It was greatly to John’s advantage that people didn’t, as a general rule, try to break into morgues.
And those that did generally hadn’t been let in officially often enough to know the layout and security systems. It had actually been harder to slip the cordon of paps and reporters (and Mycroft Holmes’ people, he’d no doubt) around Baker Street than to sneak into the lower levels of Bart’s at half two in the morning.
At night the shadows spread to fill the corridors, no longer held at bay by the harsh glare of the fluorescents. John’s torch was a teaspoon of reddish light in an ocean of darkness.
He checked his watch again. Half an hour before the security guard’s next rounds. The cameras were all at the entrances; once he’d got past them the dead had precious little in the way of security. (“Never any money for the dead,” a drunken pathologist had once complained to him during his residency, “since corpses can’t vote.”)
His beam finally caught on the right drawer. John opened the latch and pulled the shelf out halfway. The slide of metal sounded obscenely loud to his now sensitized ears, and he stopped, perfectly still, for about twenty seconds, listening for any signs of movement outside the room. Nothing beyond the slight hum of the HVAC. He could have been the only living thing in the building.
In the world.
Leaning against the drawer slightly to forestall possible movement left both hands free to unscrew and pocket the red lens filter on his torch. He’d need better visibility for this part.
John took a deep breath, steeling himself. Bodies were one thing. Bodies of loved ones another. He put the torch between his teeth and gently bit down to hold it.
Slowly, he eased the zipper of the body bag open, revealing a face, a neck, and then the angled lines of a Y-incision from shoulders to chest. He paused once he’d reached the bottom of the sternum.
The body was pale, the livor mortis concentrating all the blood along the back. The face and chest had been painted strange colours by cuts and bruises that would now never get a chance to heal, and the nose appeared to be broken. The hair had been rinsed of blood but was still a tangled mess, pushed back from the forehead. John fought the urge to reach out and try to fix it. At least as it was now it covered the cuts they’d made to remove the skullcap.
John reached into his shirt pocket and carefully removed a small flat object. It retained the warmth of his body for a few seconds before cooling rapidly in the heavily filtered air. He rubbed it with his thumb, the slightly rough texture oddly soothing.
He switched the torch from his mouth to his right hand but kept the beam on the corpse’s face. John took a moment to steady himself, taking a deep breath and counting to five as he slowly let it out. Enough stalling. He shut both eyes, then raised the stone to his left eye.
He opened his eye.
Through the hole in the stone, he didn’t see a corpse.
He saw a roughly hewn piece of wood.
It was a fetch.
It wasn’t him.
It wasn’t Sherlock.
Sherlock was alive.