When his friends had contacted him to say that they had a little problem to solve, he had immediately agreed to help them. He had tried to find out why they had left Great Britain so hastily, leaving everything behind as if they had been in flight, but they hadn't told him anything. They had appealed to the good old times and to their friendship. Their grandfathers had served in World War II together and they had always been close friends. They had said that they had an old score to settle with a family called "Holmes". Yes, the name had rung a bell to him and he remembered the newspaper articles about the internet phenomenon Sherlock Holmes, the super-sleuth.
Finally, after years of only recreational shooting, as he hadn't been admitted to enter the army because of, as they said, psychological instability, he could prove his abilities as a shot. He had always dreamt of a military career, going to war, having power over others, but those damn military psychologists had cheated on him. He was convinced that they had tampered with his medical test results. They didn't want him and so they blamed it on his mental condition. They didn't know what good a man they were wasting.
He was glad that finally he got his chance; however, there had been a couple of problems. It was impossible for him to get a gun and ammunition without raising suspicions. He had tried to find ways to get one, but apparently he had talked to the wrong people. They had just looked him up and down and sent him away. He hadn't wanted to go on asking about as he was risking talking to a spy or something one day. He had to be careful, he was a spy himself and nobody would find out about him.
His friends had warned him that the tiniest mistake could be his final one. So, he had to take a gun from the shooting club and ask his clients, as he called his friends now, for ammunition for it. It was impossible to buy bullets without being registered. The ones he got from his clients, however, were untraceable, at least in Britain.
He had been instructed to first find a random person, shoot him and leave a note on the body. He didn't know why but he also hadn't asked. He was loyal, just as easy as that, he wouldn't ask questions. Contract Killers didn't ask questions, and he was one of them now. Plus, it had been his chance to get rid of at least one of those homeless rats. But he had had to find one who didn't have too many friends. He had been following different individuals of the trash and pretended that he was one of them; a disgusting task, but it had finally been rewarded with the perfect victim. The man had been from abroad, he couldn't remember where from, but didn't have any family who would miss him. He had been living in the streets for just a couple of weeks, had only recently lost his job and hadn't been able to afford his flat anymore. He still had tried to keep up appearances, but had been giving up on that, too. So, that had just been another of those "it-all-wasn't-my-fault-but-I-don't-know-how-to-ge t-out-of-this" roaches, who had better be removed from the streets of London.
It had been more difficult than he would have assumed to actually shoot a human being. His hand had been shaking and he had had to admit to himself that he couldn't kill him when looking him in the face. Therefore, he had waylaid him and shot him from behind. It had been a bit difficult, because a sports gun wasn't designed to kill and you had to be quite close to the person. Luckily, this one had chosen a quite lonely park for his night's rest, so he just had had to wait for him to pass by. And what a coincidence it had been that the park was just around the corner of the sleuth's flat! It hadn't been part of the instruction he had got, but he had thought it to be very clever.
After this bloody bugger of a victim had died eventually, he had had to apply the branding. He had taken a camping stove and a piece of metal in the shape of the long-stretched "S" that was attached to a stick. It had taken him a couple of days to prepare that tool and he had had to practise to heat the metal without burning the stick. He didn't have much time to do the branding, but it all had worked very well. Because of the cold and the quite icy rain, not a single other person had been in the park and he had been able to finish his work without any interruption or the need to move the body.
The smell of burnt flesh had been a bit revolting, but in the end he had found a strange pleasure in doing what he had done and he had developed the feeling that he wanted to repeat it. He was happy that he had been instructed to do it again. He had been a little sad that there had only been a tiny note in a daily newspaper about yet another dead homeless man, because there hadn't been any hints on what had killed him, even not on the branding. That had been annoying. Anyway, his next victim would raise a lot more public attention, which added to the thrill of the task. It was exciting to wait for the man to leave his home, to wait for the right moment. He had had to wait until the sleuth and his little fellow had been to the Yard. He wondered why that had been important. They had told him something about that the Met would most likely contact the detective. He didn't have the faintest idea why that was so important, but anyway, it had been fun – waiting in front of the Yard – in the centre of danger, but he was too clever for them to catch him. When the tall man and his short friend had left the Yard he knew that it was only a matter of days from then on until he could make his second strike.
If only his ex-wife could see him! That old bag had always wailed that he wasn't a real man – and how he had shown her that she had been wrong all the time! He had beaten the daylights out of her one day after she had pestered him once too often. And then she was gone, without any note. He had come back home and expected supper to be ready; instead he had only found the dishes scattered about the whole kitchen, her wardrobe all empty, no note left behind. He had thought she would come back anyway. She didn't have any money to go anywhere, she was dependent on him. And yet, she never returned. He had tried to find out if she was staying with her family in Scotland, but they didn't tell him a word. He had even gone there to drag her back home personally, but she hadn't been there. If it was up to him, she could go to hell anyway. He wouldn't be weak and rely on others. So he had started doing the household-things like washing and cleaning on his own, although he despised women's work. He was convinced that she wouldn't dare call him a sissy if she saw him now.
It was difficult to follow the two men as they were walking, sometimes zigzagging into small alleys that were inaccessible for cars. So he had to find a way around those. He had already lost them a couple of times, but had been lucky to find them again. He had to be extremely careful not to reveal his presence to the sleuth and his follower, who had been looking over his shoulder and scanning the area a thousand times. He was apparently very cautious. Did they knowthat they were being followed? But how? He hadn't asked many questions as his friends paid him very well. With that money he would be able to buy a woman from Asia who would be most willing to fulfil all his wishes.
This was the night when Sherlock Holmes was going to die and nothing could prevent that. The only annoying thing was that nobody had told him that the detective would be followed by this funny nervous puppet at all times. Therefore, he had to get rid of him, too. It didn't matter if the other man died or not, he wasn't paid to kill him, he just had to be out of his way.
When they had entered a particularly quiet road with just a few parking cars and no other pedestrians, he saw his chance. He released the safety catch of his gun and felt the butterflies of excitement fluttering in his stomach.
He had parked the car a couple of minutes ago when the two men had entered the road. He couldn't follow them in the car; that would be too obvious. He had thus sneaked around the corner a couple of times, always avoiding being in sight when the short man did his quite obsessive looking-around. The tall man, Holmes, was about to cross the street. The shorter one was still standing on the pavement, with apparently no intention of following the other one. That was the moment, his moment. He ran back to the car, fidgeted with the cables to short-circuit it, quickly pulled a woollen mask over his face and chuckled. The short man could be a witness, but what he would witness wouldn't help, because he himself was too smart. The car wasn't his; he had stolen it earlier this evening. He had been practising breaking into cars for a while but had never actually taken one before. He could imagine the owners of the cars he had been practising with. They had to have been furious discovering that someone had tampered with the car locks and the starter cables. He chuckled again. They should be more careful with their cars these days.
When he was finished with his job he would just dispose of the mask, get rid of the car and take the gun back to their clubhouse. Nobody would notice that it had been used for other purposes than for shooting at cut-out silhouettes.
He opened the electric windows in the front, floored the accelerator and enjoyed the sound of the screeching rubber of the tyres on the asphalt. He pulled around the corner into the street where the two men were turning around towards him. He couldn't see their faces as he had turned off the car lights. Only then did he notice the black limousine right behind him. It was too late. He had to finish now what he had started.
Earlier that evening
Sherlock and John strode through the streets of the metropolis, away from the busier parts of it. Here and there they talked to the Consulting Detective's contacts who took the notes Sherlock handed them. He could be sure that their efforts to find something out about the dead man and his murderer would remain unnoticed by anyone outside the network.
It was chilly and the rain had changed from a light drizzle into heavier, splashing drops that made a stay outside rather unpleasant. Apart from those who were forced to walk somewhere and hurried on their ways with their heads bowed to protect them from the icy rain, hardly any pedestrians were to be seen.
Although Sherlock and John felt the cold, too, they didn't pay any attention to it; they were fully absorbed in their activity.
Sherlock's knowledge of the tangle of London's streets was amazing. They went through streets which John had never seen before and, without taking a cab, managed to get quite a distance between Baker Street and their current location.
John had stored his loaded gun in the back of his trousers and his hand occasionally found its way there. It was little comfort to be armed without knowing who the enemy was. John couldn't avoid scanning the area all the time. One could easily develop persecution mania when associating with Sherlock Holmes.
When in a particularly deserted and gloomy road they had temporarily reduced the pace with which they were darting through the streets and alleys, John tried to find out what Sherlock thought about the idea that probably Mycroft's resistance to tell his brother about his abduction might have a deeper reason than just stubbornness or resentment.
Sherlock occasionally looked sideways at John while explaining his thoughts.
"Managing your memories is a bit like putting someone under hypnosis – it IS important to do it properly. If you don't do the hypnosis expertly, your client might not wake up again properly, might be stuck between sleep and wakefulness. If you try to get him out then, he might go insane.
If you delete memories and you don't do it properly, there's always the risk of their re-emergence. It might be delicate, although I doubt that there is a risk of going insane, I don't think so. I'm not sure, however, why, but Mycroft is carefully trying to avoid triggering that. Maybe there's more to it than just the abduction, maybe I might remember something he doesn't want me to recall."
"Oh, Sherlock! Do you still doubt Mycroft's good-will?" John stopped walking. How could he still not be convinced about his brother's caring? He was apparently still trying to ignore it, to get back to what his mind was willing and able to understand, back to his ones and zeros.
"As I said, I'm not sure," he said, turning away from his flatmate and crossing the street.
At that very moment a car shot around the corner of the street without its lights on. John felt his hair stay on end. He ran across the street, at the same time grabbing his gun from the belt of his trousers, but he was too slow. The car pulled slightly to the left and headed directly towards him. He could only manage to shoot randomly at the car's front window before he felt himself taken off the ground and for a moment everything went dark.
"Let him live," was his last thought before he crashed to the ground behind the car. He hadn't heard the popping sounds of the gunfire.
He struggled into consciousness and tried to sit up.
John's world stopped turning and shattered into millions of pieces.
He felt the cold rain on his head, running down his face and the droplets of water soaking his collar. His trousers were all wet and the cold was crawling up his legs, giving him goose-bumps. However, it wasn't just the cold from the rain and the chilly temperature, it was a gruesome cold clutching him, eating him up.
His hands were grazed from the concrete and he was vaguely aware of the burning sensation the wounds caused. He was numb, unable to move. His mouth opened and yet remained silent, the scream wanting to escape from deep inside him stuck in his throat.
Some droplets of rain dripped from his upper lip into his mouth. They didn't taste of water, though. Iron. Blood. There was blood in his mouth. He had apparently hit his head hard on the asphalt.
Everything hurt under the surface of the numbness, a dull pain that became stronger. It was strongest in his leg. He was sure it was broken. He was lying in the pouring rain – injured and broken - but did any of that matter?
John couldn't avert his gaze from Sherlock. The Consulting Detective was lying ashort distance away from him, the bullet hole in his head clearly visible even in the rain and the dark, a cruel black spot on the pale skin. There was a dark rivulet running from the hole, finally forming a small puddle under Sherlock's head. Raindrops splashed into the dark liquid. Sherlock's arms were extended and his coat was spread under him, giving him the surreal look of a dark angel fallen from the night sky.
He had failed. Failed to save his life. All the times in the past months that he had been able to save his friend's life had been in vain. The thought of it tore him apart. John took a deep breath and eventually screamed from the bottom of his heart and soul before darkness embraced him, the echo of his desperation reverberating in the street.
The killer had held on tight to the steering-wheel with his left hand, the gun in his right pointing out of the window. Apparently the short man had become suspicious as he had started running across the street towards Holmes, pulling something from the back of his trousers. Whatever it had been that he had been trying to grab, it wouldn't have helpedhim. He had pulled a little to the left and headed straight towards the short man who had obviously managed to get the wanted item from his back. With increasing fear he had realized that it had been a gun. Who the hell was that man? He hadn't had time to think about it any further when at the same time he fired his gun the five times the magazine held the bullets for and overran the other man with the car. He had got a quick glimpse of the quite surprised look on the face of the short man, however, there had been something else in them.
Only when he felt a sharp pain at the side of his throat did he realize that it had been determination that he had seen in the man's face. He didn't know if he had hit Holmes as it had been quite a lot to concentrate on, shooting the one and running the other one over at the same time. He only hoped that one of the bullets had hit its target.
The sharp pain increased and at the same time he felt tired, almost unable to drive the car. He hadn't been tired before, actually he had particularly taken care of sleeping enough as he knew it would be a long night. He tried to wipe away the stinging, but when he took away his hand from his neck he felt something warm and sticky on it. Blood! That bastard must have somehow managed to shoot him! He felt a weight settling in his body, his arms and legs becoming heavy. He lost control over the car and still in full speed crashed into one of the cars that were parking at the kerb. Not too bad, he thought before the airbags inflated and his head dropped forwards, his eyes open, but dead.
Their boss had instructed them to follow his younger brother on the foot and, in case anything suspicious happened, to intervene with all the necessary means. He hadn't left them in any doubts as to what would happen if they failed their task. They were members of MI6, especially trained for the surveillance and protection of important people, a bit like James Bonds. They took their jobs very seriously – of course they did, otherwise they wouldn't be part of the special forces, but it had been really hard to follow the younger Holmes and his friend, Dr Watson without being noticed.
In a fraction of a second they realized that they had made a mistake. They had seen the blue Vauxhall earlier, but there were hundreds of those on the streets, so they hadn't seen any danger coming from it. Only when suddenly the car had shot around the corner of the street where Holmes and Watson were, did they discover that they had failed in their task. Everything happened so incredibly fast that they only managed to jump out of the car and, while positioning their weapons to shoot the driver from behind, watch their careers at the MI6 go down the drain.
They watched Dr Watson aim his gun at the driver and shoot just the second before the car hit him and he was catapulted over the bonnet and the roof of the car, crashing on the asphalt behind the car. At the same time they saw the tell-tale lightning of gunfire flashing inside the car and heard the bangs of shots that echoed through the streets. The younger Holmes fell backwards like a hewed tree.
A second later the assailant's car collided with a parking car with an incredibly loud crash, after which it suddenly became deadly quiet in the street.
Despite the terrible collision with the car, Watson moved a bit first, then tried to sit up, looking at the younger Holmes. He suddenly screamed heart-rendingly before falling back unconscious.
The two agents made quick
emergency calls before they ran the last couple of metres to the two bodies
lying in the street, being soaked by the now pouring rain, their blood forming
dark puddles under them that were, however, diluted and washed away by the
water. Watson's leg stood in an unnatural angle and he was most likely
seriously injured - but alive. Sherlock Holmes, however, was dead.