Monster

Chapter 3

At work Geoff Schaeffer was the man in charge, the capable, experienced doctor who made the big decisions in a calm, professional manner. And he didn't mind it one bit. He relished the excitement of caring for a very ill patient and restoring that person to health.

But when he came home, he wanted to relax. The most demanding decision he wanted to deal with was what to watch on television. Usually after a long shift he would read or walk on his treadmill until the hospital became a blur. However, this day was different. No matter what he did, his mind continued to race. Reaching up to turn off the reading lamp, Geoff slouched in his recliner and watched the end of Singing in the Rain with the sound off.

Finally the front door opened and he smiled. It never failed to amaze him how the sound of her footsteps could ease his mind and get his heart pounding at the same time.

"You're late," he called.

"I know."

He mentally followed her as she hung up her coat in the hall closet and went to the kitchen. The refrigerator opened and the clanging of bottles rang through the house.

"Grab me one?"

A minute later she pushed open the den door and placed a sweet kiss on his cheek before handing him a beer.

Geoff took a long drink. "I figured you wouldn't be home until you had spent time with her."

Adile let her dark hair loose from the confines of the firm bun at the nape of her neck. "Our Jane is set for the night. She is doing very well, actually. And you have a new fan."

Once upon a time that news would have excited him. Now he was barely curious. "Who?"

"Michelle Dreiser. She was asking about you."

"Why? My team knows everything about me."

Adile sat on the couch and smiled to herself. Her partner of fifteen years would never understand the female mind. "Let me put it this way: She was hoping I could give her the inside scoop on the great Dr. Schaeffer. Your interns obviously don't know about you and I."

"Hmmm," he said. "So what did you tell her?"

"I told her all the different places you'd served. She was duly impressed."

He laughed. "You were once impressed like that. At a refugee center, as I recall."

Adile stared at Debbie Reynolds on the flat-screened TV. "I was remembering that very thing tonight. I don't want to stir bad memories for you, but did you notice the mark on Jane's arm?"

Geoff looked up sharply. "That must be what has been bothering me."

Adile nodded. "It reminded you of those girls."

Feeling a little sick, he set his beer on the floor. "But it can't be."

"How do you know that for sure?" she prodded.

"How could that killer simply show up in England after all these years?"

"They never caught him. And that very same mark was the Monster's signature."

"It can't be." Geoff shook his head angrily. The Monster, as some people had dubbed him, had caused more harm to civilians than Geoff had ever seen in any war zone. The idea of this killer reappearing in this peaceful English town was almost more than the doctor could stomach.

"I'm going to go online tomorrow and start a search for who Jane really is," Adile quickly changed the subject.

"Good idea. Family support will help her heal more quickly," he said, calming down. "We're both knackered. Let's take a look at Jane's arm with clearer eyes after we get some sleep."

Adile switched off the television and extended her hand to him. "Then let's go to bed."

~s~s~s~s~

If only.

If there were two sadder words in the English language, John Watson didn't know what they would be. He stared out the tall window in the sitting room of 221B Baker Street without seeing anything.

If only I had heard Sherlock leave.

If only there was a clue as to who took Molly.

If only I could do something.

He rested his forehead against the cool glass.

If only Sarah were here.

He didn't want to call until he had something concrete to report, something hopeful. He knew how upset she would be to learn Molly was missing and he wouldn't be there to comfort her. But if he were being totally honest, John would admit he needed her comfort more.

"Dr. Watson?"

Mycroft Holmes stood in the doorway looking as dapper as ever, but something about his appearance was slightly disheveled. Perhaps it was the way his eyes searched the room.

"Where is Sherlock?"

"I thought you weren't in until tomorrow?"

"I was able to hurry things along. Where is Sherlock?"

"I don't know." John's head dropped. "He must have left about an hour ago. I didn't realize he had gone until it was too late."

Mycroft didn't look upset. "Don't fret, doctor. When I received your text, I contacted Anthea immediately. Someone is tailing him. Even if he tries to find his old . . . sources, they won't be there."

John sighed in relief. "Oh thank God."

Over the years he and Sherlock's brother had developed an odd relationship that revolved solely around the detective, but it was one in which the doctor felt he could speak candidly. "I've never seen him act like this."

Mycroft raised his eyebrows. "Tell me more."

John scrubbed his hand over his chin. "He seems lost. But I suppose he's acting like any man would who's worried about the woman he loves."

Sitting in Sherlock's spot, Mycroft stared into the empty fireplace bleakly. "When he loves someone—you know his claim that he can't love is some odd self-indulgence he has, don't you? As I was saying, when he loves someone, it's with intensity. He won't just be worried about Dr. Hooper. He will be beside himself and may do something drastic."

"What shall we do then? We have no clues, do we?" John dropped heavily into his usual chair.

When Mycroft did answer, his voice was controlled and professional. "I've been in contact with Detective Inspector Lestrade. He agreed that I have better resources and so has sent copies of the codes Milverton used to my office. Breaking those codes will lead to whomever hired him, I'm sure."

"There may be one other thing we can do," John mused. "Sherlock just solved our most recent case. So I started thinking about this upcoming security case he has and wondering if it could be related. He's doing an analysis for an extremely important art show. He was hired by the company insuring the whole thing to evaluate the monitoring systems, run background checks, that sort of thing."

"Are you proposing that someone who is planning an art theft kidnapped Dr. Hooper to keep Sherlock from doing this analysis?"

"Maybe. I don't know. All I do know is the paintings belong to Lady Eva Blackwell—you know, the recluse?—and they have never been exhibited before."

Mycroft steepled his fingers much like his brother. "Even if Sherlock isn't as focused at the moment, between the two of us, I believe we can make short work of this security case."

"What?" John gaped at the man. "Who? Us?"

"It may surprise you, doctor, to learn that while I don't have all of my brother's unique abilities, I do share some of his talents," Mycroft said drily. "If your theory is correct and Dr. Hooper's kidnapping is tied to this rare art, then the sooner we investigate it, the sooner we may turn up a lead."

"But won't Sherlock be—"

Mycroft stood. "Yes. He will be. But right now he needs our help."

~s~s~s~s~

Sherlock knew the substances that distracted his youthful and undisciplined mind would no longer free him, nor did he want to escape from the suffocating worry that weighed on him. Whatever pain he was experiencing he would endure. So when he walked out of his flat, he didn't go to his old haunts. Instead he walked the joyless London streets briskly in the hopes of outrunning every star, every streetlight, every traffic sound that seemed to jeer at his epic failure as a man and as a detective.

His fury knew no bounds. He was madly, blindly angry with whomever had kidnapped Molly, a criminal who had the gall to take his pathologist. When he found this man—and he would find him—he would kill him.

He was angry, too, with Molly. Hadn't she been paying attention to her surroundings? Had she learned nothing from him? Why was everything reminding him of her? And why did she have to make him to feel these feelings for her in the first place? Why did he have to feel anything at all?

But most of all Sherlock was angry with himself. He was the world's only consulting detective and he was brilliant. But a murderer had kidnapped his Molly. The one who counted the most, his True North, and he didn't protect her or even notice she was missing.

Epic. Failure.

Hailing a cab, he had the driver take him to a place where the homeless had made a temporary camp. After alerting his network of informants, Sherlock felt confident they would find out sooner than Lestrade who had been in and out of Milverton's office in recent days. Then he paid the cabbie to wait while he got out in front of Molly's flat and stared up at the darkened windows.

No, he didn't want this pain to end. It would sharpen his thoughts and refine his purpose. It would motivate and push him. He wouldn't need to eat or sleep. This terrible ache that felt like hollowness would be his life force now. There would be nothing else for him until he brought her home safely, buried his face in her lap, and begged her forgiveness. That is how it had to be. Because if he failed to do this . . .

Turning on his heels, Sherlock got back in the cab. "221B Baker Street," he said sharply. "Go fast. We have no time to lose."

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