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The Iceman Cometh

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He watched the cigarette smoke as it spiralled above the hand resting carelessly over the edge of the table. He tracked the intertwining patterns absently, his mind racing through several branches of chaos theory, analysing and then discarding the mathematics with irritated contempt, finally admitting to himself that he was going insane with boredom.

He mashed the cigarette half-smoked into his saucer alongside another half-dozen exactly like it and flung himself to his feet, beginning to pace the room steadily. The uniformed PC on duty at the doorway eyed him warily. He stopped short, jerking his chin to glare at the man, and started to speak in a low steady monotone without pausing for breath.

“I have already explained to you in detail several times over that keeping me here incommunicado is not only counterproductive but possibly illegal as I have committed no crime and am answerable to no one for my actions. However, I cannot be accountable for the scenario which has a seventy-three point five per cent chance of occurring if you do not get Detective Inspector Lestrade here within the next five minutes to debrief me, which will be the total destruction of this room and everything within it including, if you are not preternaturally fleet of foot, yourself!”

His voice rose sharply in pitch. He ran an exasperated hand through his hair. “At least at Baker Street, I had my violin. God help me, if this goes on much longer, I shall be reduced to singing.”

The door opened to admit a stocky, middle-aged man with a thick head of hair the colour of polished pewter more than 50% grey, uses product every morning to hide the regrowth, minus a jacket, with creased shirtsleeves wife currently away, has been on duty for more than 12 hours, and pinstripe suit trousers slightly shiny at the knee is considering retirement over the next two or three years.

“Mr Holmes?” he said in a quiet, affable voice. “Sorry to keep you waiting so long, sir. We’ve had a very busy night of it so far and no signs of it getting any quieter, I’m afraid.”

Sherlock stared without blinking. “Where is Detective Inspector Lestrade?” he demanded with no preamble.

The other man nodded slowly without taking his eyes off Sherlock. “Yes,” he said thoughtfully, “They did warn me in the briefing that you could be very direct. Fixated, they said; sometimes obsessive.”

Sherlock hooked his ankle around a tubular steel chair leg and dragged it towards him without moving his eyes. He sank back into it slowly and folded his arms.

“I prefer to call it focussed,” he replied loftily, “but in any event and whatever epithet you choose to apply to me, if Lestrade considers any of his tiny, trivial cases to be more important than to listen to what I…”

“Detective Inspector Lestrade has been suspended,” the newcomer interrupted flatly, “and will remain so until this enquiry is concluded. His conduct has been, shall we say, unwise if not actually criminal.”

Sherlock made a dismissive noise and leaned his chin in his hands, elbows on the scuffed table top, angling his body away from the other man.

“I am Detective Inspector Wainright,” the man continued, sitting down opposite Sherlock rather more sedately. “I am here to ask you a few questions before we put you away for the night.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “In a police cell, I suppose?” he replied disdainfully. “Well, it’s not as if I’m a stranger to them. Very well, Inspector; ask away.”

Sherlock sprawled aggressively in his hard chair, his body language deliberately open and his face expressionless.

Wainright frowned, pinching his bottom lip between finger and thumb. “I’ll tell you what, Mr Holmes,” he said quietly. “How about you start at the beginning and tell me everything you know. Then I might have some idea what questions to ask you. This is a rum do, I don’t mind telling you.”

Sherlock glared. “If I did that,” he replied loftily, “we’d be here until eternity.”

Wainright blinked patiently.

“Oh, for god’s sake!” Sherlock sighed and leaned his elbows on his knees. “You’ll be signing the Official Secrets Act within the hour,” he said wearily, “and probably facing a disciplinary hearing for having detained me here at all.”

The Inspector looked less than impressed with Sherlock’s threats and merely activated a solid state recorder, noting their names, the date and the time.

“Very well, Mr Holmes,” he said finally, without a trace of irony, “the floor is yours.”

Sherlock sat up, drawing his feet under his chair. “It will make more sense to you if I tell it in chronological order,” he said, “so listen, don’t interrupt and don’t fidget.” He arranged his fingers under his chin in his customary steeple and frowned.

“I suppose the whole thing really began, as so many tragedies do, with inheritance…”