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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 5

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



A little before noon Sherlock emerged from his room, very eager for his meds, and went straight for the kitchen cabinet where they were kept. It was unusual for John not to have woken him to take the next dose, but it didn't surprise him, either: John had a full plate last night. A glance into the main room revealed the envelope on the end table beside John's chair and John himself, insensible under a blanket on the sofa and obviously having made a late night of it.

Sherlock made coffee and sat at the kitchen table, thinking and feeling the meds kick in. Twenty-seven minutes later John stirred and sat up with a groan. An hour after that, showered, shaved, and looking somewhat more human, he joined Sherlock at the kitchen table.

"You okay?" they asked each other at the same time.

"Peachy," Sherlock said.

"Yeah. What I was going to say."

"The thumb drive," Sherlock said. Straight to business.

John got up, took it from the mantel, and handed it over.

Thoughtfully Sherlock turned the little device over in his hands, then set it down on the table between them. John watched him closely, wondering what he was thinking, but didn't prompt him. After a few minutes Sherlock said, "This writing."

"Yeah?"

"Does anything about it strike you as interesting?"

"All capital letters," John said. "That's normal for initials. Only the first two letters are followed by a period. That's all I can see. Is that interesting?"

Sherlock didn't answer. "AGRA," he muttered.

"You think it's significant, that only the first two letters have periods?"

"Possibly. It's not her name, so it might be a title…or…a job description. A slogan…a motto…a nickname. Make a list: What can you think of with those initials?"

"Not much besides the city in India," John said. He retrieved his laptop from the living room and set it up on the kitchen table. "Besides that there's the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association…Although, thinking about it, that one's probably a dead end…Looks like two American towns by that name, in Oklahoma and Kansas. Couple of agricultural supply companies, one in the States and one in Namibia." He looked up. "That's about it."

"Take AG first," Sherlock said. "Everything you can think of that's abbreviated that way, no matter how unlikely it might seem."

They each scribbled their ideas on scraps of paper, then read them off in turn. "Avant garde," Sherlock said, "elemental silver, algebraic graph, Australia Group, aktiengesellschaft, automotive group."

John offered "Antigen, air-to-ground, adjutant general, army group, anastamosis group, annoying git. "Pretty sure we can cross off that last one," he said. "Any of those sound likely?"

"Not yet. RA." Then, when he'd completed his list: "Restricted area, restricted access, Rankine scale, radium, rate of appearance, Republic of Armenia, rechstanwalt."

"Gesundheit."

"It means 'attorney' in German. Now yours."

"Regular army, radial artery, right atrium, research associate, regional anesthesia, receptor antagonist-"

"Forget the medical terms," Sherlock said, displaying his first flash of impatience.

"Why? She's been pretending to be a nurse for almost two years."

Sherlock reconsidered. "Conceded."

"Royal Artillery," John added. "Royal Army, Raufoss, Rebel Alliance."

"Rebel Alliance?"

"Pop culture reference. Star Wars. We watched it. Sort of." Blank stare. "You kept pausing it to point out all the scientific mistakes."

"The one where the spaceships make engine noise in the vacuum of space?"

"They all do that, but yeah. What about the military references?" John asked. "Assassins don't just grow on trees. They're almost always military-trained."

"There's no record of her having served."

"Well…maybe Elizabeth Camden isn't her real name, either."

"It is. I checked. Well, I had it checked."

"And you're sure she's American, then?"

"The CIA was. They'll recruit foreigners as assets or moles, but they don't hire them as agents and won't accept someone who approaches them first. I imagine she received her firearms training from them." He reached over-carefully, with his left hand-and took the list from John. "What's Raufoss?"

"An ammunition company."

Sherlock looked at him curiously. "Making sniper rounds."

"Yeah. How'd you know that?"

"Something Sutko said. The man I saw yesterday. Tell me about it."

"Well, it's a popular ammo," John said. "The Americans-" He stopped. Sherlock was staring at him, suddenly tense and expectant, and John knew they were both thinking the same thing: An American. An assassin. Raufoss.

"What about the Americans?" Sherlock asked.

John braced himself and continued, giving Sherlock everything he knew about the ammunition. "The Americans use it a lot. Their Barrett sniper rifles take it. It's made by a Norwegian company called Nammo. Well, it is now, but it was originally made by Raufoss Ammunition, or whatever the word for 'ammunition' is in Norwegian, and guys still refer to them as RA rounds. It's armour-piercing. Fifty cal with a tungsten core. It's used to detonate unexploded ordnance, among other things. The International Red Cross keeps trying to have it banned for anti-personnel use, but there aren't actually any laws or treaties against it, and it's popular as hell with snipers."

"Why would the Red Cross care what you use to shoot someone in the head?" Sherlock asked. "He won't be any more or less dead."

"Yeah, but a twenty-two long rifle cartridge won't take out the three guys standing next to your target," John said. "The Raufoss is an incendiary, explosive round. It has to go thirty to forty centimetres through the target before it explodes, which in practice means it'll usually penetrate the body and exit before it detonates, but at the right angle it can travel that far before it exits. Then when it detonates the fallout-the fragmentation-can kill anyone within about a thirty degree vector around the exit wound."

"You've seen that?"

"Never had a front-row seat, but I've seen the results afterward, yeah."

"The assassination of the mobster and his 'bulls'-his bodyguards-in Irkutsk," Sherlock said.

"Yeah?"

"Only one round was fired, but it killed all three of them. 'A single RA round,' Sutko said."

"Jesus," John said, deeply shocked, and leant back in the chair. "That fits, doesn't it?" he said.

"It's a plausible candidate. We should keep it in mind." Sherlock turned again to the list. "A.G…" He crossed off a couple of obvious non-starters. "Attorney general, army group, air-to-ground, adjutant general," he said.

"Attorney general's a lawyer," John said.

"Obviously." Sherlock drew a line through it. The military associations appeared increasingly likely now. "Army group?"

"Uh, a set of field armies," John said. "The biggest field organization under a single commander, like a field marshal or a full general."

Sherlock wrote a question mark next to it. "Air-to-ground?"

"Aircraft ordnance," John said. "Anything shot from an aircraft to the surface. Guns, bombs, missiles."

"Adjutant general."

"A senior officer. Usually a captain. They get field rank-seniority over all the other captains. The colonel-the commanding officer-commands a battle, but the AG controls it. He's the CO's personal staff officer. That's only in battle, though. Most of the time they're just, I don't know. Administrators. They take the daily workload off the CO."

"A secretary?"

"In a way. A secretary who can help plan and carry out a battle, though, and they don't take dictation. Does any of this help?" he asked impatiently. "Raufoss? A.G.? We're guessing. Even if we knew what it meant, how would that help? What would it help?"

Sherlock shook his head. "I don't know." God, he'd been saying that so often lately. "Without knowing what it means, I can't say whether the knowledge will be valuable if we have it." He started to sit up straighter but grunted in pain and at last gave in to his frustration. "How much longer-"

"I don't know," John replied crossly, "but if you'd stop poncing about the continent like you have a death wish you might actually give yourself a chance to heal."

Sherlock mastered his impatience. What was important now was that they were on the right track. He knew what it felt like, that sensation that the hunt was on. "We're getting close, John. Think: In 2007 Elizabeth Camden broke a contract with the Russian mafia and murdered six innocent people and three gangsters. The Russians were closing in on her. She needed a new identity that would stand up to the scrutiny of some of the most dangerous people in the world and she needed it fast. And she got it. How? Where? Who would a desperate assassin on the run turn to?"

John didn't have the first clue.

"How would she pay for it?" Sherlock asked. "John, she deceived Mycroft with that ID. The number of people who could provide her with something of that quality is incredibly limited. It would be expensive."

"How expensive?" John asked.

"Six figures, at least," Sherlock said. "Listen: Melas turned up nothing in her accounts that would give her the means to pay cash for something like that. Her CIA pension in late 2006 was worth less than fifty thousand pounds. She's got a little over sixteen thousand combined in her savings and current accounts. She was paid every two weeks by the CIA, but since February of 2007-when Elizabeth Camden died-the agency stopped all payments. Prior to that there were some irregular deposits for her black bag work for the CIA and MI6 made by shell companies of those agencies. A few other irregular wire transfer deposits that trace to shells in places like Oman, Bolivia, and Guyana. Those represent her free-lancing. None of it adds up to more than a hundred thousand pounds or so. Not enough to comfortably spend it all on a new identity and live on a nurse's salary."

"Maybe she figured it was worth it not to be killed by Russians."

"Or maybe she didn't pay cash for it, or at least not for the full price."

"What, she charged it on Visa?"

"What if she bartered her skill for it?"

"You mean went to work for whoever got her the identity? As what? Somebody's personal assassin? Who the hell hires snipers to follow them-"

Sherlock looked up, and their eyes meet.

"Oh, shit," John said.

"Moriarty."

John got up, paced the kitchen in agitation. "No. No way. Sherlock, I can't…Those people he strapped to blocks of C4. That business at the pool. You and Moriarty on the roof. The sniper watching all that go down. That was Mary. That's what you think?" A gust of rage seized him and he snatched up the drive and threw it hard into the next room, then sank back into the chair and dropped his head in his hands.

"John." His distress was killing Sherlock, but there was nothing he could say or do to fix it.

"That's what you think," John said again. "Jesus, it's what I think." He gave a bitter laugh and sat back. "Well, she was right about that thing. Don't read what's on it in front of her, because I won't love her when I'm through. I thought she meant the data inside it, but she meant literally what's on it."

"She was already in London for her MI6 work," Sherlock said. "Why not go to the world's foremost consulting criminal? Who else could arrange a deception so iron-clad that it could fool my brother?"

"Wait," John said. "Hang on. You said Mycroft's people intercepted the sniper targeting me at Barts. That wasn't Mary."

"No. Unfortunately neither Mycroft nor I suspected the existence of a second watcher. Mary Morstan. Moriarty's personal 'staff officer.' Adjutant General RA. The dragon guarding the throne."

"Great," John said bitterly. "Poetry."

"If she had eyes and ears on him at Barts and at the pool it would explain everything she's done since his death."

John stopped and stared at him as though he was mad. "Are you…? Explain everything? How the hell does it explain anything?"

"John. Mary's a psychopath. Psychopaths don't respect anyone they can manipulate. Moriarty was even more so, so he would have been one of the very few people immune to her and therefore someone she could respect, maybe even esteem. If she had eyes and ears on him at the pool and at Barts she'd have heard everything he said to me. If she was very highly placed in his organization-and the fact that he relied on her sniper skills suggests that she was-then she'd have been privy to his plans in any case."

"Yeah? And?"

"If she wanted revenge for Moriarty's death, if she knew that I survived the rooftop, and if she wanted to carry out his plans for me, she would act exactly as she has for the last two years. She'd insert herself into your life, encourage you to forgive me when I returned, encourage our friendship as much as possible. Why? Because-"

He stopped in mid-gallop, struck suddenly by an idea. So sorry your family couldn't be here to see this. Last week he'd still taken that message at face value, as a reference to Mary's actual family, but what if the truth was more obscure than that? What if the 'family' about whom Magnussen was needling her wasn't literal but symbolic? What if it was James Moriarty? Magnussen placed his darts with exquisite precision to maximize his victims' psychological anguish. If he knew that Mary's connection to Moriarty was deeper than that between employee and employer, there could be no better way to distress her and no better time to do it than her marriage to the best friend of the man she held responsible for Moriarty's death-where it would be read by the very man she blamed.

A. . Raufoss. An armour-piercing sniper round. Oh, the symbolism was too perfect: Mary insinuated herself into her target's life-pierced his armour, as it were-and then killed him. No, she'd rarely have to go to the extreme of marrying or even dating her targets but this was a special case, and if Moriarty meant something as profound to her as family, then going to these lengths to avenge him made perfect sense.

"Sherlock," John prompted. "What were you going to say? 'Because' what?"

But there was no response and it was obvious to John that he wasn't going to get one. Suddenly something occurred to him: He sat up and drew his phone from his pocket. Woke the screen and went to the keypad function as though he was going to make a call, but instead studied the numbers. "A, G, R, A," he murmured to himself. "Two, four, seven, two. That's how you knew her phone's unlock code." He pocketed the phone and slumped back in the chair, despairing. "How does this change anything? I mean, besides making it worse?"

Sherlock was only half-way back, still distracted. "Knowing is never worse, John," he said vaguely. "Reality is the same whether we perceive it or not. Nothing has changed except what we know."

"Great. Then tell me what you were going to say. 'Because' what? Why the hell is she doing all this?"

I will burn the heart out of you. If he'd ignored his brother, if he'd made contact with John after the 'suicide,' if he'd not been so damned set on showing off, he would not have delivered John up to Mary. Fallout. What they were experiencing now was the fallout not just of his pursuit and destruction of Moriarty-which he could live with-but of his failure to include John in his plans, and he failed to do that because he was crap at friendship. One word, Sherlock. That's all I would have needed.

"Sherlock."

Sherlock looked up, met his eyes, and John was shocked by the completely unexpected pain he saw there.

Sherlock said, "Because I made a mistake."


– End Chapter 5 –

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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