman at Christmas?"
For a moment, the image that comes to mind is that of Ernst Blofeld, the villain leader of Spectre in the James Bond films. But Toby is not a white Persian cat, and Sherlock’s brother is not an evil man. "I remember."
A patrician eyebrow is raised at the somewhat hostile tone in which she delivers this pronouncement.
She answers the implied question by sitting down on the sofa and tucking her legs up under her, placing the wine glass on the side table. "Sherlock told me enough about you last night. That you were allowed to help him with his plan only at the last minute; he’d forced you to stay out of everything else until now. I've done the post-mortem and the records will show him to have been identified. Once the Coroner releases the body, I assume you will have someone collect the cadaver?"
He nods. "He gave me that much, a chance to bury a body."
"Then why are you here? Why have you broken into my flat? Why are you sitting in my chair?" Molly’s too tired and strung out from the events of the past twenty-four hours to be polite.
A look of pain flashes briefly in the dark blue eyes. She decides that there is little physical similarity between the two brothers.
"You know what happened on the roof and the aftermath. I was not… permitted that. My contact was limited to what I could hear of their conversation on the phone. I want… no, I need to know what happened after he jumped. Did the escape plan work as my brother predicted?"
"I didn’t see anything about what happened on the roof. Tell me about that first."
"From what I over-heard, it would appear that James Moriarty took his own life; shot himself."
Shocked in a way that she shouldn't be capable of feeling after the day she's just had, Molly blurts out, "Why?! Why would he do that?"
"Good question. I can only deduce from what I heard, that he believed it necessary to ensure Sherlock killed himself, too. Moriarty had snipers positioned to assassinate various individuals close to him if his people did not see Sherlock leap to his death."
Unbidden, Molly's hand creeps up to her mouth as if to stop herself from speaking. For a moment, the idea that Jim, her IT Jim, had made her into an accessory in this horrible plot makes her nauseous. She knows she'd been conned by someone so good at misdirection that they can run rings even around Sherlock, but the self-incriminating sense of failure and gullibility does not loosen its grip on her. She'd been used by both men, one unwillingly, the other had been easier to say 'yes' to, but neither had really thought about her in the process.
Mycroft interrupts her misery with a question. "What did you see, Doctor Hooper?"
She closes her eyes, and remembers. She had positioned herself at the window of the second floor, a bystander horrified at the sight of the plummeting Sherlock.
"Did my brother survive the fall?"
There is something so gut-wrenching in those words that, for a moment, Molly is unsure how to answer. Until now, she has been so busy dealing with the faked body and processing the "death" of the body-double for Sherlock Holmes that it had never occurred to her that she had no real evidence to prove that the real man had actually survived. That is bad enough, but realising that his brother has no idea either is somehow even worse.
She opens her eyes and stumbles to find the words. "I'm so sorry… I, um, I didn't realise you didn't know. And until you asked, it hadn't occurred to me that I don't actually know the answer to that question." Sadness takes hold of his features, and now she sees the family resemblance more clearly. In the past month, Sherlock had worn that kind of expression when he'd thought John wasn't looking.
She has to say something, anything, and instinctively knows better than to lie, to offer a false comfort. She senses that this man values honesty in the same way that Sherlock did. Does. Not past tense, she reminds herself before answering.
"From what I could see, it went according to plan, but I don't really know, do I? Not really. I saw him land on the airbag; he was taken off on the trolley and into the back of the ambulance, which drove away. That went as planned, but that's all I know; I'm sorry." The thought that Sherlock might not have survived despite all this elaborate planning makes her eyes prickle with tears.
There is a flicker of something undecipherable in his gaze. "Do accept my apologies, Doctor Hooper. I had not intended to distress you. I shall have to find the answer to my question from another source." He continues stroking the cat.
Molly can see that Toby's tail is beginning to switch. As she reaches for the solace of her wine glass, she warns, "Be careful. If he gets over-stimulated, he can become agitated."
As if he'd been waiting for his cue, the cat suddenly turns its head to clamp needle-sharp teeth into the meaty part of Mycroft's palm of the hand that had just been petting him. Startled, Mycroft flings the cat off his lap and abruptly stands up, brushing cat hairs from his lap.
"I'm sorry… should have warned you earlier." Molly's cheeks redden with embarrassment.
"No matter." He is staring at the drops of blood forming on his hand. "A minor inconvenience, nothing compared to what you and Sherlock have been through. I should offer my gratitude for your help: I am quite sure that Sherlock will have forgotten to do so. Whatever his situation is now, at least he didn't meet his end at the hands of one of Moriarty's snipers." Mycroft takes out his handkerchief and wipes the blood from his hand. "I shall bid you good night."
He gives one of those odd little smiles that doesn't reach his eyes. She'd seen that before when he'd lingered behind in the mortuary, not answering her question about how Sherlock had identified the body the face of which had been bashed beyond recognition.
She is exhausted but can't let him go, not like this. There are too many questions in her head, questions that Sherlock had refused to answer last night, claiming that they had to focus on getting him through his showdown with Moriarty.
She stands up and straightens her back. "What happens next? Assuming he is okay, what is he going to do? The press has reported him dead. That was important, he said. But he wouldn't tell me why."
"Sherlock did not divulge the minutiae of his plan to me. He must have told you that I did not approve of it."
Molly nods. "But that doesn't mean you haven't worked it out for yourself. He's always said you are the clever one."
Mycroft's eyebrows rise in surprise. "He said that?"
She nods, again, and then remembers Sherlock's exact words as 'he thinks he's the clever one'. She decides against elaborating; let his brother think what he wants. She can offer him this kindness at least. "So, tell me what you think is going to happen."
"Sharing pointless speculation may carry its own risks. He has ensured that I will play no part in what he wanted to do next."
Molly sighs. She wants to spare his feelings, but she's not going to lie. "Yes, I know that what he is doing is risky. He told me that I just had to assume that he wouldn't be coming back, that whatever it is he is going to do means he's not likely to survive. He told me it's the only way, but… if my helping him means he's going to put himself in more danger, then what I did was wrong." The thought makes her eyes tear up again.
And then she gets a bit angry. Sherlock has always known how to manipulate her, and whenever she thinks things over, the anger is at herself, too. She is so gullible, so impressionable that she ends up doing whatever he wants from her. She knows, too, that whatever she thinks or feels, she will protect his secret.
Mycroft starts to collect his coat and umbrella from where he had placed them against the sofa.
Molly isn't going to let him off the hook. She knows that if she doesn't make him tell her, then she won't ever learn whether Sherlock got off the trolley alive. "If–– no, when you find out about what happened and if he's alright, you will tell me. He owes me that much, and if he won't be here to make good on that debt…"
Mycroft takes time to think, and then nods. Then he is in motion, out into the hall and opening the flat door.
Emboldened, she decides to up the ante. She calls out, "Assuming you'll tell me he is okay now, promise me you'll also tell me when that stops, when whatever he's doing stops, because he's dead. Really dead. I deserve that much."