email us
site front page
site search

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 9

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



Merry Christmas, Sherlock snarled, snapping up the pistol he'd just snatched from John's coat pocket. As he brought it to bear on Magnussen's forehead John reacted as automatically and violently as if it was aimed at his own, slapping Sherlock's arm aside and twisting the gun from his grasp even as he swept Sherlock's feet and dumped him flat on his back. So focused was Sherlock on Magnussen and so fast did John move that Sherlock couldn't fully break his fall: His head bounced on the cold flagstones.

John was still in motion, stripping the slide off the gun and tossing it away from himself in two pieces as he stepped between Sherlock and the soldiers and raised his arms in surrender. He could hear again-the helicopter and Mycroft's horrified shouts at the soldiers to hold their fire-and he realized it was his own voice yelling at Sherlock to get his hands up, too. Then someone hit him hard between the shoulder blades and he was forced to his knees, had his hands zip-tied behind his back, and he was hauled to his feet and sat on the low patio wall. Sherlock got the same treatment. His feet scraped the flagstones as the soldiers half-carried, half-dragged him to the wall, where they installed him next to John.

John had seen Sherlock in many moods, but he'd always been master of himself. Not now. There was no reason left in him. Just rage and fear that radiated from him like heat off asphalt in August. His teeth were bared like an animal's and as his head cleared he focused all his attention on Magnussen, who was being hustled back into the house.

The helicopter landed and shut down, discharging Mycroft, who strode past them without a glance, following Magnussen inside.

Unfortunately the captives had been sat facing the glass-walled house where Mycroft had gone into conference with Magnussen, and while Sherlock was eminently capable of retaining a goal even when it was out of his immediate sight, the fact that he could still see the object of his hatred did nothing to mitigate his fury. He was shaking with anger and the effects of adrenaline, and to his expression of impotent rage was added contempt for his brother, who was obviously cravenly negotiating with the man who held him pinned under his thumb.

Although initially shaken by having a gun fired off next to his face, Magnussen had recovered his cold reptilian mien and it was impossible for John to determine the tenor of the conversation. The two men gave nothing away through gestures and body language-until Mycroft poured a tumbler of scotch. Even from where he sat John could see Mycroft's hand shake as he offered it to the blackmailer. Was it deliberate? John doubted it: Sherlock just scared the living hell out of his brother.

After about five minutes of discussion Magnussen returned the laptop and extended his hand to Mycroft, who glanced down at it, then accepted the handshake. Sherlock looked away for the first time.

Mycroft emerged from the house and approached the commando captain, not sparing a glance for his brother and John. "Get them out of here," he said, and walked off to the waiting helicopter.

"Mr. Holmes?" the captain said, approaching. "Dr. Watson? Come with me, please?"

He led them, still zip-tied and flanked by two other soldiers, around the outside of the house to the driveway, where they were loaded into a glistening black Humvee.

After about fifteen kilometres it became evident to John that the soldier driving the car was working up his nerve to say something, and finally the man broke the tense silence. "Dr. Watson."

"Yes?"

"You were at Delaram in 2009."

John was in no sort of mood to talk, but he was civil to a fellow soldier. "Yeah, sorry, but I'd rather not talk about it, if you don't mind."

"No, sir," the captain said. "I understand. Mate of mine was there. In the fifth vehicle back. Told me what happened. I just wanted to say thank you."

The rest of the ride was passed in heavy silence. John and Sherlock were both seething and Sherlock, for one, had developed the most appalling headache.

After some ninety minutes they reached the outskirts of London, and John was very surprised when their route took them not to MI5 or even the Met but to Baker Street. Once the car stopped at the kerb the soldier in the passenger seat clipped the ties binding their wrists and said, "Sorry for that, sir. Orders. Mr. Holmes wanted to make sure that you arrived intact."

Sherlock hadn't spoken a word since 'Merry Christmas.' He went straight into the house, straight upstairs. John started after him, but he hadn't taken two strides toward the front door before his phone rang.

He assumed the caller was Mary, still out at the Holmestead and wondering where he was, but no: Mycroft. Dammit. Of course Mycroft would be furious with both of them. Well, John was in no mood to take any friction from him, either. He was looking for people to blame and Mycroft would do nicely, with his asinine defence of Magnussen, so he took the call, pacing the pavement in front of the flat as he spoke.

Mycroft's voice was as smooth and urbane as ever, but he was angrier than John had ever heard him. "I have, not unreasonably, come to rely upon you to mitigate some of Sherlock's wilder excesses, Dr. Watson," he began. "If, as now seems to be the case, the only thing I can rely on you to do is to act as an accessory before and after the fact, then perhaps your utility has run its course. I've a mind to put an end to this little Boy's Own adventure the two of you have been engaged in."

"I'd like to see you try," John said grimly.

"No, you most assuredly would not like that," Mycroft snapped, "and neither would Sherlock. MI6 has already proposed that he take an assignment abroad; I could insist on it. In fact, if word of this episode tonight gets out, I might have to."

"You insist on him doing a lot of things, Mycroft, and they don't get done without his cooperation. And mine."

"Do you know why I'm confident that Sherlock will remain upstairs during this call, and why I'm confident that he didn't go straight out the back of the building to return to Appledore and finish the job?"

"What's your point? You have people watching. And?"

"Watching. Not intervening. But they could, and they would."

"And you think, what, that you could just bundle him onto an airplane against his will? Force him into working for MI6? Have you met him? How well do you even know your own brother?"

"Better than you, it seems."

"I didn't know he was going to try to kill Magnussen," John snapped.

"QED," Mycroft said.

"You son of a bitch. That's really rich, coming from you. You watched me spend two bloody years mourning his death and you were in on the whole thing from the start. For all I knew the two of you had tonight planned, too."

"Sherlock has a high opinion of your intelligence, Doctor. I'm afraid I don't perceive it myself. Why, knowing what you do about my efforts to keep him away from Magnussen, would you draw that conclusion?"

"Just thinking like a genius," John said. "Anyone with a positive IQ and Magnussen's boot on his neck ought to jump at the chance to help Sherlock defeat the guy. Of course, I didn't factor in that you like playing master of the universe too much to do anything that practical. Whatever was I thinking?"

"Excellent question. What were you thinking? Sherlock obviously asked you to bring your gun to Christmas dinner with his parents, for a start. Or is a sidearm your standard holiday attire?"

"He always asks me to bring the gun!" John shouted, then dropped his voice when he realized that passersby were staring. "That doesn't prove anything. Look, he didn't go there tonight intending to kill Magnussen. I know that much."

"Do you."

"Yeah. I do. Something happened. As soon as Magnussen said there were no vaults-"

"Vaults?" Mycroft scoffed.

"Yeah, vaults. The Appledore vaults. His little…sort of…repository…where he keeps all the evidence he's collected on the people he blackmails. He said they don't exist except in his head. Sherlock expected to be able to trade the computer for the information Magnussen has on Mary and then destroy it. Once Magnussen said there was no physical evidence Sherlock, I don't know. Vapor-locked."

"Which raises another point, does it not?" Mycroft said. "If you're looking for the proximate cause of my brother's existential crisis, you might consult a mirror."

"Me. You're going to make this my fault?"

"Sherlock will do anything for you, and by extension for the woman you married. Even if it kills him. Which, if Magnussen breaks his promise of silence-and we all know blackmailers are inherently trustworthy-tonight's adventure is very likely to do. So congratulations, Dr. Watson: By enabling my brother's excursion you have very effectively increased the power that Magnussen holds over us all."

"Go to hell," John snapped, and rang off. He stamped upstairs, threw his coat over one of the kitchen chairs, and stood there for a moment, talking himself out of a shot of scotch: All he needed was to start drinking and end up like his sister.

"Don't," Sherlock said from the living room, where he was pacing agitatedly.

John gritted his teeth. "Don't what."

"Don't go down your sister's path over this."

"God damn you," John growled in a low voice, and Sherlock stopped in his tracks with a frown. John stepped up to him, pointed to Sherlock's chair. "Sit down," he ordered.

"Why?"

"Because I said so."

That line of reasoning had never worked on Sherlock in his life and now his head went up fractionally-in assessment, because he was wondering just exactly how angry John was, but in his current mood John interpreted it as defiance. "Sherlock," he ground out, "so help me God, if you don't sit down I will put you down."

Sherlock knew he could do it: John's assault on the patio surprised him, but he didn't doubt that even if he'd seen it coming he still would have finished that confrontation on his arse. Besides, while he was fairly confident that John wouldn't actually injure him he'd also never seen him display this sort of hot rage before. He sat down.

John continued to stand glaring at him, breathing hard. "You're a genius, yeah? And I'm just an average idiot." His voice sounded unnatural, distorted by his anger. "So I'm gonna need your help to understand what the hell's going on here. You wanted to get Magnussen off Mary's back. Remove the threat to her, remove the threat to me. That was the plan, right? Right?"

"Yesss." Pissed off.

"Well, then why don't you explain to your pet moron here just exactly how you planned to do that from a prison cell. Because if those soldiers hadn't shot you, that's where you would have ended up. And probably me. And still might, if Magnussen decides to lift a finger."

Sherlock sneered. "No, my dear brother saw to that. Probably offered him an ambassa-"

"God dammit, Sherlock!" John yelled, and Sherlock blinked in surprise. "How could you think that was okay? Three months ago you watched me find out that my wife's a murderer. You knew what that-" He broke off abruptly and looked away, blinking fast, and it was several moments before he could trust himself to speak again. He stood there with his hands at his sides, fists clenched, and when he made eye contact again he was trembling with emotion. "You knew what that did to me. How was this supposed to help, watching you commit murder? Was I supposed to be okay with that? Is that what you thought? You thought Dr. Idiot'll just go back to the suburbs and drive a Volvo and make babies with the assassin? Is that what I was supposed to do after you destroyed yourself in front of me? If they'd shot you…How many more times are you going to take yourself out of my life? Put me through that, you bastard?" Now in spite of his rage-or maybe because of it-tears were running down his face, mortifying Sherlock no less than himself, and he turned away, pressing the heels of his hands hard against his eyes and breathing like he'd run a race. "Fuck."

Sherlock stared at his back, appalled by the intensity of John's emotion, and for the first time that night his own sense of ill-use and righteousness faltered.

John brushed angrily at his face, regaining a fraction of his self-control, then turned to face him again. "No more, Sherlock," he said. "This, what you just tried to do? This is a deal-breaker."

"It was the only way!"

"I'm not talking about Magnussen!" John yelled. "I'm talking about you deciding for me who's in my life. You decide whether I spend two years thinking you're dead. Whether I spend the rest of my life watching you rot in prison, watching you throw away everything you are…" He turned away again, despairing, and after a few seconds said, as though to himself, "Jesus, Sherlock, the waste!"

The naked grief in his voice held Sherlock silent. This degree of intense emotion, and from John, no less, was entirely outside his competence to handle. He had no idea what to say, no idea what to do, no point of reference. In no way was he ashamed of having tried to kill a man, but its wholly unexpected effect on John overfaced and distressed him extremely. Then, too, his own emotions were still far too raw and unfamiliar-an unfathomable mare's nest-for him to confront them effectively. On the other hand he readily accepted the suggestion that he made a strategic error at Appledore, and that was something he could consider with a much greater degree of dispassion and therefore comfort.

"I concede that…" he began coldly, too disconcerted to read the warning in John's expression. "That I let my emotions get the better of me. I failed to consider that my goals would be difficult or impossible to carry out if-"

"The problem's not that you made a tactical mistake," John yelled, "it's that you just shit-canned everything you say you love: your reason, your objectivity-"

"Sorry!" Sherlock shouted back, not because he was but because he couldn't think of anything else to say that had the least hope of stemming John's apparently boundless disappointment in him.

"For what?" John demanded. "What are you sorry for, Sherlock? For having to sit there while I shout at you? For trying to commit murder? What? Tell me." Sulky silence. "If all you're going to do is say what you think I want to hear, then just keep your damned mouth shut."

But Sherlock was incapable of keeping his damned mouth shut. "I'm sorry I'm innately depraved," he snarled.

"Oh, spare me!" John shouted. "Don't give me that self-pity crap, you egomaniacal twat. You're not a killer. You're not even a sociopath. You're Sherlock Goddamned Holmes and you will live up to that!"

"Why?" Now he was defiant.

John stared at him, then said, his voice low and taut, "Because that is what good men do, Sherlock. They live up to themselves. You are the man who lives by his mind and you are too good to throw that away on murder. It is beneath you."

"You've killed people," Sherlock snapped back, embarrassed even as the words left his mouth by the schoolyard quality of the argument.

"I was in a war!" John shouted. "People were shooting at me. At my patients. And don't you dare open your mouth about the cabbie. Does the great student of crime really need me to explain the difference between murder and self-defence? Do I have to define 'imminence' to you? What the hell happened tonight? Magnussen surprised you? That's it? You found out that the big scary blackmailer doesn't even have proof of his accusations. I'm sorry: How is that a bad thing?"

"Do I have to write it down for you?" Sherlock cried. "He knows who Mary used to be! If he's dead that information dies with him."

"I get it! He can put her in prison for the rest of her life. Jesus, Sherlock, do you think maybe prison's where she belongs? You know what she did in Russia and for that you're willing to throw your life away?"

"No," Sherlock shot back. "Not 'throw it away' and not for her."

John understood him: What Sherlock offered tonight-his life and his freedom-was no more than what John would pay for Sherlock's life; no more, in fact, than what he'd already risked many times over the years.

"It's not just about her crimes," Sherlock went on. "It's about what happens when her enemies catch up to her. I can't protect you from that!"

John had heard this theme repeated so often over the last three months that he was sick and bloody tired of it, and this fresh iteration just proved that he wasn't getting through to Sherlock. "Listen to me," he said with a real effort not to yell because that wouldn't help Sherlock hear him. "What Magnussen has on Mary is a threat, but it's a future threat. It's not imminent. We have time to find a way short of you committing murder."

"Oh, for God's sake, John," Sherlock yelled, "where have you been for the last three months? I've tried 'other ways.' Nothing I did even touched Magnussen. How much more time do you want me to give him before he decides that today's the day? Weeks? Years? What do you want your life expectancy to be? Let me know so I can put it in my planner and free up time for other cases!"

"Why would he even do that?" John cried. "You said yourself blackmailers don't have leverage unless they're holding something over your head. Once they pull the trigger they've got nothing!"

"Oh, well," Sherlock said, his voice dripping sarcasm, "I didn't know you were willing to trust your life to the predictability of a blackmailing sadist, but when you put it like that-"

"Of course I don't trust him, dammit, and that's not the point."

"It's exactly the point!"

"No, Sherlock, the point is that murdering people will destroy you!"

That outburst shocked them both into silence: John didn't mean to say it and Sherlock didn't know what to make of it. John had never tried to explain to anyone-not even his therapist-how killing a human being changed a person, nor about the psychological toll it took to regain one's own humanity afterwards. He wasn't up to the task on the fly like this, but if ever he had a reason to try, he had one now.

He lowered himself into his own chair and leant forward, and while he was no calmer than a moment ago he managed not to shout. "Sherlock," he said, his voice low. "You've seen death. Hundreds of times. We both have. You can comb through a murder scene and I can dissect a cadaver and we don't go to pieces because it's our job not to. You've stood over hundreds of bodies and not felt anything and that makes you effective, but you've never stood over a dead man and been the one who put him there. And I am telling you, mate: Whether you're justified or not, there is no such thing as objectivity when a human being is dead by your own hand."

Sherlock looked away coldly and never replied, and for all John knew he'd decided to avoid the whole conflict by 'filtering,' the infuriating process by which he blocked out anything he didn't care to hear-or in this case didn't know how to handle: Sherlock's morbid distrust of emotions left him singularly ill-equipped to cope with a situation in which emotions were running so high on both sides.

Yet his face didn't have that inward-dwelling expression that was usual when he filtered and he was still agitatedly bouncing his knee, something he never did when he prowled the corridors of his 'mind palace.' Somehow his silence felt to John like the beginning of receptiveness, as though he was willing to hear him out and was merely waiting for a direct question that wasn't rhetorical or accusatory. Unfortunately John didn't have any of those ready to hand. With his first gust of rage spent and without a clear direction to pursue he fell silent, and there they remained: each convinced of his inability to adequately convey his fear and anger, and neither aware that he'd already eloquently done so.

ooooo

John had never been so irate with anyone in his life, not even with Sherlock, as infuriating as he often was, nor (with the exceptions of finding him near death with a bullet in his chest and watching him plunge from a rooftop) had he ever been as afraid for him as he'd been at Appledore. And he was angry with Sherlock not just because he'd scared the bloody hell out of him-again-but because he'd abandoned so much of what John admired about him: his self-possession, his resourcefulness, his reason. So much of what made him human. Until a few hours ago the idea that such a feral, animal loss of control was even possible for Sherlock was laughable.

Yet now that he was thinking about it John realized that he'd had hints of the phenomenon in the past, although to a much lesser degree and certainly without such dire consequences. As agile as his mind was, as glibly as he was able to improvise and take things on the half-volley, Sherlock could still be brought to a standstill by something utterly and unexpectedly new if he wasn't already equipped to handle it or hadn't anticipated it. So few things fell into this category that John almost never saw him that way, but he had seen it and it was one of his friend's few tactical weaknesses. Sherlock was so certain of being able to see around corners-and from John's perspective so often did-that when he failed to do so it always created a degree of crisis. Dartmoor was the most dramatic example of his tendency to vapor-lock and then react badly when his self-image and certainty were shaken, but it wasn't the only one John knew of. Even his reaction to the implications of John's best man request was typical of the detective caught completely off his guard. There were people who throve on uncertainty, but Sherlock, a man who kept a sock index, for God's sake, was not one of them. His trenchant observational skills, although a source of pleasure in their own right, also served the crucial purpose of allowing him to gain and keep control by assuring him that regardless of the situation he'd always have enough information to act with decision and efficacy.

And it almost invariably worked. From the day they met, Sherlock won John's respect and admiration as a thinking man who was at his best when things were at their worst: an opponent who was never more dangerous than when he was cornered because he would think not only of a clever way to defeat his enemies, but the clever way. He was cornered tonight, so what changed? Why tonight had his answer to John's question, 'We have a plan, right?' for the first time ever been an unequivocal 'No'? Fear. Throw real fear into the mix, and for the man who could see around corners and knew he'd run out of options, the only remaining question was the scale of the melt-down.

John was not about to blame himself for Appledore, but he wished now that he'd done more to anticipate it, knowing Sherlock's history as he did. You see but you do not observe, Sherlock liked to say, and Christ, was that ever true tonight: He'd seen the signs but not observed them, and still less had he foreseen the implications. Still, even if he had been thinking like a genius, in his wildest imaginings he'd not have guessed that Sherlock would ever resort to murder.

If anger followed hard on the heels of fear for John, however, the same probably applied to Sherlock. Sherlock's unvarying Magnussen-related theme was that the publisher could reveal Mary to her enemies and thereby endanger John. The anxiety this inspired was easy enough for John to grasp; after all, he spent a good deal of his own time in a state of alarm for Sherlock's sake. It might be awkward for him to examine too closely, but he understood the source of Sherlock's fear. Also, for reasons unknown to John, Sherlock harboured an intensely personal animus toward Magnussen that was unique in John's experience with him.

In nearly every way and with complete justification, Sherlock possessed a continent-sized ego, but his other tactical weakness was that he nursed something of an inferiority complex about his older brother. Mycroft could retain vast numbers of concepts and percepts and effortlessly extrapolate potential or probable outcomes from dozens of combinations and variables involving them. To a lesser degree Sherlock possessed the same ability, but he conceded his brother's superiority and in fact it was partly why he'd needed Mycroft's help to fake his death.

And Mycroft was apparently not the only one whose skill outstripped Sherlock's. Lacking physical records and evidence on his blackmail victims, Charles Magnussen necessarily retained all that information in his head. In John's presence Mycroft had stated unequivocally that Magnussen was under his protection. At the time Mycroft made that statement Sherlock faced the prospect of fighting the combined talents of his brother and Magnussen cheerfully, as a challenge, but just hours later he'd lain dying on the floor of Magnussen's rooms-and everything had changed.

Until tonight Sherlock never had anything so important to him at stake and been unable to defend it. When he could see a way to fight he'd keep going until it killed him, but tonight he'd been disarmed of his usual weapon and he believed himself out of options. That rage and fear he was shedding like a virus: John suddenly remembered where he'd seen it before: in rookies exposed to real fire for the first time in their lives.

Sherlock froze his first time in this kind of battle.

Not once, not for a second, did John doubt Sherlock's courage, but even very brave men were afraid of something. Combine fear with perceived helplessness-something outside all his experience-and it was no wonder he reacted badly. Rookies were added to teams one at a time just for that reason: their unpredictability. There was a related phenomenon that John had seen in others and experienced himself, which was that men who were skilled or even lethal with one weapon or fighting style could be rendered almost entirely ineffective when suddenly forced to fight with another. None of the intellectual weapons Sherlock used to such devastating effect did him a bit of good against the combined talents of Mycroft and Magnussen.

The army taught John a lot of things, but its most valuable lessons taught him about himself. He knew that a person's self-image changed the first time he was in a literal fight for the first time, whether it was a pub brawl or a full-scale battle in a war zone. Sometimes the self-image survived intact and sometimes it was destroyed beyond repair, but it always changed, and no one knew how a fighter would react until he took live fire for the first time. John knew that first-hand and he'd seen the phenomenon repeatedly.

He'd been away from the army for too long. He should have recognized the red flags. Just the two of us against the rest of the world, Sherlock said once. Sherlock knew that he and John were fighting a war. Mycroft knew it, too: When you walk with Sherlock Holmes you see the battlefield.

Welcome to the party, Watson, John thought bitterly. You're the veteran. Stand up and take the goddamned lead.

ooooo

For as long as he could remember Sherlock had been unable to tolerate boredom, by which he'd always meant insufficient work for his mind, but he had any number of things to occupy his attention now. Auditory exclusion, for one. An interesting phenomenon and one he'd never experienced before, but obviously his brain wasn't immune because the pistol's muzzle flash had been accompanied by dead silence-and then John put him down so fast and so hard that time skipped a step and the next thing he remembered was being jerked upright, already handcuffed, as the target of his wrath walked away unscathed.

One target of his wrath. His loathsome brother was the other. All his life he'd competed against Mycroft and not once had he come out ahead. Always Mycroft sailed effortlessly past him. Until now that competition was a one-sided academic exercise, meaningless except for all the ways it shaped his personality and outlook (some of which he even recognized), but it had never before been the case that losing to Mycroft would threaten the destruction of someone he loved.

John obviously thought he should regret what he'd done, but the only thing he regretted was that he didn't actually do it. Given another opportunity to end Magnussen he'd take it. Murdering people will destroy you. Ridiculous. John killed any number of people in the war, not to mention the cabbie on their very first case together, and he'd never turned a hair that Sherlock could tell. He was the most admirable human being Sherlock knew, so did John expect him to believe that if it weren't for having killed a few people he'd flutter about with wings and a halo? No, John was wrong about killing. Had to be wrong. Sherlock knew perfectly amiable murderers and utterly vile law-abiding people, from which he concluded that the willingness to kill was not itself a disqualifying character trait, whatever John thought.

And for all John's wisdom he obviously didn't understand that if there'd been an alternative to killing Magnussen, Sherlock by definition would have seen it. Nor in spite of Sherlock's repeated warnings did John seem even now to grasp the danger to himself and the futility of facing the combined skills of Mycroft and Magnussen. Given all that and the true nature of the Appledore vaults, Sherlock made the obvious decision to cut the Gordian knot. Why John was so exercised about that he couldn't conceive.

In any case, all this anger of John's was just his misguided hero-worshipping at work, and he might not be so dismayed now if he'd had a window into Sherlock's mind then. No chance to be a hero today, Mr. Holmes, Magnussen taunted. I'm not a hero, he'd snarled back. How much evidence did John need before he figured that out?

Would a hero have made John submit to Magnussen's particularly cruel brand of humiliation, or was that the act of a coward paralyzed by the discovery that he'd fatally misjudged his enemy and miscalculated beyond recovery? Sherlock had been afraid before and that was bad enough, but until now he'd never been able to accuse himself of cowardice.

Reason armoured him against fear in the common sense, against the uncertainty, doubts, and fog that so many people experienced as a daily fact of life. It was the source of his authentic self-confidence in his ability to think and act effectively. Tonight the abyss that yawned beneath his feet when he grasped the enormity of his failure terrified him because that was his reason telling him that Magnussen had beaten him, check and mate. There were no cards left for the great consulting detective to play. There was no recourse, no leverage, nothing to offer in trade. No way to arrest his fall. Nothing but the knowledge that his brother would back his enemy, that he'd go to prison for espionage, and that from there he would watch helplessly as Mary destroyed John at her leisure. John. Magnussen's asset. Even now Sherlock's lip curled in outrage at the thought.

So because Sherlock was at a loss and afraid, there stood John-John, of all people-submitting to a sadist's cruelty at a coward's behest, appealing to that same coward for permission to stop the assault. Permission denied. John endured the humiliation because he trusted Sherlock, trusted that he knew what he was doing, that he'd weighed the alternatives and the consequences, that he had a reason for all of it, even for asking him not to fight back: a plan, options, a way to win and the nerve to try.

Sherlock had none of it. There's for your big hero, John, he thought bitterly. The rage that welled up inside him had joined frustration, resentment, shame, and fear, all concentrated into overpowering contempt-for Magnussen, for himself-and leaving a single imperative: End this now. Make it right beyond recall. For John. God, even for his arsehole brother. Keep John safe. With the last free action he ever took, Sherlock was going to see to that. You keep all that information in your head? Then say bye-bye to the Appledore vault.

It was self-evidently a good idea at the time: Remove a future deadly threat to John and as a serendipitous side effect relieve the guilt and self-contempt he felt about his own failure-but all he'd really accomplished was to expose John to the immediate deadly threat of the soldiers' fire and-apparently-cause him more suffering than the sadistic blackmailer ever dreamed of.

In despair he leant forward, propping his elbows on his knees, and raked his fingers through his hair. God, his head ached. "Permission to stand up," he said, but he couldn't keep the sarcasm and anger out of his voice even then.

John glared at him. "Do whatever the hell you want."

Sherlock stalked off to the bathroom and swallowed ten Paramols. Sulked. 'Do whatever the hell you want' was pretty open-ended, but annoyingly it was also really effective reverse psychology. Although clearly it was possible to be surfeited with John's concern, the alternative-his indifference-was worse. In any case Mycroft's people were obviously sitting on the flat and would report his movements if he left. Briefly he considered going out and evading them just to prove that he could, but he found abruptly that he cared far less about that than about conciliating John's forgiveness. Unfortunately he could think of nothing likely to do that while John was so irate. Still, the last thing he was doing-sitting in his fireside chair-at least had the virtue of not increasing John's anger, so having dosed himself he returned, still coldly furious with himself and the world.

As far as Sherlock could tell, John objected to attempted murder for its own sake, but that alone couldn't explain what had him so emotionally gutted. How could you think that was okay? Well, it wasn't as though he'd stopped to weigh John's idea of proper guest etiquette against the practical benefits of eliminating Magnussen. There'd been no time for weighing much of anything with Mycroft and his toy soldiers closing in; no time for a survey of John's preferred method of not getting killed by Mary's enemies that was consonant with his sense of propriety. Sherlock didn't know what the hell John expected: With a double-digit prison term virtually certain by then it made perfect sense to go all-in. At least, he'd thought so at the time. To the extent that he'd been thinking at all. Which, now that he was at leisure to reflect, he'd not been doing much of. Not a lot of thinking. Far too much feeling.

Murdering people will destroy you. Not killing. Murdering. John had killed people, and on the vanishingly rare occasions when he mentioned the fact he always seemed displeased by it, but wasn't that one of the things soldiers prided themselves on the most? Kills? Wasn't that in fact the whole point of fighting a war, to kill more of the enemy than the reverse? No, he didn't need John to explain the difference between murder and self-defence, nor between murder and killing in battle, but he also wasn't sure why John drew the distinction or even whether it was deliberate: For such an intelligent man John could be sadly imprecise in his speech. Well, perhaps he should assume that John made the distinction intentionally, as being more likely than the alternative. Would the psychology of a soldier in battle be materially different from what Sherlock experienced tonight? Did a soldier not call on his ability to depersonalize his opponent, and did the officers not work their troops into a pitch of hatred for the enemy? Sherlock didn't know. John's lowering, closed-off expression didn't encourage questioning and Sherlock wasn't even certain what to ask, so what emerged when he opened his mouth contained only the vaguest intimation of what he really wanted to say.

"What's Delaram?"

Another glare. "It's in Afghanistan."

"I meant-"

"I know what you meant. It's none of your damned business."

Sherlock wasn't a long-suffering man, but to his credit and in contravention of his inclinations he refrained from making a retort. Yet his gesture, feeble though it was, still conveyed a hint of its real purpose to John, who, after another minute or so, got up, found an ice bag in the freezer, wrapped it in a tea towel, and handed it to him.

Wincing, Sherlock gingerly pressed the bag to the back of his head.

"That hurt?" John asked, when he'd sat down again.

"Yes."

"Good."

"I don't understand why everyone thinks you're the nice one," Sherlock muttered.

John wasn't ready to smile about that or anything else, but he interpreted it correctly as a flag of truce. After a few more minutes passed in silence he cleared his throat and in as calm a tone as he could muster said, "Something I want to say."

With his elbow on the armrest and his head at an awkward angle as he held the ice, Sherlock looked at him: Willing to hear it.

"The first time I met your brother-obviously not knowing he was your brother-he said something that I haven't really thought of again until now. Basically he compared associating with you to enlisting to fight a war."

"Pfft," Sherlock scoffed. "That's exactly the sort of meaningless overwrought rubbish-"

"Yeah, well, he was right. We are fighting for something. I don't know what, exactly. Queen and country? Truth, justice, and the American way? I don't know. What I do know is that compared to this…this thing going on with Magnussen and Mary, everything you've done so far has been training. All the stuff with Moriarty, running around three continents taking out his network: Sometimes it was dangerous, sometimes it was fun, but compared to what you're doing now it was just training."

Sherlock was listening, but he wasn't sure he agreed. "Felt real in Serbia."

"Yeah? How did Serbia compare to how you felt tonight? Better or worse?"

"Not worse," Sherlock admitted.

"No matter how real it seems or how tough it is, when you train to fight it's still training. It's not the same as taking live fire. It can't be. When it's for real: When you really fight for the first time and you know that losing means you could die, you might be as brave as you always wanted to be or you might not, but either way what you think about yourself is going to change. Always. And even when someone's an expert at one sort of fighting, if you force him to fight in another style or with a different weapon than he's used to it's like putting him back at Day One. He's going to get schooled.

"You know how you can spot rookies in their first battle? They duck. Makes no sense, but people can't help it. It's totally normal, but you have to train yourself out of it. You have to, or you won't be able to function. There's no point, anyway: The bullets you can hear already missed you. When you're under fire you get two options. You can stand up and do your job or you can curl into a ball, but the fire finds both kinds of people and you don't get a choice about that. Your only choice is about what you're going to be doing if it does.

"It was your first time in this kind of fight, Sherlock. You ducked, and Magnussen won."

Sherlock didn't like that, either, but it was self-evidently true. "Agreed," he said grudgingly.

"Well? What are you going to do about it?" The trapped look was back: Sherlock had already done everything about Magnussen that he could think of. "I don't mean Magnussen," John said. "I mean about you. 'Cause how you think about yourself changed tonight, yeah?"

"Yes."

"Happy about it?"

"No."

"Then fix it. You learn and maybe change tactics the next time and you don't fight on your enemy's terms. Decide how you want to think about yourself. Decide and act. That's what you're good at. And I'll tell you this, mate, to clue you in while you're thinking about it: The most dangerous thing about you is your mind."

Sherlock lifted the bag, which had begun dripping ice water down the back of his neck, and dropped it on the floor. "Was that as profound as it sounded, or am I concussed?"

"Yes."

Sherlock sighed. "It wasn't just Magnussen," he said. "It's Mycroft, too. You know what he's like. Magnussen retains all that information on people here-" pointed to his head "-but Mycroft can do the same."

"So can you. I've seen you."

"No. Not like that. Not at that level. He's smarter than I am, John, don't you see it? He's always been smarter. I really was the stupid one in the family. I can't fight him."

"You fight him all the time. You get off on it. And you get the better of him. I've seen you do it. Why suddenly are you so sure he's invincible?"

Sherlock shook his head. "I defy him and irritate him and inconvenience him. That's not the same as fighting. It's certainly not winning. With Magnussen under Mycroft's protection-"

"Sherlock…Are you…afraid of your brother?"

"Yes!" Almost shouting. Then more quietly: "Yes. You should be, too. You would be, if you weren't so…" He stopped.

"If I weren't so stupid?"

"If you weren't so damned sure that I'm infallible."

"I think I'm pretty clear on your fallibility, thanks."

"John, you were there. You saw them together. Mycroft bought Magnussen's silence tonight, which means he's got too much at stake-probably more than before-to get out of the way now. He's been protecting Magnussen and that won't change. I don't think he'd go as far as threatening you, but-"

John snorted. It was not in his nature to fear the kind of man he thought Mycroft was. Besides, he believed that Sherlock had an outsized notion of his brother's formidability. Sherlock's gravity on the point impressed him, though-not because he believed he was right, but because it told him how thoroughly he'd convinced himself that Mycroft was unbeatable. In John's view, anyone who spent his days manipulating people and molding their behaviour so he could use it for his own ends was little better than a common scam artist. From what he'd seen, the integrity and independence that he admired in Sherlock didn't make up any part of Mycroft's nature, so while Mycroft might have more raw intellect, in John's world view Sherlock was the better man.

Sherlock was still trying to convince him otherwise. "John, do not underestimate him. You don't respect his work and how he does it, but don't let that blind you to what he's capable of. He can't have you damaged physically because he knows I'd-" The words 'kill him' were on his lips but he changed it just in time to 'stop him' "-but he could ruin you, and I can't protect you from that."

Great. They were back to that. Sherlock's one-note song for the last fiscal quarter. "'Protect me,'" John repeated. "Yeah, let me ask you this. You know, for information purposes only: At any point in this friendship are you going to act like there are two of us in it?"

"Sorry?"

"Why do you think you have to do this alone?"

Sherlock frowned like he didn't understand the question. "You said 'friends protect people.'"

Confusion. "When?"

"I said, 'Alone is what I have. Alone protects me.' You said, 'No. Friends protect people.'"

Abruptly John realized what he was talking about. "Yeah, but they don't do it alone!" he cried in exasperation. "What happened to 'the two of us against the world'? When did that-" He was about to say, 'change,' but realized with a shock that he knew when. You'll hardly need me around now that you've got a real baby on the way.

How many times had he berated Sherlock for his insusceptibility? Yet the one time he dropped his guard and essentially confessed to needing something from him, John turned away and distanced himself with a lame-arse joke. Just one word, Sherlock. That's all I would have needed. What was Sherlock looking for at that moment? Just one thing. I'll always need you around. John rubbed his eyes. Jesus, Watson, how could you be so thick?

With nothing but his own socially conventional life to draw from, John had a hard time fully grasping the extent of Sherlock's isolation, but taking that with his already aloof, unapproachable nature, was it really so surprising that he consistently acted like he'd never even seen a friendship conducted before?

He was looking quizzically at John now. "When did that what?" he prompted, when John remained silent.

John squared himself up, the way he had at Sherlock's grave. Stand up and take the goddamned lead. "Shut up," he said.

"O…kay…"

"Shut up. I am not good at this sort of thing, so just shut. Up." He took a moment to collect his thoughts. "There are things I should have said so you understood. Things I wanted to say, but couldn't. Not to anyone and definitely not to you. I'm telling you now because if my choice is between…between saying it or watching you jump off a roof every time I turn around, then…" He cleared his throat. His shoulders were rigid with tension but he never broke eye contact, because he'd been a coward and this was how he would atone for that. "You are not in this alone, Sherlock. Not in this life. Not in this friendship. As long as I am alive you will never. Be. Alone."

Sherlock stared at him. He'd had a pretty good idea for a while now how his staged suicide affected John. Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson spared no effort to impress upon him the enormity of the deception, while John himself dispensed with any remaining ambiguity he might have entertained on the subject. Sherlock preferred to think of it as what he'd done for rather than to John, and he'd had good reasons for deceiving everyone, reasons which he'd explained repeatedly and at length. Still, the consensus was that watching him 'die' was the most shattering thing that ever happened to John.

What did not occur to him until this very second was that for John, watching him attempt murder was the psychological equivalent of witnessing his death-again.

Murdering people will destroy you. His head went up in the unconscious, habitual gesture that signified sudden understanding because he saw it then: The unspoken end of that sentence was, and our friendship. Of all the things Sherlock thought were at stake on the Appledore patio he'd not seen the most important one, but John understood it in his soul.

Their friendship. He'd always been John's friend, but not always in the way that John expected. He'd never been friendship material in his life and clearly he was making an utter hash of it now, but what struck him even more forcefully was the realization that he wanted to be good at it. As good as John was. As good a man as John was. Good men live up to themselves.

Maybe they also lived up to their friends.

"I'm sorry." He blinked, looking surprised that he spoke.

John had been watching him, a bit puzzled to know what he was thinking. The way Sherlock processed his best man request looked a lot like this. He hiked an eyebrow. "For?"

"For trying to kill Magnussen."

John didn't answer, but in his sceptical expression the 'Why?' was implied.

"Because," Sherlock said, looking down, and there was a long pause before he looked up again and met John's eyes. "Because I said that Mary and I had a lifetime to prove that we'd never let you down and it took one month and four months, respectively, for me to be wrong about that."

John didn't answer right away, but he looked thoughtful. "It's a start," he said finally.

"In my defence, she went first," Sherlock added.

John rubbed his eyes tiredly. "How much Paramol did you take?"

"Five grams." And defensively, off John's look, "I have a high tolerance."

John sighed. "Any nausea? Dizziness?"

"No. But if you could be a bit less shouty, that would be very helpful."

"Put the ice back on," John said, and when Sherlock had complied he said, "All right. What's Magnussen got on your brother?"

Sherlock laughed without humour. "Nothing. What could he have? Mycroft's above reproach. Always has been. He's not protecting himself. He's protecting his little empire, his little chessboard of politicians and royals and governments."

"But with all that power he could destroy Magnussen himself. Why doesn't he?"

"Symbiosis," Sherlock sneered.

"Sorry?"

"Something he said before we left for Appledore. That Magnussen never causes him too much trouble and sometimes he's even useful."

John wasn't buying it. "No. No way. People don't act like that when they have something that impersonal at stake. Magnussen has his world under his thumb, but Mycroft lets it go on. I'm telling you, Sherlock: He's got something personal involved. What is it? Besides you, what does your brother care about?" Sherlock started to reply and John added, "And don't tell me he doesn't care. Because he's acting like someone who cares about something a lot."

"He is, isn't he?" Sherlock said thoughtfully. He considered the problem but he really didn't know what that 'something' was. Human psychology-even his brother's psychology-wasn't his area. There were some invariable truths, some patterns, some common elements that most people shared, and those things allowed him to make certain assumptions and categorical pronouncements; he could perceive concretes, assign causes, and project likely responses based on averages or popular tendencies, but none of that signified fundamental understanding at an instinctive operating level. That was John's department.

"I grant your expertise in the area of human psychology, John, but this is Mycroft we're talking about."

"And?" John said. "He's human. Roughly. Maybe Magnussen didn't get hold of something recent. Something from Mycroft's past? From school? Something about your parents, even? How long has he known Magnussen? When did Magnussen start putting all this pressure on him?"

These were all excellent questions that Sherlock had never asked. For as long as he'd known of Magnussen he'd known that the man had his brother trapped, but he'd always assumed that the victims were Mycroft's politicians, not the irreproachable Mycroft himself.

"I don't know," he admitted. "Mycroft protects his politicians, though, and they're nearly all eminently blackmail-able." He dismissed the whole idea with a wave of his hand. "No. That's…You're on the wrong track, John. Mycroft's impervious. Above reproach. He always has been. Since we were boys."

John shook his head. "He might be above reproach objectively, but everyone's got something they're ashamed of, whether it's rational or not. When they're young people do a lot of stupid things. Not criminal things, necessarily, but things that would be embarrassing if their families or co-workers found out. They feel guilt and shame even when there's no good reason to feel that way, you know?"

"No. But I concede that you do and that people are irrational and therefore likely to feel guilt without cause."

"Great. Well? What could Magnussen have on Mycroft?"

"Nothing. Mycroft's not irrational."

John went on as though he hadn't answered. "University is usually where people make screw-ups they're humiliated by for the rest of their lives."

"Is it?" Sherlock was far more used to seeing people ruin their lives criminally. "Like what?"

"I don't know. Getting pissed and throwing up in your girlfriend's mum's car. Group sex. Stealing signs off the motorway. You know."

Sherlock stared at him. "You did that?"

"No. I didn't. I'm just saying. What about drugs?"

Contempt. "Mycroft was too frightened to try anything."

John rubbed his forehead; he had enough on his plate right now without getting drawn into a debate about narcotics. "All right," he said finally, "Mycroft's a perfect angel. Then tell me this."

"Yes?"

"Magnussen makes a big deal about knowing everyone's pressure points, right?"

"Obviously."

"Well, what's his?"

Sherlock gave a bitter, self-recriminatory laugh. "I thought it was power," he said. "Stupid. He doesn't need a laptop full of state secrets when he's got Mycroft Holmes."

"Well…what does he do with the information he gets on his victims? Their money for his silence? That's how it usually works, right?"

"No," Sherlock said. "That's what's so brilliant about it. He never meets the legal standard for menace. Just tells people that he knows their secret and lets the obvious implications do the rest. Occasionally he compels them to do things that benefit him. A regulation streamlining the process of firing unionized workers, that sort of thing. But he's just as likely to tell people that he knows and never ask for anything at all. Even when he does, he doesn't say, 'If you don't block that law I'll publish your affairs.' It's, 'That proposal to ban dumping newspaper ink in the Thames sounds rubbish, doesn't it?' Besides, it's separated from his original contact with his victims by so much time that no one could possibly prove the two events are associated. But of course the victims get the message."

John considered that, then said, "So the blackmail's not about money and it's not even really about power, except…"

"What?" Sherlock asked impatiently, dropping the ice bag to the floor again. He couldn't see why John was having a problem with this.

"It's just…He enjoys the hell out of having all that influence, yeah? Telling people he can ruin them but never actually doing it. What if that's his pressure point? If there were a way to discredit him he might lose all that leverage."

Sherlock threw up his hands. "How do you expect to do that when there's no physical evidence? Global media empire, John. Does that ring any bells? You can't discredit him. He'll sue, and he's got the finances to out-lawyer anyone."

"Yeah, you know, that's what he said: 'I'm in news, moron.' I get it. But lawsuits work both ways, and I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how a guy with zero evidence is a blackmailer instead of just a slander suit waiting to happen."

"Libel."

"What?"

"Slander is spoken. Newspaper, therefore libel."

"Whatever. He said all he has to do is print something and people will assume it's true. But that's crap, Sherlock. You know damned well people believe anything if they hear it repeated often enough. That's how advertising works. Politicians get caught with their pants down every day, but if they claim they're innocent six thousand times people start to believe it. All someone has to do is sue the guy and start denying his accusations."

"Good luck," Sherlock said. "By definition his victims don't want their problems made public, and even if blackmail weren't notoriously difficult to prove, he hasn't done anything actionable. The first person who brought suit would be countersued for defamation."

"Really? Because as soon as everybody lands in court it all comes out that he's got nothing. Whether the lawsuits end up dismissed or not, all people would remember is that he's got no proof of his accusations. That's the last thing he wants anyone to know. And at least that way the victims aren't running around terrified that he's going to reveal them," John added.

Sherlock looked at him as though he was mad. "Well, no, because in that scenario they've revealed themselves. What idiot would volunteer for that?"

"Anyone who's tired of being afraid, I'd think, but the point is he doesn't have any proof."

Sherlock clutched his head with a low groan of frustration. "I told you, John: The victims don't have any proof that he threatened them, either. They've got nothing. You can't go to court and say, 'He insinuated at me.' Don't you see how clever that is? Absent audio or video evidence that he made a specific demand in exchange for silence, he's got nothing to worry about."

"Sherlock, you're thinking like a genius detective trying to build a case that'll stand up in court. Think like the rest of us do. Think sloppy. Forget about the legal stuff. You don't have to win in a court of law. You have to win in the court of public opinion."

Sherlock didn't reply and John took that as encouraging. At least he wasn't getting shot down. "Try this," he went on. "Magnussen's got a board of directors to worry about. He answers to them and to shareholders who vote. How many victims are out there? How much bad publicity and potential lawsuits do you think one board of directors wants their company tied up in? Major shareholders aren't going to just sit on their hands, you know. I know it sounds vague to you because you're used to dealing with hard evidence and facts, but I'm telling you, Magnussen's right about one thing: You don't have to prove it. You just have to print it. Or broadcast it. Or whatever. We just need one person to stand up and get it all started."

"That's what Lady Smallwood said," Sherlock said bitterly. "'One person.'"

"When?"

"When she hired me."

"I think she's right," John said. "One person to stand up and make a scene. If the man on the street finds out who Magnussen is and hates him, great, but the point is that all his victims find out that the vaults don't exist. People think his threats are real. What if they stop believing that? If he has zero proof of anyone's guilt, then what's he relying on? His reputation. People are afraid he's got proof and they feel guilty, besides. Once everyone knows he's got nothing, he's got nothing. No leverage, no power. You challenge him to produce his evidence, and he can't."

"He urinated in our fireplace, John. I'm reasonably certain he doesn't care about his reputation."

"I don't mean like that. Sherlock: Haven't you wondered why he bothers? I mean, it's a lot of work, putting out feelers for the kind of information he collects, paying for it, remembering all of it. You must have seen other people like that: always angling for an advantage over everybody. Those sorts of people feel like they don't exist unless someone notices them. They're terrified of being alone with themselves. You must have seen them when you were in school. The minute you sit down alone in a corner to read it attracts them like flies and they won't shut up because you're not noticing them and they can't stand it. People like you drive people like that mental."

Sherlock looked at him with narrowed eyes. He'd met a lot of people like that. The idea that such people were afraid-afraid of being alone with themselves-was new and interesting. "It's not just inborn vexatiousness?"

"No," John said confidently. "If Magnussen stepped down from that company tomorrow and offered you his job, would you take it? The chance to influence the thoughts and opinions of millions of people?"

Disgust. "Of course not. I can't imagine anything more dull."

"Yeah, you think it's dull because you have a life. But to someone like him, making other people notice him is his life. It's his day job and his hobby. You think Magnussen's the way he is because he's confident? That's why you're the way you are. It's why you can afford not to care what anyone thinks and why you'd be bored rigid trying to influence them. He's like he is because he's nothing unless he can affect other people. It's a dead giveaway, mate: The harder someone works to control other people, the bigger zero they are inside."

Sherlock sat bouncing his knee, starting to see the possibilities, but he just as quickly abandoned them. "No. That can't work," he said, frustration lacing his voice. "You met him. Did he seem concerned about your opinion? Did he seem frightened to you?"

"It's not that kind of fear," John insisted. "People don't sit up at night biting their nails over things like that. It motivates them, but it's not conscious. What if the most important thing to him isn't the power he can get to use for himself, but the influence he has over other people?"

"That's the same thing," Sherlock said with a scowl.

"No," John said. "It's not. Some people, if they can't get love or fame they'll take fear and hate, but what they can't take is being ignored because they're nothing if other people aren't aware of them. If people stop being afraid of Magnussen they get on with their lives and forget about him."

"And you think that's his pressure point."

"I don't know. I'm just saying it's worth thinking about. No one's ever been able to get to him using money or political power, though. Maybe it's time to try another way."

Sherlock fell silent, thinking, and after a few minutes he said, as though to himself, "If you're right, Mycroft becomes irrelevant. From his perspective, any victim who came forward would be doing it on his own initiative. Magnussen would be in the same position, not knowing that anyone other than the victim was involved; he'd have no specific reason to suspect our involvement and therefore no specific reason to pull the trigger on Mary-and Magnussen and Mycroft would both have their hands full with the fallout."

The idea had considerable appeal for Sherlock, because Mary couldn't afford to wait too much longer to carry out whatever she had planned for him and John. Even assuming Magnussen could be disgraced and his influence destroyed the way John envisioned, the health of his reputation wouldn't matter to her enemies. In that sense his leverage and the risk of him wielding it would remain intact. On the other hand, if that threat to his empire materialized it might remove Mycroft and therefore Mary as his priorities long enough to give Mary room to act. It was a long shot, but between the time pressure of her pregnancy and the perception that she wasn't in immediate danger of being revealed, Mary, who had been staying her hand against Sherlock because she thought he was working to defuse the threat to her, might decide to resume her campaign. That would be all to the good, because Sherlock was finding the chronic threat of pending destruction tiresome and he was increasingly eager for the final confrontation that would resolve it one way or the other.

It wouldn't do to mention that to John just yet, however, so instead he said, "If we can find someone to stand up to Magnussen, that person could very likely withstand any pressure Mycroft could exert, especially if it's someone he won't touch-or better yet can't touch."

"Any ideas?"

"Lady Smallwood," Sherlock said at once.


– End Chapter 9 –

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



You loaded this page on Tuesday, 14 August 2018, at 3:35 pm EDT;
it was last modified on Friday, 13 April 2018, at 6:29 pm EDT.

Search this site:

(the usual Google search rules apply)



Site Info

Comments? Criticisms? Questions?

Please, e-mail us by clicking here.

(Or, if you cannot email from your browser, send mail to webmaster@bullpuppress.com)

All content copyright © 2014 - 2018 Bullpup Press LLC

(excepting any quoted material, which is believed to be Fair Use).

This web page is strictly compliant with the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)
Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML) Protocol v1.0 (Transitional).
Click on the logo below to test us!


---=== end of page ===---