As the police car zipped in and out of traffic, Greg Lestrade clenched his fists.
"Lawson! You do know how to work the accelerator, yeah?"
In response to his guv's impatient bark, Lawson hit the gas. The Detective Inspector continued to burn holes into the back of Lawson's head as if this would will the man to drive faster.
At his recent physical, Lestrade was told to reduce his stress level or he'd be looking at a peptic ulcer. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath through the nose. The doctor had said this would help him relax.
The doctor was an idiot.
Lestrade slammed his hand down on the seat. "Why didn't the stupid bastard wait for us? If I'd known Sherlock and Molly were involved, I would've gone straight away to make sure she was all right. I wouldn't have waited for you two to show up."
"It's not your fault," John said quickly. "Sherlock's just getting used to saying relationship let alone telling the world he's in one."
"How long have they . . . ?"
John eyed the detective, remembering the appreciative looks he had given Molly at that disastrous Christmas party years ago. "Not long."
"You sure he's headed to the hospital? Maybe he went to her flat."
"No," John replied with certainty. "He knows Mike Stamford has Molly's mobile and purse, so that means she must have disappeared while at work."
Drumming his fingers on his knees, Lestrade started to theorize. "I'd say whoever hired Charlie provided him with that photo of Sherlock to make sure he knew what the git looks like. Then he spied Sherlock and Molly together. Molly became the target."
John chewed on his thumbnail. "Why?"
Lestrade's face darkened. "Because she is the chink in Sherlock's armor. He has as many enemies as Charlie had. If they found out Sherlock has a weak spot . . ."
John shuddered at the implications and quickly sent a text.
Molly missing. Meet us at St. Bart's.
The reply he received was direct and disappointing.
In Latvia. Returning tomorrow. Keep Sherlock away from drugs.
John knew Sherlock hadn't told his older brother about Molly. He also knew that didn't mean Mycroft wasn't fully aware of their relationship.
In his other pocket, Sherlock's mobile buzzed with an incoming message.
"Holy mother…" he exclaimed as he read the text.
"What now?" Lestrade said.
"A text from Stamford. We're to come straight to the security office. The security officer is about to punch Sherlock in the mouth."
The surgery went better than Schaeffer had thought it would. As soon as they tied off the bleeders, Jane's vital signs stabilized. After a period in recovery, she was wheeled into the ICU.
"Adile?" Michelle was surprised to see the head nurse standing at Jane's bedside long after their shift had ended. "I thought you had left."
Adile shook her head. "Just showered and put on fresh scrubs. I wanted to see how our Jane was doing."
"Want to grab a cup of coffee?" Michelle said tucking an unruly red curl behind her ear.
"I'll buy," the older woman said pleasantly and with one last look at Jane's vitals on the monitor, followed the doctor down the hall.
"I load mine with lots of sugar and cream so it doesn't taste so bloody awful." The freckles on Michelle's nose crinkled when she smiled.
Adile drank hers black. "This is better than some I've had."
"So, you've known Dr. Schaeffer a long time, right?" the young doctor tentatively asked.
"More than fifteen years."
"He was really affected by Jane's injuries, wasn't he?"
Adile thought through her response. "Dr. Schaeffer has volunteered to treat victims of war all over the world. He's seen terrible things."
The two women casually strolled down the hall back to Jane's room. "Where has he been?"
"Rwanda. The Sudan. Chechnya. Serbia. That's where I met him." Adile tossed her cup toward a trashcan and missed. With a rueful smile, she bent over to pick it up. "Jane probably brought back a lot of bad memories for him. Very bad memories."
Rushing down the main corridor off the main lobby, John didn't need directions to the security office. He recognized one of the raised voices the echoed down the hall.
"Play the tape from Tuesday!"
"I don't give a rat's arse what you say, I'm not running Tuesday's tape! It's Monday's tape that shows Dr. Molly coming to work. I watched it three times since Dr. Stamford here said something was wrong with Dr. Molly, and I tell you, she didn't leave the morgue on Monday morning!"
"And I'm telling you that you are an idiot!"
John burst through the door to see Sherlock practically standing on the balls of his feet to assert his superiority over the older heavy-set security guard who was not backing down from the confrontation.
Lestrade quickly flashed his warrant card. "Sherlock, shut up. And you…"
"Tate, sir. Yorkshire constabulary, retired." The security guard continued to glare at Sherlock.
"Tate, run that security footage for me from Monday when Dr. Hooper arrived at work," Lestrade ordered.
Exasperated, Sherlock began to pace. "I've been trying to explain to this mental giant that we need to view the tapes from yesterday, not Monday. Molly was here yesterday."
"Sherlock, she went missing yesterday," said Mike who sat wearily on a nearby chair.
Sherlock gestured emphatically. "That's wrong. Molly was here yesterday. John and I stopped by to see her last night after he insisted on something to eat."
Shaking his head, John said gently, "That wasn't yesterday. That was the day before."
"What?" Sherlock furrowed his brow.
"Today is Wednesday. We stopped by on Monday," John said. "You told Molly about the murder case and promised to let her know when you solved it. She said that she'd text you later. Yesterday you spent all day in your mind palace. You didn't see Molly at all."
Sherlock faltered, his expression a porcelain mask but his blue-green eyes alive with emotion. Slowly he lowered into a chair next to the panel of security monitors. "How could I have not known?"
Lestrade stepped forward. "Run the tape."
Tate resumed his seat in front of the keyboard and pulled up a black and white video. Molly appeared on the screen. Wearing khakis and a dark coat, she rummaged in her striped bag for an elastic band and pulled back her hair into a long ponytail before stepping out of range.
Tate fast-forwarded the footage. Frame after frame sped by, and Molly never reappeared. "I told you," he muttered not too quietly.
"Is there a camera in the hall where they bring the bodies into the morgue?" John suggested.
With a few keystrokes, Tate brought up a different feed at the same date and time stamp. Five minutes after Molly had entered the lab, a janitor pushing a large bin of dirty laundry left the morgue.
Sherlock jumped to his feet. "Stop. Go back three frames. Did you see his shoes?"
Lestrade leaned in. "By God, he's right. The janitor is wearing loafers!"
"He's no janitor," Sherlock said angrily. "Molly is in that bin."
"Now wait, Sherlock," Mike began. "All our employees have to scan an ID badge to enter the hospital. Someone couldn't just walk in—"
"Then I suggest you check your HR department and see if a cleaning person has reported his keycard stolen."
"Be quiet, both of you. The tape is still running," Lestrade snapped as Lawson quietly entered the room.
Wearing standard hospital coveralls, gloves, and a low-fitting cap, the janitor slowly made his way down the hall and turned to the left.
"He should've gone right to get to the laundry," Tate said slowly.
The cameras picked the janitor up again as he pushed the bin past a few hospital employees who paid him no attention. He eventually exited the doors to the delivery docks and wheeled his cargo onto a waiting truck without breaking stride. After pulling down the rear door, he got in the driver's seat and drove away.
"Right." Lestrade finally broke the long silence. "Tate, find out whose card was used. Get the login records for yesterday morning. Lawson, go secure the lab as a crime scene. I'm going to call in for more units and send Donovan to Charlie's flat to search."
As the men left the security office, Sherlock brought the image of Molly walking down the hall back up and lightly touched the screen.
"How could I not notice she was gone?" he said quietly.
John stared at his shoes uncomfortably. "Lestrade believes whoever hired Milverton…"
"Did so to find a way to get to me? Obviously." Sherlock steepled his fingers under his chin. "The question is who and why. It wouldn't be someone along the lines of a criminal genius. That type of person wouldn't take the risk of going to a shady P.I., particularly Milverton. No, this is a common criminal.
"If he kidnapped Molly to take revenge on me, he would have let me know by now that he had her. He'd want to triumph over me. If he took Molly to undermine my work on the MacDonald murder, that is a moot point. I solved the case. No, he wants my attention." Sherlock's expression was hollow. "Regardless of his motive, this man killed Milverton and removed all evidence. He's leaving no loose ends."
Molly is a loose end, John thought and immediately regretted it. As if he had read his friend's mind, Sherlock's shoulders uncharacteristically slumped.
"I looked through her bag." He glanced over to the large striped bag on the table behind John. "Nothing is missing. Except Molly."
Taken back to hear Sherlock state the obvious, John sadly realized his friend hoped to be contradicted.
"Do you have my mobile?" Sherlock suddenly asked. The detective quickly found the last text Molly sent. "She texted me Monday night. It says, 'Thinking of you.'" Sherlock's voice was rough. "I didn't even open it."
"You were working on the case. You were in your mind palace." John's attempt to comfort his friend was met with a withering look. "I've texted Mycroft. He'll be back in London tomorrow."
Sherlock didn't answer. Instead he turned back to the monitor and sat immobile in front of Molly's frozen image.
If you truly want to destroy a man, you take away that which he needs most to live.
The man sitting in the corner of the Internet cafe believed this to be true long before he saw it proven on the battlefield. A person could be tortured almost to death and still refuse to cooperate. But threaten a loved one with the same violence? Then it was a different story.
That's why he had hired Charlie Milverton—to find out what Sherlock Holmes' weak spot was, what he needed most to live.
Charlie delivered the names of Sherlock's few friends, but the man felt love would be the key to undoing Sherlock Holmes. He first considered taking Sherlock's mum until he found out she was inaccessible on the continent. Then there was his brother, but God Almighty; it would be easier to kidnap the queen than Mycroft Holmes.
And then the perfect answer was before him: Molly Hooper. He almost didn't recognize the signs of romance between the pair, but Charlie assured him they were a couple.
It was easy enough to follow some of the janitorial crew to their pub. After buying them a few rounds, he lifted one of his new mate's keycards and slipped out the back. Once in the hospital, he made quick work of finding a cap and uniform, then headed straight for the morgue.
The man closed his eyes and sighed heavily. It was only after he kidnapped Molly Hooper that everything went terribly wrong.
All he had to do was keep her in the cottage until it was safe, then he would have let her go, no harm done. He had no reason to hurt her. She didn't see him when he crept up behind her at St. Bart's, and he made sure to wear a ski mask whenever she was conscious. She could never identify him.
If only she hadn't gotten loose. If only she hadn't tried to fight back.
He didn't want to do it. But when she began kicking and hitting, it was as if a switch had been flipped in his gut and suddenly it was years earlier and a world away. Then somehow he had a metal bar in his hands and he began using that, too. When his anger was spent, he felt sick. How could he so easily turn back into the person he had left behind?
She brought it on herself, he thought repeatedly.
He had driven blindly for miles before leaving her on the side of the road. There was nothing to identify her and nothing to tie him to her. As he drove back to the cottage, he believed everything would still go according to plan, but then Charlie called and said in that slow way of his that he had discovered some interesting information about the past, and wouldn't it be a shame if the details went public?
The man agreed to pay the outrageous sum Charlie demanded. He said he would meet Charlie in the dead of night. Yes, Charlie. Certainly Charlie. The man would have agreed to anything. He had already decided he would kill Charlie.
Finished scanning the headlines, the man shut the laptop computer. There was nothing in the London news about Dr. Hooper's disappearance. The man scratched his rough beard. Maybe Mycroft Holmes was pulling strings and keeping it out of the tabloids. There also hadn't been any posts about a woman's body being found.
Perhaps she hasn't been found yet, he thought happily.
If that were the case, he could resume his carefully crafted life, and no one would be the wiser.
Adile clasped Jane's small, cold hand between her motherly warm ones. She knew she couldn't do anything more medically to help her patient right now, but she could work on finding out who Jane really was.
"Poor little lamb. Poor lost little lamb," Adile crooned softly. "Who are you? Have you no family? Is there no one missing you right now?"