Monster

Chapter 5

As sunlight began to peek around the edges of the curtains in 221B Baker Street, Sherlock thrust his shaking hands into his coat pockets and paced. He had spent the night cross-referencing criminals who could be capable of both pulling off a daytime kidnapping and an art theft. But his research had yielded no suspects.

He had nothing.

No leads, no clues.

No Molly.

Her name was the drumbeat in the back of his mind. No matter how much he tried to focus his mind on the task at hand, all he saw was her face. Not knowing where she was, what was happening to her, drove him to the edge of panic. Never before had he experienced such abject fear alternating with sheer rage.

He had started doing background searches, beginning with the director of the Hensley Art Gallery, Gary Patrick. The man's history had several gaps, large periods of time unaccounted for. Sherlock seized this thin thread of a possibility and hailed a cab. He hadn't eaten or slept in days, but as he traveled to the gallery, he realized his suit was wrinkled and his dark curls were unwashed. Bounding up the back stairs of the museum, he was surprised how little he cared.

"And where do you think you're going?"

As Sherlock exited the dimly lit stairwell at the third floor, a knuckly security guard with a shaggy beard and rheumy eyes shuffled toward him. Quickly switching gears, Sherlock threw up his hands helplessly.

"The elevator was slow."

A wide grin cracked the guard's friendly face. "That it is. But museum patrons aren't allowed on this level. I'm going to have to ask you to go back down, sir."

"Mr. Ilic." Sherlock leaned forward to see the man's security badge more clearly. "Mr. Patrick told me that if I was ever in town, I had to look him up. I'm only in London for today. I'd be ever so grateful if you would make an exception this one time and point me to his office. I'll just leave a note to say I was here."

Sherlock widened his blue-green eyes to achieve what John called his "kicked puppy" expression.

The guard considered the detective carefully. "Where do you know Mr. Patrick from?"

Unphased, Sherlock lied. "The Old Hare. A pub in Manchester."

Nodding, Ilic gestured for him to follow. "That sounds like Mr. Patrick. He likes his ale."

"You know him well?" Sherlock asked lightly.

"Let's say I know more about the director than most people," Ilic sniggered.

Sherlock gave the man a friendly pat on the back. "Tell me more."

~s~s~s~s~

Considering how taxing their last shift had been, Dr. Schaeffer and his team welcomed the ordinary start to their next workday. After rounds, Geoff left to meet with the chief of staff, while Michelle and Freddie spent the next hour catching up on paperwork. Adile, however, went back to Jane's room.

The swelling on her patient's face had gone down enough so that Adile could make out the woman's features. Her coloring reminded Adile of a young girl at the refugee camp where she and Geoff had volunteered. That girl, also beaten severely, had died. Adile noted gladly that Jane's vital signs were strong in spite of the fact she remained unconscious.

She gently examined Jane's upper left arm. Amid the finger-shaped bruises was a distinctive pence-sized red circle. It looked as if Jane's attacker had punched her intentionally to leave that specific mark. Patting the woman's hand, Adile strode down the hall to the elevator and went to Geoff's office. She searched local news sites for reports of a missing woman. She broadened her search to include nearby cities and did find one or two mentions of missing women, but their descriptions didn't match Jane's.

Thinking about the red mark on her patient's arm, she slowly typed in the name she wanted to forget: the Monster of Zelengora. Up popped countless articles one of the most heinous war criminal of the Bosnian conflict. She already knew the facts; after working in the camp, she made a point of following every news story about him. The man supposedly had been a factory worker whose sociopathic nature found an outlet when the war began. He was never captured or even positively identified. Only one photo of him existed, but no one could say for sure which blurred face in the graduating class picture was his.

The female refugees, shattered and empty, all shared a similar horror story. At his hands they had been repeatedly beaten and raped. And each one had a distinctive round mark branded on her upper left arm, a permanent reminder of his abuse. The difference between them and Jane was Jane hadn't been raped and the mark on her arm hadn't been burned into her flesh.

"I leave for five minutes and you take over my office." Geoff interrupted her thoughts as he entered with a teasing smile that disappeared when he saw Adile's pensive expression. "What's wrong?"

"How did your meeting with Gideon go?" Her attempt to sound sunny fell flat.

"What's wrong?"

Adile closed the laptop. "The mark on Jane's arm. I double-checked it. He did it. The Monster."

Geoff tossed his clipboard on his desk. As much as he wanted to deny the possibility that this man was in England, the surgeon trusted Adile's judgment.

"Yeah, OK." He carefully took off his glasses and slipped them into his pocket. "We need to call the police. No, the Home Office. Someone there will know what to do next."

~s~s~s~s~

It happened so quickly. John wasn't sure what occurred first—Mycroft opening the door to the museum director's office or Sherlock slamming the man against the opposite wall. Instinctively, John rushed across the plush office to pry his friend's fingers from the director's throat.

"Let him go!" he shouted, pulling Sherlock with one strong movement. John released his grasp on Sherlock's arm as the detective jerked away.

"What is this all this about?" Mycroft sounded more than annoyed.

Gary Patrick, a heavy-set man whose oily appearance was heightened by a ruddy complexion, simmered quietly. "This ill-mannered idiot came here without an appointment, demanding access to the Blackwell paintings, babbling something about a kidnapping. The next thing I know, he attacked me."

Sherlock shot him a withering look. "You said something regrettable. Something ill-mannered. Didn't you, Patrick?"

The man shifted uncomfortably. "I may have misspoken. But you had no right to—"

"He said Molly was stupid."

"What?" John asked incredulously.

"I did not." Indignant, Patrick straightened his jacket. "I said whoever this Molly Hooper is, she was stupid for being involved with a maniac like Sherlock Holmes."

John quickly blocked Sherlock before the detective could lunge at the museum director again.

"Mr. Patrick, I do apologize for my brother's outburst. I am Mycroft Holmes, and we are here to ensure the security of the Blackwell paintings. I'm sure you were notified of this security analysis."

Pacified, the museum director resumed his seat behind his glass-and-chrome desk. "I did receive something from the insurance company. Let me look."

"You have to get some rest," John whispered, surveying his friend's unkempt appearance. Sherlock's five o'clock shadow was uneven and his rumpled suit hung limply on his lanky frame.

"Where have you been?" Sherlock demanded.

"I tried to tell you last night. Mycroft came back early to help find Molly. We thought—"

"We?"

John took a deep breath, then a second one. "We thought if we could work on this case together, we could turn up some leads more quickly."

"Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. My brother and my blogger working on my bloody case!" Sherlock left the office with John on his heels.

"You aren't yourself right now. You haven't slept, haven't eaten. You're running on pure adrenaline."

Sherlock scowled. "I can go without food or sleep. You know that."

"How many nicotine patches are you wearing?"

"None."

John shook his head. "This isn't just another case. This is Molly we're talking about."

Sherlock whirled around, his face contorted darkly. "Do you think I don't realize that?"

He had never seen Sherlock so close to losing control. "Of course you do," John said evenly. "Tell me what you did last night. You were up all night, I presume?"

Hearing John's reasoned voice calmed him. "I reviewed my cases to see if there was anyone who could outwit a state-of-the-art security system and plan a kidnapping. There was no one. I began background checks on the staff. Patrick has a sketchy past, so I decided to confront him immediately."

"Sherlock, she's going to be fine. We will find her." John placed his hand on the detective's arm and was met with a look of despair.

"John, I don't know what I'll do if—"

"I just received a call," interrupted Mycroft as he strode up to them. "You need to go to Detective Inspector Lestrade's office."

Sherlock swallowed hard. "Why?"

"My people have broken the code. By the time you get there, Lestrade should have deduced which of the envelopes corresponds to the man that hired Milverton to watch you and Dr. Hooper. I will stay here and ensure the paintings are safe."

Staring at his brother blankly, Sherlock asked, "Why are you helping me?"

Mycroft gave him a bemused smile. "I have my reasons."

~s~s~s~s~

"Zelengora."

"What or who is that?" Sherlock asked.

Lestrade handed him a manila envelope marked with a Z. "I had to look it up myself. It's a mountain region in Bosnia. During the war there was a large rape camp there."

"Rape camp?" John echoed, horrified.

"Rape as a weapon of war, doctor. What a sick world we live in, yeah? The right bastard who ran it earned himself the nickname the Monster of Zelengora. And that is what Milverton wrote down and put in this envelope," Lestrade said. "According to the code key, the dates and initials on the flap make this the only envelope Milverton had that matches up with those surveillance photos."

Sherlock dropped the envelope and paper on the floor. "Tell me the rest of it. What else you learned about this criminal."

"According to what I've been able to find online, he was never caught. Supposedly his name was Dom Vijec, but no one knows for sure. He disappeared completely after the war."

"So a war criminal hired Milverton to watch Sherlock and Molly . . . and then kidnapped Molly?" John wondered, slumping into a chair.

"The man obviously changed his identity and is here in London. He feared the background checks I would run as part of the security analysis would reveal his true identity. He took Molly to keep me from doing that," Sherlock said tonelessly and walked to the doorway.

John and Lestrade watched Sherlock anxiously. They didn't have to see his face to know what the detective was thinking, because it was what they were thinking, too. A brutal rapist was holding Molly hostage.

"Lady Blackwell's estate manager is from Serbia," John realized. "Mycroft recognized the accent. Could he have something to do with it?"

"Give me his name," Lestrade ordered and John complied.

"The museum security guard I met is also Serbian," said Sherlock, turning to face them. "I heard the inflections when he spoke. Mycroft thinks accents are his specialty. The truth is I'm much better at identifying them than he is."

"So that is two possibilities," John said. "Now we are getting somewhere."

"Three actually," Sherlock said. "There also is Gary Patrick."

"Who is that?" Lestrade asked.

"Gary Patrick, the gallery director. He had his name legally changed ten years ago. He was born Goran Petrovic."

"How on earth did you deduce that? By the way he took a punch?" John asked.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Don't be ridiculous. Ilic the security guard told me."

Lestrade tapped his pen rapidly. "What I wouldn't give to be able to bring all three of them in and make this Monster reveal himself. But hunches won't do it. I need proof."

Sherlock began to pace. "Let's think logically about this. Petrovic would have known about the security analysis, but he is in the public eye as a gallery director. Not a good place to be if you want to be in hiding.

"Ilic the security guard presumably had to pass several background checks to be in his position. He wouldn't necessarily have heard about the security analysis in advance.

"Lady Blackwell's estate manager, Tojagic. What can you tell me about him, John?"

"He manages her properties in Cornwall. He is from Serbia. They met in Croatia."

"And if memory serves, Lady Blackwell is a recluse?"

John nodded. "She said they don't have the Internet, mobiles, or computers. Only a landline in Tojagic's office. They are in town for the exhibit."

Sherlock nodded, every fiber of his being ready to run out the door. "Let's go see him."

~s~s~s~s~

The man felt good about how his meeting with Holmes had gone. Despite his obvious intelligence, he had no idea whom he was dealing with.

Taking a sip of coffee, he waved the waitress away when she came to take his order. No, he would sit here quietly and enjoy his success.

~s~s~s~s~

Dr. Schaeffer hung up with a sigh. "I don't know how much they believed me, but they took down the information."

Adile furrowed her brow. "What else can we do?"

Geoff pulled her into a loving embrace. "I know how upsetting this is for you. I promise we will keep doing whatever we can to catch this man."

"Dr. Schaeffer! Oh . . . I am sorry!" Michelle Dreiser stood in the doorway, red with embarrassment.

Adile smiled softly as she separated from Geoff. "What is it, Dr. Dreiser?"

"Jane is waking up."

The trio rushed to their patient's bedside. Dr. Schaeffer examined Jane, who softly moaned under fluttering eyelashes.

"Can you hear me? If you can, squeeze my hand," he instructed her. He felt a slight pressure on his hand.

"You are going to be fine, dear," Adile said, stroking her cheek.

Jane's eyes opened slightly then drifted closed again.

"She was trying to speak earlier. I think she was saying her name," said Michelle.

"What was it?"

"I couldn't be sure, but it sounded like Sheryl."

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