The Consulting Detective threw himself on the couch, sighing deeply and rubbing his temples.
John watched his actions with a frown, but didn't dare to ask. He wouldn't get an answer anyway. He put the kettle on and waited for the water to boil. Suddenly Sherlock sat up on the sofa.
"Why do you think they used Tabun of all poisons? There are many other neurotoxic substances that kill faster, without any chance of recovery."
"Dunno. Haven't thought about it."
"Yes, I thought so. However, there must be a reason for it. John, what do you know about it? Apart from the chemical details which I know very well myself."
John mused. "Hmm, it's a chemical weapon, classified as a weapon of mass destruction, accidentally developed while experimenting for insecticides in World War II in Germany, though never used in that war. It's said to have been used by the US to kill unwanted people secretly. It was, however, used in the Iran-Iraq war and probably also in Afghanistan. That's mainly it, I guess."
Sherlock got up from the sofa and started pacing the room restlessly.
"The key must be in the Tabun," he mumbled to himself.
Sherlock grabbed the chair by the desk, dropped on it heavily and started typing away on his laptop. John watched him. He was still slightly alarmed by his flatmate's complexion.
After some time Sherlock shook his head in desperation.
"I can't find very much on Tabun, however, there should be more information in the German Military Archive in Freiburg."
"Freiburg? Germany? Actually, I have a friend there, Christoph Lintele, former German comrade. He started working in the archive after he took a bullet in Afghanistan."
Sherlock didn't say anything, but fiercely typed on his laptop.
"I could call him," John suggested.
"No, you meet him. Your flight's going tonight, 7pm from Heathrow, BA to Basel. You'll pick up a car in Basel and it's just 45 miles from there to Freiburg. You can be back by tomorrow night. However, you have to rush a bit now!"
"Thanks Sherlock! Actually, I prefer being asked! What about you? Aren't you coming?"
"No, I have to THINK! I have to access my mind palace again and try to find any information that could help."
"Oh, I see. And you can't do it on the plane, can you?" John tried, causing Sherlock to give him a long, unfriendly glance. "No, you can't, I see. Well, so I have to do the legwork again, right?"
"Seven sharp, John."
There were times when John felt something like hate for his flatmate.
In fact, John wasn't sure if flying in an airplane was the appropriate rest that he should have for his recovery, but he resigned himself to going, because he wanted to find out about the nerve agent as much as Sherlock did.
Sherlock had been kind enough to book him first class, so the flight had been an unexpected pleasure. Having landed in Basel and having picked up the car that Sherlock had reserved, John drove through the darkness. Had his flatmate ever wasted a thought on the effort it took to drive on the wrong side of the road, in the wrong side of a car at night, whilebeing tired to the bones? After all, they had only been released from the clinic this morning!
John had contacted his friend on his way to the airport to make sure he would have time for him. In fact, his former comrade had invited him to stay over, but John had preferred a hotel. Having arrived in Freiburg he only managed to rid himself of his shoes before he fell into the very comfortable bed and into a deep, exhausted sleep.
When he woke up the next morning he had difficulties figuring out where he was and what he was doing there. He padded into the bathroom, looked into the mirror and at himself disbelievingly. He was a mess. Nothing, however, that couldn't be straightened with a thorough shower and a good breakfast.
When it was time to meet his friend, John felt much better. He had to restrain himself, though, from sending Sherlock a text asking how he was this morning, because he knew that he wouldn't get any other reply but fine, if at all. So he might as well drop the idea.
Apart from the circumstances, John was really pleased to meet his German friend Christoph again after such a long time. He had been able to take a day off at short notice, and so they wandered about the beautiful city of Freiburg, enjoying the special geographic location of it in so far as the usually chilly temperature at that time of the winter wasn't chilly in Freiburg at all. In fact, it felt like spring there, with the sun shining from a clear blue sky. A couple of times John stumbled over the little gutters that crossed the entire city and his friend teased him that he would have to marry a girl from Freiburg if he should fall into one. As far as John could see, that wasn't really a threat, however, he didn't want to get wet or sprain an ankle, so he paid attention, having to jump occasionally.
After some chatter, John got to the point. He told his former comrade that he needed detailed information on Tabun, but he didn't tell him the details why that was the case. So together they went to the archive and looked for any information they could find.
John was soon disappointed since there wasn't really anything useful to be found – many of the files were top secret.
After hours of research John gave in, shrugging and wiping his face in disappointment.
"John, what exactly are you looking for, eh? You know, I owe you something, so probably, if you tell me what you're really looking for, I could possibly help you," Christoph said.
The ex-army doctor looked at his comrade intently. In fact, yes, he owed John his life. Back in Afghanistan the German soldier had been found by a British patrol after a shooting with the terrorists and had been brought to John who had struggled, yet managed to prevent Christoph from bleeding out.
John sighed, "Let's have coffee, it's a long story."
When John told his story, carefully leaving out the most delicate details, his companion nearly dropped his coffee mug in sheer amazement. After John's report, he simply stated: "Well, you're not leading the most boring life, especially compared with working in an archive."
"Less risky, though." John remarked in response.
He agreed to help John to get access to the more secret documents. However, he had to prepare that. So they decided to have a late dinner together and arrange anything further then.
When they met in the lobby of John's hotel, the German carried a black leather briefcase, which he handed to John. "Sorry, mate, I couldn't get you in there, but I made some copies. You know, if anyone ever finds out about this, my life will be made pretty miserable, if I have a life leftat all. So, be careful, will you?"
John shuddered. He hadn't wanted to put Christoph into danger. He wasn't sure if there was any imminent danger, but he could tell that it hadn't been that easy to get the information he was holding in his hands now.
Since neither man wasreally hungry anymore, they parted with a tight hug, patting each other's shoulders.
John retreated to his hotel room, deeply curious about the files he had been given. As he sensed that the material held explosive information he wanted to have backup-copies in case anything happened to the files. So he took one sheet of paper after the other and took a photo of it with his mobile phone.
Still worried about his friend Christoph, he finally fell into a fitful sleep.
The next morning he drove back to Basel, returned the car and waited for the 12.25 plane back to London. In the pre-boarding area he sent a text to Sherlock with details of when he would arrive back Baker Street.
John knew exactly that Sherlock was generally capable of using hundreds of thousands of different words, however, he apparently had to teach him some synonyms for fine one day!
After a quiet and pleasant flight, he got into a cab outside the airport.
He was watching the scenery flying by when his mobile rang – it was Sherlock.
"Yes, Sherlock, I'm already in the taxi, I'll be there in about twenty minutes."
"Erm, Dohn, could dou try a bit faster?"
"Sherlock, what is it? Why are you speaking in such a funny way?"
"My dose is bleeding!"
"Ah, nosebleed! Sherlock, get yourself some ice from the fridge, put it in a bag, wrap that bag in a towel and put it in your neck. Bend forwards so that the blood can run from your nose. Most likely it will have stopped by the time I'll be there, nothing to worry about."
"A lot of blood."
"Yes, but it always seems to be more than it actually is. Don't worry. Get the ice and you'll be fine."
John hung up. Sherlock could be a child, after all. Bruises, stab wounds, nerve agent poisoning, all these couldn't disconcert the Consulting Detective, however, a simple nosebleed set him off the edge.
Although…. John felt a sudden pang of worry. There were occasions when nose bleeding actually was dangerous.
"Go as fast as you can!" he ordered the cabbie.
"Doing anyway," that one replied.
"No, I mean, really fast. Emergency!" John shouted back.
The cabbie sped up as much as the heavytraffic allowed. John dialled Sherlock's number and waited for the Detective to pick up his phone – which he didn't. That wasn't good. John wondered if he should dial Mycroft's emergency number once again, but decided otherwise. If that was just a simple nosebleed, he would make a complete fool of himself. He had to check on his flatmate first.
After having paid the taxi fee, John fumbled to get the key into the front door. He ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time and rushed into the living room. Sherlock wasn't there. Instead there was a lot of blood. A few droplets in front of the kitchen, more on the way to the sofa, a whole puddle in front of the sofa and a trail of blood leading to the bathroom.
That was far too much blood
for just a harmless nosebleed.