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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 3

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



At the kitchen table of her upstairs tenant's flat, Mrs. Hudson leafed through the previous week's People magazine. Just as she turned to an article about Leonardo DiCaprio speaking on climate change from the deck of his new yacht she heard the floorboards creak in Sherlock's room. A moment later the detective emerged, his hair in disarray, dark circles under his eyes, his gait the cautious barefoot shuffle he'd perforce adopted to protect himself from the pain of his injury. Nothing about his appearance recommended itself, but John had assured her that he was satisfied with Sherlock's recovery so far, and she supposed that after a bullet in the chest and two major surgeries he had every right to look exhausted and sore. And after all, it was just his second day home from hospital.

Putting one hand on the buffet to steady himself, Sherlock paused in the kitchen entry, glancing past her into the living room.

"John's gone to the market," she said, by way of explaining her presence.

In fact he wasn't looking for John-even before he climbed out of bed he'd established that Mrs. Hudson had been left to babysit him-but for his laptop, because he had work to do and not a lot of time. Any reply he made would just encourage her to yap, however, and he couldn't bear the thought of it, so he didn't bother to correct her.

Yet even without speaking a word she managed to annoy him. The sympathetic tilt of her head and her clasped hands eloquently conveyed the sentiment Oh, you poor thing. Still, she was fully aware that he hated being helped and even when healthy he was prone to truculence when he was attempted to be mothered. She'd seen John successfully handle him by adopting a professional, unsentimental, minimalist approach, but that was beyond her.

His gaze swept the kitchen, and hoping that he might be hungry she said, "He left you a plate with a bit of egg and some ham. For the protein, he said. I'll heat it up."

"My laptop. I need it."

"Mm?" she said vaguely, feigning deafness as she retrieved the plastic wrap-covered plate from the refrigerator, but as an attempt at casual unconcern it was a total failure.

"John," he decided accusingly.

"Sherlock," she said reproachfully. "He wants you to get better. He said you can have it once you've eaten your-"

"Not hungry."

"That's because you haven't smelled it yet," she said confidently, popping the plate into the microwave. ''He was cooking it when I got here and I'd have asked him to make some for me, if I hadn't just eaten."

A curl of his lip conveyed his opinion of this information and he hobbled slowly into the living room, where he eased himself into a chair at the table. There was no point looking for the laptop: John would have put it in Mrs. Hudson's flat or in his own room, but either way Sherlock wasn't up to the stairs just now. Even this short excursion had his pulse racing. The laptop might just as well be in Iceland.

John assured him that even with analgesics the pain would likely linger for some months yet, and having survived a shooting himself-and of course, as a surgeon-he would know, so Sherlock was trying to make peace with it, but it limited and therefore frustrated him inexpressibly. Every waking moment and even his dreams were tormented by an oppressive sense of urgency, the awareness that his knowledge was incomplete, possibly fatally so. He wasn't entirely sure what they were facing, but he was very much afraid that at the end of it all John's life was at risk. He needed answers to a lot of questions: Who Mary really was, what she did to make her drastic change of identity necessary, who helped her arrange it, how Magnussen found out about her, why he targeted her at all, and most importantly why she attached herself to John.

And he was all too aware that John was waiting on him for answers to resolve his own emotional distress over the revelation that the woman he loved never existed. He needed John to know about her, but it was only afterward that he began to understand the extent of John's anguish, and to regret it. Now his anxiety for John, the psychological strain of his own weakness, the pain of his injury, and the uncertainty surrounding their situation combined to render him morose and irascible.

Nor was he proud of how he'd conducted himself in their friendship, something he'd had far too much time on which to dwell these last two weeks. He'd made far too many mistakes, and those were just the ones he knew about. No doubt he'd committed dozens of transgressions without even being aware: At some point John probably just got tired of pointing them out. Yet Sherlock wanted to improve and he'd always exerted himself to understand John. To 'accommodate' him was the term he used in his own mind, by which he meant: To make room for John in his life.

Despite his careless remark to his brother-What life? I've been away-about which his conscience pricked him these days, Sherlock found John endlessly fascinating and was therefore attentive to him, in his own way: sensitive to his likes, dislikes, virtues, flaws, habits, moods-and motives. Motives: Writing a best man's speech required him to focus on John's motives for maintaining their friendship and to objectively consider all the evidence at hand, none of which led him to conclude that John loved danger for its own sake. The truth was more charmingly nuanced than that. As a surgeon, as a soldier, and as the best friend of the world's only consulting detective, John Watson ran toward the sound of the guns. But it wasn't danger itself that drew him, Sherlock now theorized, but what he found when he reached it. By training and by inclination John found satisfaction, even joy, in applying his particular sorts of skills, skills which required the fullest use of his mind, just as challenging, high-risk cases required the fullest use of Sherlock's. That shared source of enjoyment in life was what they recognized implicitly in each other from their first meeting, but it was something Sherlock was only now beginning to grasp explicitly. As a discovery it was one of the most profound of his life, representing not just a personal milestone but, in light of the problems facing him in the immediate present, a significant advantage over the person he now considered his most dangerous enemy: Mary Watson.

It was a wholly unexpected stroke when John, shattered by the revelation about his wife, asked rhetorically whether everyone he knew was a psychopath, but Sherlock could take an opening when one was handed to him. John was distraught and reached for the most facile accusation available, but it worked admirably for Sherlock's purposes. Regardless of what he'd like the world at large to believe and what he'd like to believe himself, Sherlock knew he wasn't a sociopath. He knew that John didn't believe it either; not really. On the other hand, Sherlock was now firmly convinced that John's wife was a psychopath. A very clever, very manipulative psychopath with lethal skills and tendencies. Sherlock was pleased to believe this because Mary successfully played him since he met her, but the night he escaped the hospital provided him with an abundance of objective evidence, as well.

Everything she did in the flat that night cemented the conviction that he'd formed in Magnussen's office when she coolly shot him-someone she'd known and worked closely with for months-with no more emotion than she'd grant to a target on a practice range. Nor did she display much emotion once they got to Baker Street. Her attitude was one of defiance, not remorse or distress or dismay or even empathy for her husband. John kicked over a chair in his rage and pain and she didn't even blink. A normal person facing the ruin of her marriage would have reacted emotionally. A normal person would have thrown herself on their mercy, cried, begged to be forgiven. The only emotions Mary expressed were defiance when she snapped that people like Magnussen should be killed, and pride when she said, That's why there are people like me. Psychopaths.

Nor did she apologize to Sherlock for shooting him or to John for lying to him; never tried to explain herself, never asked for a second chance or even a hearing for her side of the story. Never offered a story at all. She let Sherlock do all the talking because until she knew what he knew, she couldn't formulate her own response to this new setback. It was her way of regaining her footing, but it worked to Sherlock's advantage because it gave him free rein to tailor what he said according to what he wanted her to know. She'd been genuinely upset at Leinster Gardens as John brushed angrily past her because for a moment she thought that all the work she'd put into him was about to come to naught. Finding out about her would 'break' John, yes, but she cared about that for her own sake, not for his. She'd invested a lot of time and energy into setting him up-for what?-and what she learned from Sherlock that night would determine whether her scheme was ruined or salvageable. So she waited and watched, saying little, offering almost nothing, while her husband's grief and anger cut Sherlock to the bone.

Significantly, though, she'd given John that thumb drive. Because Sherlock had been the one insisting that she was a client, the one trying to learn more about her, it would have been logical for her to give it to him. Instead she'd given it to John. Why? Because she couldn't manipulate Sherlock the way she could manipulate her husband. Sherlock would have been plugging the thing into his laptop before she finished speaking. But John… Everything she knew about him told her that he wouldn't read it. Everything Sherlock knew about him told him that he would.

The bit about not wanting to see the moment he stopped loving her was an inspired stroke, a ploy which from her perspective was virtually guaranteed to work. Nothing she could have said would have held John at arm's length so effectively if he was the man she believed him to be. No, she didn't want to see the moment he stopped loving her, but just as much of what Sherlock fed her that night was a truth, not the truth, so was her remark to John. Psychopaths required control over their targets, and the truth was that Mary didn't care whether John loved her or not, just whether she was in control of continuing or ending the relationship, which she would do at a time and place of her choosing, not his.

The thumb drive had probably been rattling around in her purse for ages. Nothing to do with anything. Suddenly it became a weapon that would make John unwilling to look too closely at what was happening, by suggesting the presence of something so dire that it would devastate him more thoroughly than he already was. But she didn't know John as well as she thought she did. Like Sherlock, she spent almost two years living with him, but unlike Sherlock she never truly understood him because she didn't really care about him. She knew him as a romantic. So did Sherlock. But Sherlock knew him as so much more because he'd cared enough to look. What was that, brother dear? Oh, yes: Caring is not an advantage. Sure about that, are you?

So: Psychopath. Whatever Mary showed John while they were courting it wasn't psychopathy, but it could not possibly be a coincidence that she attached herself to him. Regardless of the heights of courage and resourcefulness he reached in the war and on Sherlock's more harrowing cases, John was not Captain Adventure in real life. Clinic work didn't provide the scope for the sort of drama that would catch the eye of a psychopathic serial-killing assassin who just chanced to be his co-worker. He wasn't even doing real medicine, as far as Sherlock was concerned. No high-stakes trauma surgery. It was just…grotty children and strep. So why would Mary, currently the bored doctor's wife, have looked twice at John? Oh, John attracted all sorts of female attention, but it was normal female attention. Conventional. Boring.

For that matter, why would a psychopath lie her way into a nursing job? Unless Mary was after something suspicious, her employment there and her association with John made no sense. So what would explain it? Either John was assigned to her as a job or she was free-lancing for her own purposes. If he was an assignment, who assigned her to him, and why, and didn't a cover as deep as going through with a marriage suggest incredibly high stakes? Life or death stakes?

Yet she hadn't damaged John physically, and God knew she'd had ample opportunity for that. So he was back to the assignment idea. Was this all Mycroft's doing, then, as part of a plan to keep John protected during Sherlock's absence? But no; John's safety was supposed to be secured by Sherlock's 'death' and Mycroft wouldn't bother with a redundant layer of security for someone he never paid much attention to in any case. Nor did Mary call off the wedding, which she certainly would have done had John merely been an assignment of Mycroft's. Sherlock rejected the idea that she might have fallen in love with John in the meantime: Even a man who despised sentiment could grasp the impossibility of love and the willingness to defraud co-existing. That left Mary either commissioned by Sherlock's enemies or acting on her own initiative, and that made her pre-Morstan identity the key to all the other answers he needed.

Mary. He couldn't bring himself hate her-not the way he hated Charles Augustus Magnussen, who had never personally damaged him but who instead represented a hated idea-but whatever cordiality and even nascent affection he developed for her vanished when she shot him. Not because she shot him-in the circumstances it was a viable option-but because of what discovering her fraud did to John, and because of what discovering the truth of her was going to do to him. Sherlock was confident of very little at this point, but he was pretty clear on that.

Another thing he was certain of was the enmity between her and Magnussen. The blackmailer was extremely clever, too clever to be caught-so far-and it didn't help that Sherlock's own brother was standing guard over him. Sherlock's lip curled again into a sneer at the thought. Mycroft. Under the thumb of a reptile like Magnussen and living contently with it. Not just refusing to fight back but protecting the man. Contemptible. But it did provide one explanation for Magnussen's interest in Mary: With leverage over her and therefore over John and finally over Sherlock, Magnussen would have one more club to wield against Mycroft. Control Mycroft Holmes and you control the British government. Tidy. Neat. Make yourself actively useful to Mycroft Holmes, though, and you gained something even more valuable: his protection. Seemed like overkill if Magnussen was looking for protection from Sherlock. Annoyingly, his campaign against the media mogul had never gained much traction. Well, he said 'much.' It had gained zero traction.

As an explanation for Mary's problem with Magnussen the man's power-lust was only a partial answer, however, because she was on Magnussen's radar long before Sherlock targeted him, and therefore long before Magnussen would have needed to use her as a way to control the Holmes brothers.

So sorry your family couldn't be here to see this - CAM. At the time Sherlock assigned that wedding telegram no more importance than he did to the others he read that day, but now its provenance and ominous undertone were clear. Still, Mary was neither rich nor influential, so what explained Magnussen's interest in her? Did Magnussen intend to use her skills for his own ends? Possibly, although it really wasn't his style.

Mary herself insisted as recently as yesterday that she didn't know how Magnussen discovered the information he held about her past. That conversation was conducted by phone, of course: An in-person meeting would have been preferable, but John's emotions were still far too raw for that to have ended as anything but a complete debacle, so Sherlock phoned her while John was in the shower. Nor could Mary tell him when Magnussen discovered the information, although she reported that he'd first approached her about it in early 2011, four years after she adopted her new identity. The key question at the moment, Sherlock believed, remained that pre-Morstan identity. That was not information Mary would give him, whether she believed him to be on her side or not.

The microwave pinged and Mrs. Hudson bustled over with a little plate: a single egg, scrambled and dusted with pepper, and a slice of Canadian bacon, already cut up. As though he was five-but it did save him the awkwardness of trying to cut it himself, and he knew that John told her to do this, as providing him one less excuse to avoid eating.

She set the plate the table in front of him, along with a fork, a paper towel square folded in half, and a glass of orange juice. Contrary to her prediction, the aroma of the food utterly failed to stir his appetite. Still, John had been very clear about healing depending in good part on a proper diet, and Sherlock was nothing if not eager to recover, so he picked up the fork and ate reluctantly, mechanically, with most of his mental energy spent trying to ignore the pain in his side and Mrs. Hudson's quiet triumph at having got him to eat-although she wasn't quite brave enough to venture a remark about it.

"My computer," he said ungraciously the instant he finished.

"Yes, dear," she replied tolerantly, picking up the plate and setting down a tiny paper cup containing his pain and anti-nausea medications.

"Today," he snapped, and she pursed her lips.

"Sherlock Holmes," she said with asperity, "I know you're not feeling well, but it doesn't take any more energy to be polite than it does to be rude."

This was intolerable. "I'll get it myself," he growled, and stood-too fast. He stopped with a sharp intake of breath and clutched at the edge of the table as the pain made his head swim.

"Oh, Sherlock," she cried in dismay.

He stood with his eyes closed, teeth clenched, bracing himself. "I need. My. Computer!" He ground out the last word in what passed for a shout these days and she hurried off to the kitchen with the plate. He sank back into the chair and she returned a moment later with his laptop, which she clapped none-too-gently onto the table in front of him.

"There's your bloody toy. I hope you're happy," she sniffed.

"You're still here," he noted, using his left hand to open it. "So: No."

"Why John doesn't keep you sedated I can't imagine," she muttered discontentedly, and stalked off.

Sherlock didn't even hear her leave. He stared unseeing at the screen as he returned to the question of how Magnussen learnt of Mary's enemies. In spite of the man's sliminess he didn't really move in those circles, among the sort of people Mary would have met as a CIA sniper and assassin. If Sherlock accepted the premise that Mycroft was, if not working in partnership with Magnussen then at least exchanging information with him from time to time, then did Mycroft tell him? Did Mycroft even know? Sherlock confirmed to his brother only last week that Mary shot him, but was that all Mycroft knew about her? The fact that he never said anything about Mary before that-that he tolerated without demur her close association with Sherlock-suggested that he'd not perceived anything questionable about her before then. Most likely he'd dismissed her as another of John's impermanent girlfriends. Then, too, her new identity withstood the inquiries of powerful, dangerous enemies, so it might just as easily have withstood Mycroft's, and apparently was still doing so.

Well, then: Mary adopted a new identity so iron-clad that only someone very close to her stood any chance of either penetrating it or even knowing she'd adopted it. Someone close but lacking affection for her, because no one with her best interests in mind would have contacted Magnussen. And someone with a criminal background or contacts, because other than his victims few people knew of Magnussen's blackmail hobby.

When the police took their first tottering steps along the road to solving a murder they nearly always began with the victim's inner circle, murderers being statistically more likely to be someone known to the victim. With whom had Mary associated that closely? So many variables; so many layers of lies. He had to make certain assumptions in order to form his theories, but he had so little data against which to weigh those assumptions for validity that it felt very like guessing. He hated guessing. Still. Whinging about it wouldn't help.

People close to Mary, then. His best and currently only available source of that information was the notes he made while carrying out his best man responsibilities. It was fortunate that he neglected to delete them from his computer, because he'd wiped the information about the guests from his brain at the earliest opportunity. He opened the file containing the guest list and combed through it, taking each of Mary's guests in turn, snooping through their social media contacts, and while it took him a good share of the next hour and a half he found nothing exceptional or suspicious about any of them until he reached the ex-boyfriend. David Helser.

Treacherous lovers were notoriously rich sources of information for enemies; Helser was self-evidently no criminal prodigy himself, but would he turn to someone who was? Someone who would pay for information? A search of his banking records turned up nothing, however: No extraordinary debts or deposits other than the paycheck from his work as assistant manager of a dry cleaning shop, and Sherlock, in replaying their admittedly brief interactions, recalled nothing to suggest anger or vindictiveness toward Mary. On the contrary, the man was clearly still smitten with her, jealous of John, and would have been delighted to resume the affair.

Bridesmaids…No luck there. Janine Hawkins…Janine was the closest thing to a girlfriend Mary had and she worked for Magnussen, yet she'd 'dated' Sherlock for a month and still not told Mary about their dalliance, such as it was. Eager, salacious gossip about men: Wasn't that de rigueur between female friends? Virtually mandatory? If Janine and Mary weren't close enough for that sort of idiot yammering there was no reason to think that Janine had any insight into Mary's criminal history that she'd carried to her boss. Besides, Sherlock had successfully tricked her not only into dating him, but into believing that he was proposing marriage to her. Clearly had no idea who'd cold-cocked her the night of the shooting: I'll give your love to John and Mary, she said to him when she visited his hospital room, and while admittedly it was an odd thing to say-John had been at the hospital non-stop and Mary visited regularly-it also didn't argue for a high degree of penetration on Janine's part.

In frustration he leant back in the chair, forgetting-again-to guard himself, and the resulting stab in his ribs made him grunt and go white with pain. His timing was particularly poor: John was just coming up the steps with the shopping, looking tired and drawn. Sherlock was not the only one who'd been sleeping a lot since his discharge from hospital: The time John spent virtually living there, combined with his unresolved confusion and distress over Mary, left him wrung out and exhausted.

Now he set the bags on the kitchen table and glanced over at Sherlock, who composed his expression as well as he could.

"You okay?" John asked.

"No," Sherlock admitted.

John considered him: He couldn't have been up for more than an hour or so, but he was clearly fatigued and in pain, compensating as he sat, and it didn't take a consulting detective to see the paper cup of untouched meds. In addition to making Sherlock sleepy, at effective doses the painkillers took the edge off his mental acuity, and John suspected that he was also wary of becoming dependent on them, caution for which John honoured him even though medically he knew that his friend's concern was unsound and even at cross-purposes to his recovery. He'd already provided Sherlock with the facts, however, and berating him not only wouldn't help but was virtually guaranteed to be counterproductive.

John washed his hands at the kitchen sink, then approached Sherlock. "Let's have a look," he said.

The procedure was routine by now: John was assiduous about inspecting the incision twice each day, and Sherlock held his t-shirt out of the way so John could peel the dressing back and peer critically at the nearly 25 cm-long wound and its line of staples. There was still some bruising at the proximal end in particular, but no heat or redness and it was healing to John's satisfaction.

"It burns under my shoulder," Sherlock offered, when John sat back, "and inside feels…wrong. I don't think they put everything back where it's supposed to be."

John smiled. "They did," he said, "but the guy was in there rooting around with both hands. That sensation will resolve eventually."

"You mean live with it."

"No, I mean it's normal. So's the pain, but the better we control it the easier your recovery will be. You won't do yourself any favors by skipping doses, and you have to let me know what you're feeling so I can manage it."

A non-committal grunt that made no promises was all he got in reply to that.

"Have I mentioned how lucky you are that the pain's not far worse?"

"No more than fifty times a day," Sherlock said.

"It doesn't help from where you're sitting," John said, "but I can't tell you how glad I am that you drew Bramlage. He studied in the States. In Chicago."

Sherlock wasn't interested in the surgeon's CV. "I can't walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without running out of air," he said.

"Also normal," John told him. "It'll be a couple more weeks before that's not the case."

"Should I still be sleeping so much?"

"You should be sleeping more."

"Boring."

"What about the incision itself? How's that feel? Sore?"

"Yes," Sherlock said. "Where it's not numb."

"Yeah," John said. "The numbness might be permanent, or it might resolve eventually. Ready to have the staples out, though?" he asked.

Sherlock blinked in surprise. "Beyond ready."

"Take those, then," John said of the meds, and Sherlock, his work on the wedding guest list at a standstill anyway, complied without objection.

"The light's better here than in your room," John decided. "Go lie down on the sofa," he added, when he'd helped Sherlock to his feet. He washed up and put the shopping away, giving the painkillers time to take effect. Then he collected his equipment, sat on the coffee table, woke Sherlock, and took him through the process: Sherlock was far more tolerant of these procedures when he knew what to expect, so John explained the three Betadine swabs, showed him the staple remover and the adhesive strips that would replace the staples, and ended by warning him that when the staples were out he needed to be careful not to open the incision with incautious movement. "It's not supposed to hurt," he added about the removal process as he drew on a pair of blue exam gloves. "It might tug or sting a bit, but they look in good shape and ought to come out pretty easily. Rest your right arm here, out of the way." He patted the end of the sofa.

Sherlock braced for the first staple while trying not to look as though he was bracing for it. "Okay?" John asked when it was out.

"Mm," Sherlock said noncommittally, but John's technique was deft and gentle, so when three more staples went by the board in the same painless fashion he returned to the problem of Magnussen's source. "Mary's friends," he began.

John frowned. "Yes?"

"Other than who came to the wedding. Who does she see?"

"No one," John said. "We hardly go out."

"Not 'we,'" Sherlock said. "Mary. Who are her friends? Who is she close to?"

"No one."

"No one?"

"She doesn't 'go out,' not like you mean," John said as he worked. "Besides, with the baby…" That was a sore point, and he stopped.

Sherlock pressed on. "There's no one she emails, or phones, or stays in contact with, gossips with?"

"I know what you mean," John said. "And no, there isn't. She's friendly with the neighbors and people at work, but there's no one really close, like a girlfriend or anything. I suppose Janine's the nearest thing, but they don't see each other that much."

"Janine didn't even tell her I was dating her," Sherlock mused.

"You weren't dating her," John growled. "You were using her. Bit of an expert on that, now." Four staples later he said, "Why are you asking?"

"I want to know the source of Magnussen's information about her," Sherlock said. "It's most likely someone very close to her. None of her guests at the wedding qualify. I checked."

"That what you were doing on the computer?"

"Mm."

"Lean toward me a bit," John said, and Sherlock shifted himself to give John better access to the staples under his right shoulder. "What difference does it make who told him? He knows."

"It might not make any," Sherlock admitted, his voice muffled behind his arm. "But someone with that knowledge about her recognized it as valuable to someone like Magnussen and knew that he deals in that sort of information. That suggests a person who moves in or at least encounters certain social circles."

"Mycroft's."

"Well, yes, but I was thinking more of criminal circles."

"Mycroft's politicians, then."

"I admire your cynicism, John, but think more street-level."

"Didn't look to me like anyone at the wedding fell into that category."

"You were paying even less attention than usual," Sherlock said. "But as it happens, it didn't seem like that to me, either. That's why I wanted another look." He paused, thinking. "Women gossip about men," he continued after a moment. "But Janine didn't tell Mary. Doesn't that seem odd?"

"Not really. Why would a woman admit she was dating you?"

"It would make her look brilliant."

"The word you want is masochistic," John said, dropping the last of the staples into a small sharps container. Using a square of gauze he blotted off the excess antiseptic, then reached for the packet of adhesive strips. "You can shower with these," he said as he applied them, "but they're not as strong as staples and you want to be careful it doesn't dehisce. Open," he added, when Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Be extra careful for the next week when you do your PT, too."

Sherlock sighed. The physical therapy exercises were painful and annoying and the multiple daily sessions left him exasperated and cross, but John had assured him that they were the fastest route to anything like a full recovery, so he imposed them on himself ruthlessly, with a grim persistence that surprised even John, familiar though he was with Sherlock's fortitude.

Once the strips were in place John secured a large gauze dressing over the incision, then peeled off his gloves and helped Sherlock to sit up. "Better, yeah?" he observed, when a flicker of surprise crossed Sherlock's face.

"Much," Sherlock agreed.

"Hungry?" John asked.

"No."

"Good. Then go to bed. Come on." He stood and pushed the coffee table out of the way. Sherlock put up his left arm and John ducked under it and straightened slowly, easing him to his feet. Sherlock hesitated, shook his head. "Dizzy?" John asked. "Slowly, then."

"Got it," Sherlock said after a few paces. "Left, right, repeat," and he made it the rest of the way under his own power. Carefully settling himself on his left side and grateful for the absence of the staples, he closed his eyes but kept an ear cocked toward the kitchen, following John's movements-washing his hands again, making himself lunch-but far from breaking in on Sherlock's thoughts the homely sounds soothed him. As his breathing steadied and his pounding pulse returned to normal, and well before he could resolve any of the questions that tormented him, he sank into sleep.

ooooo

Three hours later Sherlock awoke and again lay listening. The usual muffled urban sounds filtered through the windows but there was only silence from the flat. The absence of aggravating rustling and humming from Mrs. Hudson told him that John was in. Sleeping or reading, most likely. Reluctantly Sherlock sat up. It was impossible to do so or to get out of bed without causing himself pain, and after three hours the last meds he took were nearing the end of their effectiveness. As a rule John wasn't shy about waking him from a sound sleep to take them on schedule, either. For someone so opposed to Sherlock's use of recreational narcotics, his enthusiasm for painkillers bordered on mania.

Just now, though, John was in his chair by the fireplace with an unread magazine in his hand, brooding and staring into the flames. He wanted desperately to know what Sherlock thought was going on, but he was having enough trouble keeping him reined in as it was. The detective tolerated the pain of his injury far better than he did the enforced inactivity and concomitant boredom, and the last thing he needed was another reason not to rest. Instead John let him work at his own pace, up to a point, knowing that as always, Sherlock would share when he could.

He turned when he heard Sherlock enter the kitchen. Sherlock swallowed the meds John left on the kitchen table, then said, "You did say showering's allowed?"

"Yeah. Hang on, I'll get the dressings off. There," John added, when he'd gently peeled off the gauze covering the incisions.

Sherlock hesitated. The thought of going through the whole routine daunted him, but then he drew himself up resignedly and limped into the bathroom. He felt marginally better once he was cleaned up, and he carefully dressed himself in pajama bottoms and a clean t-shirt with slightly less grief than the last time he tried it. Progress. John tapped the jamb, came in with a clean dressing and taped him up again, then left him alone.

There was half of a ham sandwich waiting on the kitchen table when Sherlock emerged again, and although he gave serious consideration to ignoring it he ultimately decided that it was easier to stop and eat than carry on all the way to the living room. Besides, it would be one less thing to dismay John. Too hard to get in and out of the chair, though, so he stood there and ate reluctantly, then shuffled to the living room table and opened his laptop. For a minute or two he sat panting, then asked, "Your mobile phone account. Which of you pays the bills for that?"

"We split it," John said, and Sherlock displayed a flash of impatience.

"No, which of you actually goes online and makes the payment each month?"

"Oh. Mary, usually."

"Usually?"

"Always, I guess. She says it makes her feel more in the loop. Why?"

"Do you know how to access it?"

"Sure," John said. "It's a joint account. Uh, the user name is my email address, and the password's-" He stopped.

"What?"

"Watsons814." The month and year of his wedding, now another reminder of what he'd lost. "Why, what are you looking for?"

Sherlock answered with another question. "The lock code for her phone is two four seven two, correct?"

Bafflement. "How do you know that?"

Sherlock woke the computer, found the website, and typed the username and password without comment while John watched over his shoulder. "What are you looking for?" he asked again.

"There's nothing here," Sherlock decided with a frown. "Tell me about the clinic's mobile phone policy."

"Their…?"

"Every office has one. Come on."

"Uh…Well, we're not allowed to have the ringer on when we're on duty. Is that what you mean?"

"But the phone can remain on your person?"

"Yeah, sure. They don't make you turn them in or anything. The ringer just has to be off, or the phone has to be in airplane mode or on vibrate."

"Where does Mary keep hers?"

"Pocket of her smock, usually," John said. "Sherlock-"

The doorbell rang: Mrs. Hudson's, because Sherlock destroyed his own. "Dammit," John said. "That's the electrician. Something about the sconces. I promised Mrs. Hudson I'd supervise."

"You don't know anything about electrical repair."

"I know what a sconce is," John replied. "Here's your phone" -moving it to within his reach- "I'll have mine on. Call me if you need anything."

Before John reached the landing Sherlock was texting. Baker St. Now. Avoid John. Four minutes later he heard Bill Wiggins sidling up the stairs. This would represent suspicious promptitude if Wiggins hadn't already posted himself a day ago and at Sherlock's request in Baker Street, a block south of the flat. Just before Wiggins stepped in Sherlock sat up straighter and did what he could to appear perfectly healthy and alert.

It was effort wasted. Wiggins blinked in surprise at the sight of him. "Oi, Shezza," he said, approaching, "I got somethin' for pain in 'ere somewheres…" He patted his pockets in turn. "Let you 'ave the first one 'alf price, seein' it's you."

"I live with a doctor," Sherlock pointed out. "And he doesn't cut my drugs with talcum powder."

"Oh, yeah, right. In that case, you wanna share?"

"No."

"Well, I ain't sucking up to no medico, now, am I?" Wiggins sulked.

Sherlock sighed and picked up his wallet. "Thirty pounds," he said, holding up the notes between his fore and middle fingers. "Please tell me that's enough to make you shut up and listen."

"Ample, mate," Wiggins said eagerly, lighting up.

"Don't call me that. The Royal Free Hospital clinic. You know it?"

"Yeah, sure." Wiggins brightened still more. "Me and my mates-"

"Don't care," Sherlock cut him off. "Mary Watson works there. I want to see the contents of her phone. You will find the best pickpocket you know to pose as a patient there. I don't care what he claims as a complaint as long as it can be attempted to be believed. Hep C should do it. She keeps the phone in the pocket of her clinic smock. When you have the phone you will access the app list in her settings, then take a screen shot and email the images to me. Then you will do the same for the call history. Repeat those instructions."

"Well, let's see," Wiggins said slowly. "Mickey's the best dip north of the river. 'E likes to do business by Saint Pancras, an' that's on the way, or as near as. So I find 'im, offer to cut 'im in, and then we goes up to the clinic where we find Mrs. Watson and liberate 'er mobile, like. I make a snap of 'er app list an' 'er call history an' pass it on to you."

"When you've finished with that, pick up a burner with a prepaid plan and bring it back here." He passed Wiggins another twenty pound note. "I hope it goes without saying that you can't allow Mary to see you. Does it?"

"Does it what?"

"Go without saying."

"She'll never even know I was there," Wiggins said. "I'm like a ghost who stalks-"

"Shut up. When you've finished you will delete the screen shots you take and the emails you send. Clear?"

"Clear."

"Do you have any questions?"

"Yeah, mate-I mean, yeah, I do. What if 'er phone's password-protected?"

"The code is two four seven two," Sherlock said. Wiggins' lips moved as he committed the number to memory. "Shall I write all four digits down?" Sherlock asked dryly.

"No, I got it," Wiggins said. He paused briefly, but Sherlock fixed him with a look of cold reserve and Wiggins wasn't bold enough to say anything else, so he departed without further comment.

Once he'd gone Sherlock sagged visibly; he used most of what was left of his energy to relocate to his fireside chair, where he was awoken not quite an hour later by the ringing of his phone: Wiggins.

"Yes," he said.

"Did you get it?"

"Yes," Sherlock lied. "Wait." He opened his email and glanced through the screen shot of the app list. One immediately leapt out at him: LineToo, which he knew to be a cloud-based app for adding a second line to a mobile phone. This was how Mary maintained contact with someone-he didn't know who-without John being aware, because it didn't work through their regular mobile network and therefore would never be billed to it. Mary would have provided a credit card number-most likely of an account John knew nothing about-to the service and John would never know the difference.

"Go to the phone's home page," Sherlock said. "Look for something called LineToo."

After a pause Wiggins said, "Got it."

"Open it."

"It wants a password. Same as the other one? Two four seven two?"

"Try it."

"No go, Shezza. Maybe it wants letters an' numbers."

"Try 'a-g-r-a-two four seven two.' If that doesn't work-"

"I'm in," Wiggins said. "Now what?"

"Find the app's call history," Sherlock said, "and send me a screen shot."

A few minutes later his phone chimed with the incoming email and he glanced down the list of calls. Not very many, maybe two or three each month, on average, and always to and from the same number. He sent the image to the printer.

"Clear out those photos and the emails you just sent and get rid of the phone," he told Wiggins. "Return it to the exam room and leave it on the floor so she'll think it fell out of her pocket. Don't forget the burner." He ended the call.

ooooo

When John reached the landing and saw that Sherlock had a visitor he stopped in surprise, but that shifted abruptly to annoyance when he recognized Bill Wiggins. In the young man's hand was a paper shopping bag, the sort with cord handles, and he was chatting with Sherlock, who was in his fireside chair. To be strictly accurate,Wiggins was chatting at him. Sherlock was stuffing a couple of bank notes into his wallet and John drew the obvious conclusion.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded, and pointed at the paper bag. "I swear to God, if you're bringing him drugs I will drop you head first down the stairwell."

"Afternoon, Doc," Wiggins said politely. "You're looking well."

"What's in the damned bag?"

"Supper," Wiggins said, approaching with an ingratiating air and holding the handles of the paper bag apart so John could see the styrofoam containers inside. "An' it ain't for Shezza. It's for you." He carried it to the kitchen table and pulled the cartons out. Nothing to see here. Just some innocent Chinese takeaway. "Shezza said you might like a night off a' cookin', is all."

John continued to bristle suspiciously. Glared at Wiggins, then at Sherlock. "This was your idea."

A shrug. "Why is that so hard to believe?"

"History," John said.

"No, 'e did," Wiggins said. "'E says you been runnin' yourself ragged, carin' for 'im an' all, an' 'e's that grateful-"

"Get out," John snapped.

"Never embellish a lie," Sherlock advised.

"Noted," Wiggins said, then smiled obsequiously at John and put his hand out, palm up. "I ain't the Red Cross, am I?"

John stared at him, then reached into his pocket. "For God's sake," he growled.

"No," Sherlock said.

John glanced at him, then at Wiggins, then back at Sherlock. "You already paid him?" he said with renewed outrage.

Wiggins was unapologetic. "Hey, you can't blame a bloke for tryin', Doc," he said. "Some of us 'ave to score our own meds. We can't all 'ave a doctor in residence, and there's some selfish buggers that ain't 'eard 'bout sharin' bein' a virtue." This with a significant look at Sherlock.

"Thank you, Billy," Sherlock said smoothly. "That'll be all for now."

Wiggins glanced at John, still standing in the kitchen with his arms folded, glowering at him. "Yeah, I'll be goin'," he said. "Big 'do at the palace, anyways, an' I'm late." He strolled off as John glared after him.

"John," Sherlock said, before John could bitch about Wiggins. He had to repeat himself twice more before he got John's attention, then held out the printed screen shots of Mary's phone. "I need you to look at these."

John took the pages, sat down opposite Sherlock. "What are they?"

"They're screen shots taken from Mary's phone. Look at the call histories. Do you recognize all those numbers?"

"Not really," John said, leafing through them. "But smart phones mean no one has to learn numbers any more. This one's the clinic, though. That's Mrs. Phillips across the way. This one's mine, obviously."

"Make a note of the ones you can identify," Sherlock said.

John found a pen and when he finished scribbling notes in the margins Sherlock said, "My laptop. Look up the numbers you didn't recognize." John eyed him but did as he was asked-it was obvious that he wasn't going to get an answer anyway-and he handed Sherlock the list when he'd finished.

Sherlock leafed through it. "Are all these legitimate?" he asked. "People or businesses she'd have the usual reasons for calling? Ones that you're familiar with?"

"Yeah, why? What are you doing?"

Sherlock didn't answer directly, of course. "Look up this number," he said, and read it off.

"London," John said, having entered it in the search engine. "Unlisted."

Sherlock motioned for silence, then dialed the number using the disposable phone. A woman's voice answered. Suspicious. "Hello?"

Sherlock clapped the phone closed and John watched in dismay as he went out of focus again: There was no telling how long he'd be gone when he did that. "Sherlock, who did you just call? Who was that? What the hell was Wiggins doing here?"

Sherlock refocused on him with an effort. "Mary dialed that number four times last month, and received three incoming calls from it."

John shrugged. "And?"

Sherlock scanned through the printed images again, then looked up. "You don't recognize it?"

"No. Why, whose is it? Where'd you get it? It's not on this call history."

"She made and received calls to that number only through a voice-over-internet app. Never through the Vodafone account she shares with you."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Look," Sherlock said, and John got up to peer over his shoulder at the printouts. Sherlock showed him the other emailed photo, the one of Mary's app list. "That's a screen shot of the apps on Mary's phone. You see the one called LineToo? It's a cloud service that allows users to establish a second line on a mobile phone. Any calls she made or received on that line wouldn't show up in the call history of the Vodafone account that you share, because it uses voice-over-internet technology, not mobile phone towers." He showed John a second page. "Her LineToo call history. Just that one number."

"Well…Whose number is it?"

"Janine Hawkins's."

"I don't get it," John said. "She's keeping a private second line on her phone to talk to Janine? What for?"

"I'm not sure," Sherlock admitted, unhappy about it. "But we're making bricks, and information is our clay."


– End Chapter 3 –

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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