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Bullpup Press
A Creative-Writing House


Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog


Event Horizon: Chapter 16

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



With his left hand cupping his right elbow, Sherlock stood on the coffee table, absently gnawing his thumb and twitching his pinkie as he contemplated the sofa wall. Across it were pinned labelled index cards, photographs, and dozens of articles from newspapers, magazines, and web pages, the whole connected by an interlacing web of blue, yellow, and red yarn looped around the pushpins and forming readily-apparent visual links between the disparate items tacked to the wall. After a time he climbed down from the table, stepped to the window, and peered out as a cab discharged John onto the pavement.

Since he returned to living full-time with Mary a little over two weeks ago, John had been making these daily after-work visits to Baker Street, visits which helped him maintain the essentially true narrative that he was working with Sherlock on a way to ensure Mary's safety. Despite Magnussen's death, John told her, Sherlock believed that she remained at risk of exposure because Magnussen was not the only one who knew of her pre-Morstan identity. The information about her had been relayed to Magnussen-probably sold to him-and the seller was still abroad. Like nearly everything else he'd told her, John believed this himself and repeated it to her in good faith even while he knew that Sherlock wasn't sharing everything with him. Mary therefore remained convinced of John's veracity, Sherlock's stupidity, and her own need to wait just a little longer before she acted against either of them, all of which suited Sherlock perfectly.

The visits also helped maintain John's sanity. As he turned away from paying the driver and stepped toward the front door, Sherlock glimpsed his tense, closed-off expression. At no time could John's temperament be described as ebullient, but this grim, sustained resignation, this sense that he was merely enduring his days, was new. John had underestimated the strain of the ongoing deception. Sherlock had not, and he knew that John found the dissembling, which would never come naturally to him, upsetting and exhausting.

"John," Sherlock said when he heard his step on the landing.

When John didn't answer at once Sherlock turned: Somewhere between the front door and the flat the tension in John's face visibly eased. He still looked tired, but nothing like as despondent as he had just a minute ago. Interesting.

At the moment he was staring in a very simple manner at the living room wall, which he last saw yesterday when it was bare. "Wow," he said, impressed. "I was going to ask whether you were making any progress."

"Some," Sherlock said, and even if it had not been for the ruined wallpaper the lively gleam in his eye would have told John that he was understating things.

"Tell me," John said, taking off his coat and gloves.

"Nicholas Andrews," Sherlock said.

"The frog guy they found in the Crick car park."

"Lorry driver for something called ServPros, a restaurant supply company serving the south of England. Criminal record includes auto theft and petty larceny convictions." Sherlock waved his hand dismissively. "He's neither here nor there." He pointed to an index card pinned to the wall, on which he'd written 'ServPros' in felt tip marker. Six other cards were arranged in a column above it. "ServPros, however, is a front company and these-" waving at the other names in the column "-are the other companies in the chain, all of which ultimately trace back to this man." He pointed to one of the three portrait photos he'd cut from a glossy magazine and pinned to the wall above the rest of the mess. "Lars Bernstrom, a Swedish businessman who owns a company called Capital Asset Management. Mikkel Aarslander, a Norwegian banker," he added, indicating the next man. "President and CEO of Contempro Associates Manufacturing. James Dutcher, Toronto oilman. Runs Canada Agriculture and Mining, Limited."

"Okay so far," John said.

Like the names above the ServPro card, these company names were written in Sherlock's handsome script on index cards pinned under the corresponding businessman's photograph. Below each card cascaded a column of others. "Each of the companies at the top of these columns is a legitimate, publicly traded business," Sherlock said. "The rest-" pointing to the other cards below them "-are primarily shells. Fronts, in some cases."

John was already lost. "What's the point of them all?"

"Ultimately money," Sherlock said. "The usual. Boring. More immediately, the shell companies keep these men at, to take just Dutcher's case, up to twelve removes from the criminal activity where the real money is. It would take a remarkably enterprising and imaginative investigator to link him to them and follow the trail back." He gave a little wave. "Hello."

"So you linked this guy to at least twelve illegal operations."

"No. The companies themselves aren't illegal. Shell companies can be perfectly legitimate vehicles for business transactions. The mere fact of being a shell says nothing about its actual purpose. All of the twelve businesses I've linked to Dutcher, for example, are legitimate: companies involved in construction, oil services, port services, and so on."

"Then what's the point?"

"Money laundering and drug smuggling," Sherlock said.

"Well…" John stood with his arms crossed, considering the material on the wall. The photos of the three men all appeared to have been clipped from the same source. He glanced around at the mess on the coffee table and sofa and spied a thick magazine: The 2014 annual report for CMNews. He turned to the page listing brief descriptions of each board member and yes: That was the source of the three photos. When he looked up Sherlock was smiling at him. "These guys are all on the Magnussen News board of directors."

"Yep."

That clarified very little for John. "Sorry. I don't get it. They're all rich in their own right, aren't they? Nobody gets a seat on a board like that unless they've already got money. Why are they going to all this trouble to hide even more income?"

"Because they're not using it to buy more homes in St. Croix," Sherlock said. "They're reinvesting it to finance even more criminal activity."

John just stared at him.

"You know, John," Sherlock said, "your unworldliness is a never-ending source of amazement."

"I'm not-"

"Think about it. Dutcher made his fortune in oil field services. Canada Agriculture and Mining. Look." He tapped his laptop to wake it, rapidly typed something into the search engine, then turned the computer so John could see the screen and pointed to the image that appeared. "Foam air unit," he said.

The screen showed a semi-trailer resting on its landing gear, its flat bed loaded with a spaghetti-like series of ducting, pipes, and valves and topped by a two-metre square metal box at the trailer's cab end. John couldn't begin to guess the purpose of the thing or even associate it with a particular heavy industry. "The hell is it?"

"A foam air unit, obviously," Sherlock said, as though John was an idiot.

"You don't know what that is, either."

"No. Nor care."

"Well?"

Sherlock sighed. "You're a drug smuggler, John. If only there were a device on wheels in which you could conceal tens of kilos of your product for easy transport while laundering the profits through a legitimate business."

John frowned again at the screen. "What, you think they stuff drugs into all these…these pipes and things?"

"I'm certain that they do. Then they connect it to a lorry cab and drive it off. Or load it onto a container ship. Two of Dutcher's subsidiary companies make these devices in China and sell them world-wide. Heroin flows in from Pakistan, say, over trade routes that are centuries old. Whatever the destination, no port inspector's going to take all that heavy machinery apart on the off chance of finding heroin inside, and even if he were inclined to do so, bribes ensure that business continues uninterrupted. It couldn't be easier to import both legal and illegal products in the same shipment."

"And all these other companies, they're the same sort of set-up?"

"Many if not most of them," Sherlock said.

"Okay. So three of Magnussen's board members use legitimate companies to launder money from their drug sideline. Are they linked, these three guys? Is the whole CMNews board moonlighting like that?"

"Excellent questions. Taking the last first, no. These three are unique for enterprise among the board members, but yes, they are linked to each other. They obviously know each other and probably work together outside of the news board."

"Do you think they murdered Magnussen?" John asked. "You said that Andrews worked for one of the shell companies. Did one of them hire him to get the toxin? The board met in Magnussen's office the night before he died, right? So one of them could have put the pen in his desk."

"You are on form tonight, John," Sherlock said, pleased. "But it's a bit premature to pin Magnussen's murder on any of them yet."

"But you think that's where the evidence is pointing."

"I think the evidence collected so far doesn't rule them out."

"Great. More caginess," John said. "Well…Do you think Magnussen knew about their little hobbies? Would that give them a motive to kill him?"

"Oh, he undoubtedly knew. He couldn't fail to figure it out and use it, assuming he didn't place them on his board for that very reason. They have worldwide criminal reach. Smuggling and money laundering weren't Magnussen's area, but these men would have been the source of some incredibly valuable information. For a blackmailer the list of officials taking bribes in a single international port alone would be worth the price of admission."

"What else?" John asked, because clearly Sherlock wasn't finished showing off.

"Notice anything interesting about the parent companies?"

John scanned the wall again. Capital Asset Management. Contempro Associates Manufacturing. Canada Agriculture and Mining. "You mean like they all have the same initials?"

"Like that," Sherlock said. "Like Charles Augustus Magnussen."

"I don't get it."

"Someone's idea of a joke," Sherlock said.

"Magnussen?"

"I very much doubt it."

His phone chimed with an incoming email and he at once sat down at the computer to open it. A pleased grin spread across his face as he read. He sent the email to the printer, then collected it along with several other sheets already in the tray and pinned them to the wall as John watched.

"Are those screen shots?" John asked.

"Yes," Sherlock said with considerable satisfaction. "Take a look."

John stepped up and peered more closely at the pages, which looked familiar. "Is that…?"

"LineToo," Sherlock confirmed. "Their call records. There are several incredibly talented pickpockets among my homeless network, and they've managed to acquire that information from all three phones within the last two hours. Impressive. Remind me to tip generously."

"That's that app Mary's been using to call Janine."

"Mm. Notice anything else?"

Not immediately. John scanned from one page to the next, looking for similarities between the incoming and outgoing numbers listed on each account, and within a few seconds found one that all three accounts shared in common, although he didn't recognize the number itself. "This one," he said, pointing. "They all make and receive calls to that number."

"You don't recognize it?"

"No. Why, whose is it?"

"Janine Hawkins's."

ooooo

Janine Hawkins. John wasn't sure how much to make of that; she was Magnussen's PA, after all, and the three men were on his board of directors, so it wasn't unthinkable that they'd speak by phone, although why that required a separate mobile line he couldn't say. Perhaps it was a way to guard against corporate espionage. Having made the revelation, however, Sherlock wouldn't elaborate, and John recognized the signs: The detective was done sharing for the moment.

Instead John phoned for Chinese delivery. Sherlock flung himself into his fireside chair and could be arsed neither to answer the door nor come to the table, so John paid the charges and placed a carton of food and a pair of chopsticks on the side table next to him, then retired to his own chair with his entree.

Sherlock eyed him critically. "Really, John," he said with disapprobation. "You're a surgeon. Your hand-to-eye coordination should encompass the use of chopsticks."

"Maybe it does," John said. "But maybe we're in England and someone invented forks."

"Or maybe you're afraid of putting out your eye."

"Or putting most of the food on the floor," John said, and Sherlock smiled.

That was the last they spoke for some time. Instead John addressed his food and Sherlock slumped in the chair, his hands steepled under his nose, eyes half-closed, and his long legs stretched out straight before him. Roaming the courtyards of his mind palace, no doubt. Not for the first time John wondered what it was like in there, in the mind of a gormless genius. It was one of those tantalizing but unsolvable puzzles, of course, like contemplating infinity or trying to imagine how a dog thinks without words. But he preferred the mystery to the certain anxiety of going home. His fork scraped the bottom of the carton, dismaying him: With the meal over he had one less reason to stay.

"You can't delay it forever," Sherlock said, startling him. If John couldn't get inside his head, Sherlock clearly had no trouble getting inside John's.

Sighing, he set the empty carton on the end table. "No." But he didn't get up, either, and his expression of bleak resignation was back.

"Bad?" Sherlock asked.

"Bad enough," John said. "I hate this, Sherlock. I hate that we have to do this, that I have to lie, that she lied, that I don't even know why. Why any of it. And you know what the worst part is?" It was obviously a rhetorical question and Sherlock didn't answer. "The worst part is how far I've had to sink to find something that doesn't make me want to hang myself. Ever since this started I couldn't get my head around…around her being the mother of my child. Turns out-" He stopped. God, he was sick of it, how everything stabbed him to the heart these days. "She's not pregnant," he continued, not looking at Sherlock. "I don't know if she ever was, but…She's been using the second bedroom. Said with the pregnancy she felt…She thought…Anyway, we decided that it would be a good idea to 'take it slow.' Build trust." Bitter laugh. "Trust, my arse. Before all this happened I'd have cut off my hand before I went through her laptop, but now…Did you know there are websites where women can buy faked pregnancy tests? Faked sonograms?"

Sherlock answered in a low voice. "Yes."

"Yeah, well, I didn't. They even make silicone pregnancy bumps, for God's sake."

"John, I-"

"Don't. I told you: It's the first thing in three months that hasn't made me want to jump out a window. That's how far I've had to sink: That the plus side is I don't have to work out visitation with a serial killer." He looked at Sherlock. "And do not tell me that you knew, or suspected, or that you could tell by looking at me that we hadn't been-I don't even want to know how you do that." He took a deep breath, then exhaled and stood. "I'm off," he said, but stopped suddenly and peered toward the fireplace.

"Got a visitor," he said with a nod, and Sherlock turned to see what he was looking at: Under the fireplace brush crouched a small specimen of eratigena atrica-a giant house spider. "Don't let Mrs. Hudson see him."

"It."

"Him."

"How do you know?"

"I don't, for sure. It could be a young one. But the males are usually smaller than the females, so…balance of probability."

Sherlock was staring at him and obviously didn't register the humour. "Say that again."

"Uh…balance of probability?"

"About the spiders."

"The males are usually smaller than the females?"

"Sexual dimorphism."

"Sorry?" But he didn't get an answer and based on the tense, remote expression that he recognized as indicative of Sherlock's 'eureka' moments, he wasn't going to.

"All the things she never did," Sherlock murmured.

"What?"

Sherlock launched out of the chair and rummaged excitedly through the kitchen drawers. "Tape…tape…Where do we keep the tape?"

"I…What sort?"

"The sticky sort, obviously. Hah!" He hurried off to the bathroom with the roll. John followed, baffled, and found him on his hands and knees with a strip of duct tape wrapped round his fingers, methodically pressing it to the floor, lifting, moving over a few centimetres, and repeating the process.

"What're you-No. Please don't tell me."

"I've found more usable evidence at processed crime scenes," Sherlock complained.

"I hate to discourage you," John said, "but typically people mop bathrooms with, you know: a mop. We're using tape because?"

"Because I'm not cleaning," Sherlock said impatiently. "I'm collecting samples."

"For…?"

"DNA testing, obviously. I need some from you, as well, for comparison," he said, looking up. "Bit of blood should do it."

"I'm not stabbing myself for your experiment."

"Saliva, then."

"I'll think about it."

"John, please. Just suck a swab. You know where they are."

"For God's sake," John said, turning away.

"Put it in an evidence bag," Sherlock called after him. He was pressing the tape behind the toilet when he suddenly found what he was looking for: a single long strand of hair. "Never mind! Got it!" He hurried into the kitchen, ransacked the debris on the table until he found a small plastic evidence bag, then hurriedly stuffed the hair into it as John watched, bemused.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" Sherlock asked, shrugging hurriedly into his coat.

"Work," John said. "The usual."

"All day?"

"Yeah. The usual shift. Why?"

"Mm," Sherlock said, knotting his scarf. "Good."

"'Good'? Since when is work good and not boring?"

"Is Mary working tomorrow?"

"You know Thursday's her day off. Are you okay?"

Sherlock glanced at his watch. "That's not much time."

"Time for what? Sherlock."

But Sherlock was already thundering down the stairs two at a time.

"Thanks for coming round, John," John said sarcastically. "Any time, mate. I'll see myself out, shall I?"


– End Chapter 16 –

Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog



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