The tables, many of which were already occupied, were laid with fine white and blue Bone China and silver cutlery. Elegantly dressed men and women were indulging themselves with sandwiches, gateau, and freshly baked scones, whose scent filled the air, making Molly's empty stomach growl.
A waiter came to seat her at a table in one corner of the room. The noise of the animated conversations provided very little privacy, so Molly wondered how they would talk about their 'business' without people around them noticing. She was extremely nervous and felt a strong desire to dry her hands on the fine cloth of her skirt over and over again, knowing that they would keep sweating anyway. She was scared, bloody scared! Never in her life would she have imagined that one day she would not just examine corpses, but would have tea with a murderer in order to hire them to kill her heart-throb. That was insane!
"Hello, Molly," Brigitte greeted her, interrupting her contemplations. Collecting herself quickly, the pathologist gave the elder woman a sweet smile.
"Hello, Brigitte," she replied, hoping that the tremor in her voice would be swallowed by the surrounding cacophony of talks.
Mrs Campbell sat down without waiting for the waiter to move her chair.
"So, have you thought about my offer?" she asked straightforwardly.
Squirming inwardly, Molly said "I don't know what exactly your offer is."
A waiter came and brought them their cream tea, but Molly had suddenly lost her appetite. The woman opposite the pathologist smiled a fake smile, reaching out for Molly's hand again, but instinctively, she drew it away from her, taking her cup of tea in a kind of displacement activity. The bergamot scent of the tea was unbearable to her, although she normally loved Earl Grey tea, particularly when it was well-brewed like this one. By all means, Molly wanted to avoid being touched by a murderer.
"Not here, dear," Mrs Campbell replied, attending to a scone that she literally crammed into her mouth without even putting any jam or cream on it. Molly's whole body was screaming disgust.
This was, however, exactly where Molly, or Sherlock, respectively, wanted to have her. Molly offered to go to her room. Sherlock would be hiding somewhere in the room, overhearing their talk. As soon as they had agreed on negotiating their 'contract' in her room, Molly was supposed to wipe her mouth with a napkin and to accidentally drop it afterwards, which was the signal for the detective to await them.
"Ok," Brigitte agreed. "Who wants tea when one can have champagne?" she remarked cheerfully upon standing up and turning towards the exit of the Palm Court.
Molly followed her, throwing a last regretful glance at the delicious cream tea that was only making her sick today.
"After you. I don't know which room you're in," Mrs Campbell said, still smiling. It seemed to Molly as if something hard and eerie had crept into the woman's facial expression and fear spread in her guts, when all of a sudden she felt herself tightly embraced by Brigitte's right arm, her left arm pressing something hard to her side.
Molly stood still. Even if she had wanted to move, she simply couldn't. That woman was apparently pressing a gun at her side and it wasn't at all clear to the pathologist where she had got it from so quickly without her noticing. She wasn't prepared for this.
"If you don't want to die, which I think you really don't, walk with me," the woman hissed.
"I... I...," Molly stuttered, unable to even catch a clear thought. Where was Sherlock?! A cold shiver ran down her spine when she remembered wiping her mouth with the napkin just a few minutes ago. Sherlock was waiting for them in the hotel room. He wouldn't even notice where she went.
"Walk and smile!" ordered Mrs Campbell, pushing her into the direction of the main exit.
Since the hotel was located at one of London's busiest roads, Molly was hoping for a moment to escape the woman, but had to realise that the black-windowed limousine waiting outside would be the car taking her to her death. Strangely enough, she didn't feel any nausea or tears welling anymore; she was merely numb.
"Why... the gun?" Molly wanted to know, mustering all her remaining courage.
They had taken a seat in the back of the car, Molly now openly facing the deadly weapon.
"There was the creepy smile again. "Because, Molly Hooper, I know exactly who you are - and you, my dear will be the bait now. Of course, you and Sherlock Holmes will die anyway, but it will be a great pleasure for me to see you both suffer for a while - just like my father had to suffer. And this time, the Tabun dosage will be enough to kill you two. Slowly, but effectively and painfully," she spat.
"How do I know? Haha, Molly, you're really slow - or Sherlock Holmes keeps you uninformed for some reason. I was the one arranging the Tabun delivery to your friend's house. Of course I had to know who he was working with, so consequently I knew you. In fact, it took me a while to recognise you with your smart turn-out and stuff, but you have no idea how happy I was when I realised that you wanted to trap me. That meant Sherlock Holmes wouldn't be far away. Lucky me!"
Molly felt ice cold. How could Sherlock make such a mistake?! He could solve a murder in just a few minutes, outlining every single possibility at the speed of light without one single minor detail escaping his attention. And yet, when it came to himself, he missed such a crucial thing! and still, Molly had made a vow to herself to never let Sherlock down, and she would stick to it now. She would try to save him, if necessary by sacrificing herself.
"Why do you think you have us both?" she asked in a hoarse voice.
"That's as easy as pie. You are my security now; consider yourself abducted - and dead." Mrs Campbell winked at Molly, who really couldn't see anything funny in it, and she just stared back.
"You matter to Sherlock Holmes, he's rich - look at your clothes! - he's going to pay a pretty sum for you, he's going to come for the exchange, you're going to be covered in Tabun, you're both going to die because this time nobody will be able to rescue you. Full stop."
"I don't count." Molly said quietly. "I don't really matter to anybody. It's a waste of time, your plan."
"Haha, nice try. Tell me this then: Why are you doing all this for him, eh? If you don't count."
"He's ... taking advantage of me and I let him. That's mainly it." Something warm was running down Molly's cheeks and she realised that she was silently crying. Not only was she crying because she was scared out of her wits, but also because she wasn't entirely sure about the truth of her words, or rather if they were even a lie. He had said that he needed her, but was that the same like saying that she mattered to him?
"Stop that!" the woman shouted, pointing at Molly's face. The car was gliding through the streets, but the pathologist had lost all sense of orientation. After a long while, they stopped in front of a run-down brick building. There were some letters visible on the front of the old house, which were hardly readable, but Molly could identify one word that told her that the woman definitely hadn't been joking: Chemicals. How simple the idea of using an abandoned chemicals factory to poison them with chemical weapons!
The terrified young woman was recklessly pushed out of the car and dragged into the cold interior of the factory, dust and damp welcoming her. At gunpoint, she walked up a rusty metal staircase to the first floor and entered a large empty room, which could have been a laboratory once, going by the formerly white tile floor and walls. Everything was covered by a thick brownish coat of dirt, leaving smeary streaks and churning up clouds of particles where the shoes hit the floor, and Molly had to be careful not to slip. In the corner of the room there were two dirty old but stable chairs, equipped with sturdy strips that seemed to be waiting to hold a captive firmly. Molly was shoved into the direction of the chairs. If only she had a mind palace like Sherlock and could think of something to escape from this woman. If she didn't do anything but let herself be tied to the chair, she would definitely die - and so would Sherlock. If only she had a mobile, a tracer or anything like that, but she had nothing, nothing at all.
There was just one thing she could try; if she died in an attempted escape or if she died later, that didn't matter anyway. Molly mustered all her courage, shot around and kicked Mrs Campbell on her thigh. She had wanted to kick higher to make her drop the gun, but the floor was too slippery and the high heels didn't leave her a good radius of action, so everything she managed was a rather weak kick.
The woman howled in pain, the heel with a pointy end of the size of a penny hitting her muscle hurtfully, but all that Molly actually reached was that she became furious. In one sudden movement, she drew back her arm for a blow to the pathologist's head with the barrel of the gun and Molly saw little dancing lights at the corner of her visual field before hitting the disgusting floor hard with her knees and hands, ending up on all fours. She instantly felt a slight burning sensation where the substance on the floor came into contact with the skin of her hands.
realised that she was on the verge of becoming unconscious and felt
herself half-lifted from the floor and dragged through the room. In the
back of her mind she knew that this was it now. She had failed.