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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 19

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



Even new hospitals typically weren't designed to prioritize the scenery visible from patient rooms, and certainly elderly central London hospitals were not, so his view of the gravel rooftop of the building's older section next door and two stories below was in no way a disappointment to John, whose expectations were so modest. Sitting sideways to the window now, his right elbow on the cold ledge, he watched the steam curl in wisps from the roof vents. It snowed last night and while much of what accumulated melted during the afternoon, little lavender-coloured drifts lingered in the roof's lee corners, re-freezing in the twilight. The view suggested a chill that he didn't actually feel, but he adjusted the blanket around his shoulders all the same, clutching it closer.

"So," he said by way of introducing questions that had been puzzling him, and Sherlock, in the vinyl and chrome chair on the far side of the bed, looked up from his computer. "Moriarty's sister."

"Mm. I ran the DNA test myself."

"And she and Mary were working together?"

Sherlock made his pedant face. "Not that Mary was aware. Janine occasionally contacted her with jobs using the LineToo app for secrecy, but as far as Mary knew she was relaying requests from Magnussen. That kept Janine in the clear-just a lowly PA acting as a messenger-but let her use Magnussen's leverage against Mary for her own purposes. The key was Nicholas Andrews."

"The frog guy."

"Yes. His widow very kindly allowed me to examine his mobile. It contained the LineToo app as well, and its history included calls to and from Janine. In particular, two calls the day prior to his Crick visit, but none after."

"Because he was murdered before he could report a job well done?"

"Exactly."

"Did Mary kill him?"

"I believe so. According to the history on her account she also received a call from Janine two days prior to the murder. The evening Andrews died she made an outgoing call, probably reporting the completion of the job. Once I had that correlation it was fairly easy to go back through the call history and match the dates and her MO with other unsolved murders."

"Janine was behind that video clip of Moriarty. That 'miss me' thing?"

"Yes. You remember it appeared the very morning that Magnussen was murdered. Her way of announcing her arrival on the scene. Well, I say arrival. She'd been running the Moriarty empire for nearly a decade and Magnussen's for almost as long. Killing him was more like a-"

"Mafia initiation rite?"

"I was going to say 'coming out party,' but the cynicism works, too."

"How'd you realize she was behind it all?"

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

"Meaning?"

"She never quit working for Magnussen. Any normal woman would have not only quit but sued him for harassment, creating a hostile working environment, assault-"

"Being a turd."

"Technically not actionable, but yes. When she came to see me in hospital she never asked who shot me, because she already knew. She never asked who attacked her that night because she knew: She let Mary into the office just before she let us in, and letting Mary knock her out was how she concealed her complicity from Magnussen. She never told Mary that she and I were 'dating' because she had her on a need-to-know basis. Then there was something she said when she visited me, just before she left. It sounded odd at the time, but I didn't assign it any real importance, either."

"What?"

"'Give my love to John and Mary.'"

That did John give a chill. "She knew what Mary was planning."

"She had to. Moriarty helped Mary with her initial identity change, but he was dead when Mary obtained her forged nursing credentials for the purpose of targeting you. If Janine had been directly involved with procuring them Mary would have known her as something other than Magnussen's PA. But: It's likely that the same forger created both her ID and the nursing credentials, and he would have kept his boss Janine well-informed."

John sighed and gazed out the window again, then thought of something else. "Why would she let Mary in to kill Magnussen, though? He was still useful to her then."

"She didn't. Mary never intended to kill him-at least, not then. She was just pressuring him for the information about her. No professional killer would stand there waving a gun about if she really wanted her target dead. She'd just walk up and shoot him. She was after his records on her. Janine didn't know that they were virtual any more than I did, but she did know that they weren't in the office. Mary wouldn't pull the trigger without having the information in her hand, so Janine's risk that she'd shoot Magnussen that night was fairly low.

"What Mary didn't realize was that Janine provided that information to Magnussen years ago, so Magnussen's death didn't make her any safer." He frowned. "I didn't realize it, either. Obviously."

"So what you said about Mary not shooting Magnussen because she didn't want me to get blamed for it-"

"Was me letting her think that I was on the wrong trail."

"And Janine originally turned Mary over to Magnussen because she'd been planning all along to use her for her own…errands?"

"Exactly. It allowed her to control both of them while ensuring that neither of them would ever view her as anything other than a go-between. Clever, when you think about it. Oh, and Lestrade's now the proud owner of all the information I had on Janine's three board members. Once he forwards that to Interpol they'll have enough to shut down her money laundering and drug smuggling operations in sixteen countries. Given the track record of the police I estimate they'll make less than a complete cock of it in four of them."

John smiled. "And where's Janine now?"

"Mycroft's people picked her up when she got rid of the poisoned pen."

"Huh." John knew better than to ask what Janine's fate was likely to be; even if Sherlock knew he wouldn't answer, and John really didn't want to know.

"John," Sherlock said in a tone that contrasted strangely with the confident way he'd just explained Janine's role in their troubles, "in the future, if it ever seems to you that I'm underestimating a woman, if you'd just say the word 'Hawkins' to me I'd appreciate it very much."

"Hawkins it is," John said. "Also Smallwood, Ruffner, and Camden."

"No need to go to overboard. 'Hawkins' will do as shorthand, thanks," Sherlock said with dignity, then raised his head sharply and looked toward the door, his eyes narrowed with displeasure. A moment later there was a tap and Mycroft stood framed in the doorway. "Why're you here?" Sherlock demanded.

"It's Monday," Mycroft said.

"So?"

"Lime gelatin day. My favorite." Mycroft made a little shooing motion with his hand. "Go away."

Sherlock put his feet up on the bed. Insolent.

Mycroft sighed. "Very mature. Very sanitary. I'm here to speak with John. Alone, if you don't mind."

Sherlock glanced at John: Was that what he wanted? John gave a barely perceptible nod and Sherlock swung his feet off the bed. He paused in the doorway and eyed Mycroft. "Make it quick. The doctors said he should avoid prolonged exposure to wankers."

"Then why are you still here?"

"Boys," John said.

Mycroft held up a cigarette but Sherlock curled his lip and spurned the peace offering. "Well," Mycroft said when he'd gone. "How are you?"

The question covered a lot of ground, but John knew he didn't really care so he didn't bother parsing it. "Good."

"I trust the police weren't too much of a nuisance with their inquiries?"

"Not too much." He gestured to the chair Sherlock just vacated. "Sit down."

"No, thank you," Mycroft said. "This won't take long. I'm here to apologize for the unpleasantness with MI5."

"Sure. Go ahead."

"Sorry?"

"I'm listening."

Mycroft mastered his annoyance; it really was obnoxious that John Watson, for all his apparent ordinariness, remained so resolutely unafraid of him. "Very well. I should not have expressed my irritation with Sherlock by involving you. I apologize. It was especially egregious considering the debt I owe you for stopping him at Appledore-although when preventing him from committing indictable-only offences in future you may want to consider not cutting things quite so fine."

"I didn't know-"

"You didn't know he was going to murder Magnussen. Neither did he. And yet he very nearly did." Mycroft stepped to the window and looked out, his hands resting right over left on the handle of his umbrella, standing directly behind John, the one spot in the room that John couldn't see without turning around, and John realized that the relocation was deliberate.

Mycroft was silent for a moment, and then he said quietly, "We almost lost him, John."

"I know." John cleared his throat. "I've never seen him afraid like that."

"I know."

"Do you?"

"Of course. I know what Magnussen threatened, and why."

"Yeah, he was afraid of what Magnussen could do, but he was more afraid of you."

Mycroft laughed. "Sherlock's not afraid of me."

"He was afraid of what you could stop him doing."

"Protecting you."

"Yes."

"You may find this difficult to believe, John, but that's the last thing I want to prevent. If you hadn't been there-"

"I was."

"You have to be."

John finally turned carefully to look at him, wincing as he did so. "What brought all this on?"

Mycroft shrugged and kept his eyes focused resolutely out the window. "I owed you an apology. And…my brother's life. Again."

"Mycroft."

Mycroft sighed. "Iphigenia Killick."

John blinked at the apparent topic shift. Non sequiturs must be genetic along with earlobes. "Uh…Yes?"

"She was…interesting," Mycroft said.

"Yeah," John said, "you know, I'm not your brother. I know what that's code for."

Mycroft made a sour expression but said, "Very well. You prefer earthiness."

"Try honesty."

"She was interesting," Mycroft said again, taking the plunge. "Also intelligent, independent, spirited, and, with apologies for the contemptible sentiment, alive. What others interpreted as a self-destructive streak I perceived to be the result of the psychological strain of acceding to a way of life that didn't suit her. She had the courage to be idiosyncratic and the integrity to insist on following the dictates of her own mind."

"Sounds familiar," John said, and even as the words left his mouth the insight struck him: Suddenly he had a context not only for this visit but for all the years of cynicism. A young Mycroft, having ventured on a nearly undetectable romantic gesture whose subtlety was lost on a flyaway twenty year-old girl, effectively ensured not only that he would never make the mistake of caring for anyone again, but that his little brother would never make it, either, because that's where risking oneself got you. Bravery is by far the kindest word for stupidity. So concluded the young man who'd once dared enough to give someone the power to hurt him.

"Mycroft," John said carefully, "if…if how you've…arranged things is right for you, great. But it's not right for everyone. It's not right for him, just like the things Iffy was rebelling against weren't right for her."

"I know. Now. But the damage is done. He's a grown man. For an adult to change the habits of a lifetime is almost impossible. And yet he's trying," he added with a hint of wonder in his voice. "In his own… incompetent way."

John smiled, then said, "Tell me something. Or, you know: don't, if it's none of my business."

Mycroft waited politely.

"Sherlock hated Magnussen. I mean, cut-his-damned-throat hated him." Mycroft was still waiting for a direct question to appear so he didn't reply, and John, finally realizing he was being literal, said, "Why?"

"You are familiar with the term 'swot,' I believe?" Mycroft said.

"Yeah, course," John said. "My nickname at uni. It was on the back of my football jersey. 'J. Swotson'."

"It was Sherlock's first, middle, and last name beginning in primary school."

"I'm sure. But-"

"You're a clever man in your own way, John," Mycroft went on, making John roll his eyes, "but I imagine that medical school required thousands of hours of unremitting study and hard work, correct?"

"Of course."

"Effort that could not be sustained without occasional breaks, respites, weekends off, holidays."

"Sure."

"Sherlock was never like that. He craved learning from the time he could focus his eyes on the mobile over his cot. It was never work to him. It was joy. He never wanted a break from it. He dreaded holidays, could never stand still, always wanted to discover, find out, understand something new. He always 'had to be doing,' as our father put it."

John nodded; he could absolutely believe that.

"Unfortunately," Mycroft went on, "he thought everyone was like he was. With no one other than our parents and me as examples, it was a reasonable conclusion for him to draw. When it turned out that he was not only not admired for the things he was proudest of but reviled and ridiculed for them…Well. It had the virtue of giving him something new to learn, however, which was how to armour himself. I think you'll agree he mastered that lesson quite thoroughly."

"Quite," John said ruefully.

"It's easy enough to do," Mycroft said. "But what's apparently more difficult is to stop hating the injustice of suffering for his singularity. Nor do I think I'd advise him to do so, even in light of what's happened. No one in the family was pleased when he insisted on this detective business, but it does make him happy, it seems, and if it gives him an avenue for revenging himself on bullies, then I suppose so much the better."

"Short of killing them, yeah, I'd say so," John said.

"Short of that," Mycroft agreed.

John looked thoughtful, then said, smiling to himself, "Earlobes."

"I beg your pardon?"

"They're genetic. The shape, I mean. I didn't know dragon-slaying ran in families, too."

Mycroft frowned.

"Bit of an in-joke," John said. "Sorry."

Mycroft returned to their former theme as though the detour never took place. "You have to be there for him, John," he said again. "Please."

It would be awkward speaking of this with his therapist, let alone Mycroft, and if it were any other man John would say the fact that they were even having this discussion pointed to Mycroft being drunk, but that was out of the question. No: If Sherlock feared Mycroft on the Appledore patio, then in his turn he had absolutely terrified his brother, and today John was seeing that fear still echoing. "There are two of us in this friendship, Mycroft," he said. "There will always be two of us."


– End Chapter 19 –

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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