“You know why he’s here? He’s not paid or anything. He likes it. He gets off on it. The weirder the crime the more he gets off. And you know what? One day just showing up won’t be enough. One day, we’ll be standing around a body and Sherlock Holmes will be the one that put it there.”
“Why would he do that?”
“’Cause he’s a psychopath, psychopaths get bored.”
Time is complicated. In fact, some would argue that it is really complicated and there would be others who would argue further still that it is extremely complicated. With so many theories buzzing back and forth from one academic to another or from science-fiction nut to fantasy geek, it’s hard to keep track. But the basic facts about time can be boiled down to three things.
There is a past. There is a future. And there is a present – the present being so short that by the time you realise that’s where you are, the moment has gone by and is now stuck firmly in the past.
The future is uncertain, the present is unpredictable and the past is unchangeable – mostly. That was how one theory went…
And as Sherlock stared at the all but perfect reflection of himself, he felt inclined to disagree. Yes, the future was uncertain but if the man before him was anything to go by then the past was not unchangeable.
He just hoped that was a good thing.
Nearly two weeks earlier...
Detective Inspector Lestrade passed under the cordon tape at his latest crime scene and stalked toward the abandoned building up ahead. A construction sign half clung to the metal railing that circled the property but it appeared as though the crew had well and truly given up on the place, and thus, it had fallen into disrepair. Boarded up windows and doors, the interior just as dreary – empty and drab, bare wooden flooring throughout and walls stripped down to the plaster.
The average abandoned house. Only it wasn’t.
Now, Lestrade had seen his fair share of crime scenes. He had seen a lot of violent and bloody deaths. In fact, he had been fairly sure that nothing else could have surprised him anymore than what he had already seen. He had been fairly sure he had seen it all. That was until he entered the living area of 237 Haverstock Hill at eight A.M. that cold Thursday.
Living room, he thought to himself wryly. Why do they call it a living room?
When he had rolled out of bed three hours earlier, he had not been expecting this. He hadn’t thought he would be spending the rest of his morning picking through the remains of… of whoever the bloody mess was.
“What have we got?” he asked, blue suit donned and eyes roaming over the crime scene. Had he been able to, he would have avoided looking but such behaviour was hardly appropriate for someone in his position.
Sergeant Donovan looked down at her notes, her voice as level as it could be considering things. “Unknown victim. Passersby reported unusual noises from inside. Given the state of the property, they thought squatters had moved in.”
Lestrade glanced around the room once more, taking in the bloodstains that coated the walls and flooring, along with the bits and pieces strewn here and there. If he stared long enough, he could just about recognise what those pieces were – a finger, an ear, a tooth…
“And did they see anyone enter or leave the house?” he asked.
Donovan shook her head, tugging at her lip with her teeth, uncertainty lining her features.
“What is it, Donovan?” he probed, tone impatient. It was going to be a long day, he could feel it.
She cast a glance toward the mess once more before focusing back on her notes. “Well, the place was shut down tight when the first officers arrived. They said they couldn’t figure out how the poor sod got inside in the first place.”
Lestrade huffed out and scrubbed a hand across his forehead. “So we’re dealing with a phantom?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say a phantom, Sir… but we’re definitely dealing with something strange.”
One week later, 237 Haverstock Hill was still again. The twilight air rippled and hummed. The place was empty, the remains of the police cordon tape clinging to the fence of the property outside. A patrol car parked up, the men inside doing a quick sweep of the area with their eyes, before pulling away again.
All was well.
Until the air no longer rippled and hummed but cracked and buzzed. Five doors down, a German Shepherd began to bark. Two doors down from that, a Jack Russell joined in.
Then the night fell still once more but the dogs barked on.
All was no longer well and a darkened figure emerged from the splintered doorway, stepping out into the summer air.
The first body was discovered several hours later. Melissa Hardy had been on her way home from the nightshift when the stranger had approached her from behind. He slit her throat, lowered her slowly to the ground and watched as she bled out.
The second victim was found in his home. Greg Mathers. Overdosed on the kitchen floor – a needle discarded on the tile beside him. Cocaine, the autopsy ruled. Yet the man had never touched a drug in his entire life.
The third victim came on the evening of the 15th, just over a week after the mess at Haverstock Hill. The August air was hot and sticky, the sky still tinged with lightened blue. It was when this death hit the morning news that Sherlock knew something was amiss. It was when this death hit the morning news that he contacted Lestrade.
Unaware of the happenings at Haverstock Hill or of Sherlock’s texts to Lestrade, John Watson made his way down the stairs from his room. A headache was beginning to form just behind his eyes. He blamed the alcohol. It had been awhile since he had drunk anything that substantial and he doubted he would be doing it again anytime soon.
A yawn on his lips and a hand brushing through his tawny hair, he pushed his way through the door and into the living area where his dark-haired flatmate sat at the table, attention focused on the netbook before him
“Mornin’,” John called out, another yawn taking hold and claiming the last syllable for itself.
Sherlock looked up from the screen, eyebrow raised as his eyes considered the doctor briefly. “Good night, last night?”
“Yes, actually,” John answered, already moving into the kitchen. He had bumped into an old college friend the day before and had ended up heading out for a catch up on the evening – drinks at the Fox & Hound. It made a nice change from his usual evenings of chasing criminals across London or having his patience tested by the great Sherlock Holmes.
One hand reached out to set the kettle to boil and the other reached for the bread which should have been precisely where his fingertips found empty air. He looked up in case he had misjudged the distance and his brow burrowed. “Where’s the bread?”
A quick survey of the kitchen came up empty. It was suffering from a distinct lack of bread. But there had been bread. He had bought it yesterday. He remembered it clearly.
“Sherlock,” he called, turning back to the living area where said flatmate had returned his gaze to the screen of the netbook. “Where’s the bread?”
“Hmm?” Pale eyes met John’s briefly, nimble fingers stilling.
“The bread, Sherlock.”
“Oh, yes.” And then those pale eyes fell away once more, those fingers deftly working at the keyboard splayed beneath them. “There was an accident.”
John glanced back into the kitchen, the word ‘right’ settling on his lips briefly. He half expected to see the result of a fire, blackened walls and ceiling, or perhaps even evidence of a flood. With the amount of other accidents the kitchen had seen, it was only a matter of time before Sherlock flooded the place.
“An accident,” John repeated out loud, again looking to Sherlock. “What kind of accident?”
Sherlock churned his lips and shrugged his shoulders lightly, as if the whole thing was nothing. And John knew, to the dark-haired man, it probably was. “Chemicals and such. I managed to save the eyeballs but the bread wasn’t so lucky,” he said, tone distracted and attention still focused on the netbook.
“Great… well, it’s nice to see where your priorities lie.” John let go of a deep breath and headed back to the kettle, adding under his breath, “Not that I can have eyeballs for breakfast…”
And in the back of his mind, a smaller voice added, Not that eyeballs should even be in the conversation at breakfast in the first place.
In the end, he checked the milk and settled for Cornflakes instead. Then, armed with his cup of tea and cereal, he joined Sherlock at the table. A beat of silence passed before Sherlock spoke again.
“You weren’t out late.”
John frowned and chewed at the spoonful of flakes he had just shoved into his mouth. He shook his head minutely. “Nope.”
- “And you came home alone.”
“Yes, yes I did. How very observant of you.” An amused smile flitted across John’s face and he filled his spoon once more, watching as the flakes soaked up the milk.
“You could have come, you know,” he said after he’d swallowed the spoonful.
Sherlock scrunched up his nose and shook his head, the very idea of a ‘lads’ night out’ seeming positively offensive to him. “A waste of time.”
“It’s called being social, Sherlock. It’s something us mere mortals do often.”
“Yes, so I’ve noticed,” the detective murmured before adding, “You may want to leave the rest of your breakfast.”
John frowned. “Why?”
“Because we’re going to see a man about a murder.” He turned the screen of the netbook to face John, several windows opened on top of each other – news articles from the past few days. “I assume you’ve been paying attention to the goings on around you during your ‘being social’?”
Ignoring the jibe, John reached out a hand and played at the keyboard, hopping through the windows and reading the headlines. “You’re saying all of these are related?”
The netbook was pulled away from him, the lid snapped shut as Sherlock lurched to his feet. He was already halfway into his coat before he answered John’s question. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“I don’t know how...” John grumbled under his breath, but his body was already moving of its own accord – pushing away from the table to search for his own coat. “It’s too early for this.”
“Nonsense – it’s never too early for a good murder.”
Though what constituted as a good murder for Sherlock was most definitely not the same for anyone else. In fact, it would be safe to say that most would assume there was no such thing as a ‘good’ murder and John would be inclined to agree with them. As it was, however, he had known Sherlock long enough to understand that a good murder to him meant a murder with mystery. A murder with intrigue. A murder with a puzzle to solve… And Sherlock, it seemed, always enjoyed a good puzzle.
“They’re not my cases, Sherlock,” Lestrade growled out, slumping down into his seat and pulling a folder toward him. His eyes skimmed the first few pages before he gave up and pushed it away again. “There’s nothing I can do.”
Sherlock leaned forward, hands on the edge of Lestrade’s desk. “Then who do they belong to?”
“I don’t know – it’s not my job to know. It’s my job to work on my own cases.” The man held Sherlock’s gaze as he motioned to his desk. “And as you can see, I’ve got my hands a little full at the moment.”
But Sherlock wasn’t giving up. He pressed on. “Did you know your left eyebrow twitches when you lie? Most likely stress related and completely unavoidable.”
Lestrade let go of a long sigh and pushed back into his seat. He shook his head, muttered a curse under his breath, then focused back on Sherlock. He didn’t attempt to deny Sherlock’s observation. He didn’t even attempt to hide it or pass it off as anything else. What would be the use? “DI Dimmock. I’m sure you remember him. He certainly remembers you – still hasn’t recovered from the first time you met.”
Sherlock smiled, tight and brief. “I’ll be on my best behaviour.”
The DI raised an eyebrow at that. “Is that even possible?”
John was wondering the exact same thing as Sherlock spun on his heel and swept from Lestrade’s office. He made to follow the man but Lestrade’s voice caused him to pause in his movements.
“I would appreciate it if you don’t mention I sent you. No doubt Sherlock’ll slip it in somehow but if it could be avoided...”
John nodded. “I understand.” And then he trailed after Sherlock, catching up just as the man had began his questioning of Dimmock.
“Haven’t you got anything better to do, Mr. Holmes?” the young DI asked.
“What could possibly be better than to offer up my expertise in order to aid the good police of London in their search for answers and justice?” That tight smile had returned to Sherlock’s lips and John questioned if the sarcasm came as part of the ‘best behaviour’ package or if it was just an added extra thrown in especially to annoy Dimmock.
Dimmock offered his own tight smile in return. “And these expertise of yours, they’re telling you that these murders are related somehow?”
“I am rarely wrong on such matters, Detective Inspector. I’m certain Lestrade will vouch for me on that.”
“I’m sure Detective Inspector Lestrade would...” Dimmock continued, any contrary words left unsaid as his jaw tightened and he looked to his right. “and after the last time, I’d have to agree. So tell me, Mr. Holmes, how exactly are these murders related?”
The smile grew on Sherlock’s face, lighting up his eyes with that mischievous glimmer John was so used to seeing. “Allow me to see the crime scene and the victim’s possessions and I’ll show you.”