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The Ninth Muse - Baker Street Series Book 1


After a preemptive strike ordered by the mastermind they pursue, Holmes elects to continue his investigation under conditions that will force John Watson to fight for his friend's--colleague's--life.

Mystery / Adventure
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

| Cover Art - nero749.deviantArt.com |

Sherlock' s notes were as likely to be full of commentary on the inanity of today's news anchors and his personal preferences regarding soy sauce and grammar than any blasts of genius, most people didn't get that about him. But John Watson did. This infernal storm of papers all over the room is exactly what happened when you noticed everything. Genius was an untidy affair.

Holmes records meandered like a forsaken cow abandoned in the desert, from 'There were clear signs of formalin in the divots of the bowling ball – faintly detectable to the nose – enough to prove the client was lying; he had been in the University that night', to 'We are out of yogurt; who is responsible for this?', although that last one, John felt a super-sleuth should have known.

He shuffled Sherlock's papers.

More papers fell out.

John was the only one of them inclined to any kind of tidying. Tidying was inescapable. Eventually, John would have Sarah over, and he would have to clean the dishes and pots, do the laundry and folding, vacuum the carpets and find the tables again, under all these trees. He put the papers down in something resembling a pile and rubbed his face. Hands on his hips he stared around the room. Not bad. It was daunting he could say that, having been in the military, but a better kind of daunting.

Vaguely, John wished for a time when Sherlock brought some woman here. Then the tables would turn. John would stack dirty plates, leave clothes in piles, create towers of books with glassware on top, run cables from everywhere, even the light sockets, and nearly short-out the block with all the chargers in sockets in his flatmate's room. Or… on the other hand… that sounded perfectly dreadful. And he'd have to clean it up, wouldn't he? John smiled. Not to mention the fact he'd possibly suffer coronary distress from the shock. Sherlock and a woman? God, he was enough trouble already. Please, not that.

This led him to ponder the kind of woman Sherlock would find acceptable.

Most of the options that raced to mind were electrical.

God help me. John sighed a cloud of dust. That thinking wasn't charitable of him. Sherlock had said women 'weren't his area'? Well fine. Fine, even if he liked men. When it came to Sherlock, the gender was immaterial. The point John's 'well-meaning but inattentive' mind made was that it was a matter of human biology, human psychology. Holmes had a towering IQ. That burning engine of biology between his ears untangled the world. But he rattled around in a state of wayward ignorance concerning the biological support system sustaining it, not eating, not sleeping, slapping on nicotine patches. That was all without thinking of his psychological health. As a doctor these were difficult things to watch. In a friend.

But to Sherlock there was only the brain trust of his thoughts.

Did he notice women even? Hard to say. John caught himself on the way to the curb with the first Sherlock-approved bags of rubbish: anything he'd thrown on the floor was fair game, and he knew it. In fact, he stacked his old papers by the door as a reminder.

Ah-ha! He used his good looks as leverage with Molly Hooper. He didnotice.

John was pretty proud of himself as he dusted off and trotted upstairs again.

The feeling died as he peeled off his coat: Or didhe…?

No he didn't. Sherlock used the lever that Molly gave him. He didn't concern himself with her motivation. He cared how she could be useful to him. It was like a warped kind of mind-control.

John swept the kitchen, distracted, then leaned heavily on the broom. Holmes was a handful, but didn't deserve to live as a pariah. From what John could see, other than a heap of intellect and one massive case of ADHD, there wasn't anything wrong with him. It reassured John to realize he had no desire to somehow correctSherlock. That wasn't what a flatmate was for. Well – he thought as a mirror glinted at him from under the living room table – he didn't want to correct Holmes' behaviour; it would be great if he could pick up after himself, though. Sherlock had to get a handle on some of his habits, for sure, like firing a 9mm Browning in the apartment. But fixing that wasn't John's job. Out in the front room, John picked up the odd little rectangle of mirror gingerly. Mostly, Sherlock was fine as he was, and was this a drug mirror of some sort?

There was a conversation they'd never had. If Sherlock was ashamed that would be comforting.

John tucked the mirror in a kitchen drawer. There, he suspected it would be lost to the ages. Sherlock didn't look for things, and John resolved he simply wouldn't findit when asked. Unless it was part of some elaborate experiment regarding refraction, or… something.

Oh mighty drawer. What lies in your depths may never again see the light of day. Because Sherlock calls me home from work in order to hand him a pen.

John chuckled and shoved the drawer shut. Now if he lockedit, no power under God would keep Sherlock out. He turned to survey his work.

Oh my God, I am amazing.

He wiped the table down, and was done.

There was a string of flats in Sherlock's past. It wasn't just the mess. It was his inability to create and maintain relationships. He actually frightened others, and that was without coming home to eyeballs in a jam jar in the microwave, and a head in a pan in the fridge. Thank you, Molly. Even if he did treat that poor girl like a puppet, part of John would never forgive her for giving Sherlock severed heads to work with. I mean, how, exactly, did one get a severed headhome?


Speaking of which, where was he anyway?

John looked at the slanting sun. Almost 10 AM and Sherlock hadn't cracked the door of his room, moaned, shouted for orange juice, or tea – nothing. Lazy bugger. Did they know each other well enough for John to walk in there and wake him? That was the province of family, really. But it was getting on. They should be going for breakfast or something. He was surprised when he turned the knob and found Sherlock's bed empty. In fact, John froze.

Sherlock had slept the night there, right? Did he make his bed up in the mornings? John had no idea. Sherlock would have known the same before John moved in. He realized he'd last seen Sherlock brooding over his blog last night. It was possible he hadn't been in the house at all last night.

This could be nothing. Or this could be bad.

John strode back and checked for his gun. It was still in its holster beside his favourite chair. He wasn't a Consulting Detective, but it didn't take one to know if Sherlock had done that before leaving – and what time had Sherlock left? John figured he'd been up since 6AM and hadn't heard Holmes. Well, maybe he could relax. Sherlock hadn't taken the gun; things weren't so bad.

He checked the blog.

It had been updated at 2:30AM. Did that mean Sherlock had still been in the flat?

Could he update it from his phone? Why would he do that instead of take a netbook?

Because he texts like a concert pianist plays is why.

If he'd been in the flat then-

His phone chirruped at him and John ran to pick it up.

'That's about enough tidying, John.'

The wash of relief felt like a dousing of ice water after a soccer game. Watson caught up his coat and keys on the way to the door. Something was on, just as surely as there was something loaded about that message. He could fairly feel it through the phone.

Hunt and peck – John texted like a geriatric – got him there with some effort: 'Where are you, Sherlock.' He locked the door and looked for a cab. No chance he was nearby….

The answer came back: ?

Dammit. Was there such a thing as a bad connection for texting? 'I said where are you now.' John typed painfully. His luck – no cabs on the street at the moment.

Sherlock responded like lightning – 'It is a question. Alt+B = ? As in, Do you understand?'

Patience, John. 'Okay, fine. Where are you?' You grammar Nazi.

A series of rapid-fire texts chimed in so quickly, passersby glanced his way:

'Scotland Yard.'

'Come immediately.'

'Bring soup ladle.'

'Small bowl. As for sauces.'

Well of course. Was any other kind appropriate for Scotland Yard? John was forced to stop the cab and pick up two such ladlesblocks from the Yard. It wouldn't do to get there only to be sent back to find another kind. Then he hurried the rest of the way, oddly relieved as he saw the rotating New Scotland Yard sign. The mission was almost accomplished.

There was always a well-oiled hustle inside those doors, but it was oddly chaotic today. The officers seemed in an undue rush. John decided this was probably his imagination. He wondered if Sherlock was at the heart of this, and texted: 'In lobby. I have spoons.'

Madness. John smiled.

It was Sergeant Sally Donovan who eventually came to get him. Her hair was caught up in a clip that made her features look more vulpine than they did, ordinarily. Her dark eyes were no less sharp. She frowned as soon as she saw the bag he held. "Doing his fetch and carry, are we? You're his girl Friday, now?"

John looked at the bag in his hand and didn't offer an answer, instead, he said. "Ah, good morning, Sergeant Donovan."

She let up on him a little, as if she suddenly realized she wasn't still dealing with Sherlock. She dearly despised Sherlock Holmes. Donovan considered him a psychopath, something that – as a doctor – John found highlyunlikely. Nor did Sherlock fit as a sociopath. He was a different creature altogether. Even the unusual was mundane by comparison. But someone like Donovan wouldn't be interested in any of that, and John wasn't one to share his opinions indiscriminately.

Her expression went somewhat sympathetic. "You know… it's not too late to go back to that flat and pack up your things. There's little enough of it."

The idea was ludicrous.

"Well, you'd know, I suppose. You did search the flat. You would have run into some of my things in there as well." That had happened in the trumped-up drug search of, God, was it really only a month back? Time flew when you fought crime.

John reminded himself that was Sherlock's job, Sherlock's life.

"You shouldn't be around him," Donovan buzzed him into the back of the house with resignation, and motioned that he should follow. "I told you, didn't I? He's unstable. Murder excites him. When he finally figures he's got the perfect formula worked out, he'll be looking for a test case, and I'm thinking you'll 'move on', or 'head back to Afghanistan', or something, around that time."

This time, John actually chuckled. "You do realize you're speaking to a doctor about madness." But she didn't seem to get it. The idea he might recognize a psychopath, and had actually dealt with sociopaths during the war seemed to evade her.

"I keep wondering if you'll wind up in a body bag," she told him over one shoulder. "Doctors are a productive part of society, Watson. That would be a shame. You should have found a girl and moved in with her. He's a bad influence. Dangerous."

"That he is," John found himself saying, "ifyou're criminally inclined. He caught your squad a serial killer, as you remember."

"Takes one to know one."

John had never seen Sherlock so much as kill a gnat, and knew if he wound up in a body bag, it wouldn't be Sherlock putting him there. Well… unless there was something afoot… like if they were hiding, or something. How mad that any exception cropped up at all, but that was being friends with Holmes for you. He resigned to talk about this sort of thing – about the police hatred – on his blog. Delicately.

"What do you have there anyway?" She glanced at the bag he held. "Batteries for the Freak? He doesn't eat, you know. Never seen him do it."

"You only see him when he's on a case." Shortly after 'A Study in Pink', John remembered coming home to find that Sherlock had demolished a tuna casserole, several boxes of leftover chicken fried rice, two pork dumplings, a loaf of bread, and an entire pan of peach cobbler Sarah had made. Holmes had been curled up asleep on the couch like a snake with a bump, digesting. After one of his 'kitchen massacres' – Sarah's words, not his – Sherlock didn't feel the need to eat again for days. Sarah, having come in on the tail end of one, maintained it was critical the flat be properly stocked for those chancy moments when Sherlock's priority one became fuelling the contraption ferrying around his brain. "He doesn't eat on a case. He might not sleep either. You could acknowledge the commitment, at the very least?"

Donovan simply curled a lip. "He's so abnormal."

Certainly. But she wasn't qualified to say he was a madman.

"Fine by me if you let him starve," she scoffed. "You'd be doing the world a favour."

John had to button his lip. It took effort.

She paused on back stairs over which a florescent bulb flickered in unpatterned staccato. "I don't suppose you're here to take him the hell away? Neither of you have any right to be here."

"Sorry, no. When did he get here?"

"Freak? He was here when I got in at 6AM," she bowed and shook her head. It struck Watson as an unusual action for her. "Watson, you've got to take him out of here."

But all John was thinking was If Sherlock had been here by 6AM, he'd gotten some sleep.

They went to a long, wide hall in the basement. It was chilly and dim. They walked only a few feet along its nondescript beige décor before they reached the clump of sombre police in the hallway. Everyone assembled milled aside for Donovan and John.

The shower room smelled of clean water and soap. The air was clear and cool, though, not full of mist as busy showers should have been. Still, John didn't understand what he was doing here. He would have asked Donovan, but she'd stayed behind at the door. No one else was in the actual shower room. This was standard procedure when Sherlock was looking at a crime scene. But this was New Scotland Yard, not some back alley.

Couldn't be.

Lestrade stood in profile, in a hall at the end of two rows of dull green lockers. The Detective Inspector looked as he almost always did: collected; controlled; unruffled. He wore that fixated look that came over him whenever dealing with Sherlock. When he noticed John's arrival, he motioned that John should join him.

"Dr. Watson."

"Detective Inspector Lestrade."

That was it as far as greetings went. John glanced around the corner of the lockers and froze. A body. Seriously? Someone had been murdered inside Scotland Yard. Who had the gongs for that kind of stunt? And there was Sherlock – sleeves of a chocolate coloured cotton shirt rolled up over his elbows, gloves on his hands, closely examining that terry-robed body.

"Slip and fall?" John asked Lestrade curiously. "You're just confirming no foul play?"

"Well, there are a lot of people who want to think so. They wish I'd think so." Lestrade ruffled his short, salt-and-pepper hair cut and grimaced. "I'd like to think so."

From this John gathered, "But you don't."

"I can't." He put his hands on his hips and stared at the pooling blood. "Yet. That's why he's here, now isn't it."

So something about it was setting off Lestrade's alarm bells.

Finally, Sherlock moved. He raised a hand. He resembled some exotic big cat about to take a swipe at a bee. "Spoon."

"You're on." Lestrade said.

John edged in, careful not to tread in the mess of blood and water on the floor. The showers were shut off now, but he bet they hadn't been when the body had been discovered. There was a lot of blood both inside and outside the shower stall. "Skull fracture. Do you see how he's leaking CF on the floor from his nose and ears?"

"Do I see it?" Sherlock said each word carefully, as if pointing at them, then added. "Spoon."

Watson held out the two ladles. Sherlock chose the second he'd bought, which was stainless steel with a small bowl and vertical handle. It was the most expensive of the pair. John was almost sad to see it go, but he had no doubt that, whatever it was about to be used for now, it would forever make the item unbearable for cooking. Even now, Sherlock's gloved hands, red like the points of a cat, smeared blood across the steel handle. The sinking feeling only increased as he walked to the nearby shower and began scooping out the floor drain.

He stopped suddenly. "So it didn't all wash away." Then he looked up at John. "It was murder."

Lestrade sighed heavily and rubbed his jaw. "We're sure?"

John put the second ladle away. He refused it when Sherlock offered him the first. "You might want to explain. I haven't been here for more than five minutes."

Sherlock stood up, chicly slender in the tailored clothes he wore and very out of place in a communal shower with blood on his hands. He snapped off his gloves and tossed them in the garbage. His brows went up, momentarily. Then he motioned at John. "Tell me."

"Looks like he slipped in the shower," John noted. "He struck his head on the edge of two walls over there and dashed out his brains. It's not looking like a murder to me, Sherlock."

Sherlock pointed at the smear of blood on a brutally tiled corner and then reached in his pocket. He took out a simple glass marble he dropped on the floor. It rolled through the blood, and away from the shower.

"Oh," John said. "But… the grade is pretty slight. Couldn't the sheer volume of water float some of the matter into the first drain, rather than the second?" He saw his friend begin to bend down, "Sherlock, don't pick that up, man!"

Sherlock paused, and then gave up on the marble. "Possible, yes. Before you came, I tested the flow of some of these showers. They all have a point," he motioned at a band of tiling, "where the water is inclined to go to drains in either direction. The head isn't on that point. But the torso is. Splatter may account for the brain material."

"So then we're not sure?" John asked.

"I don't know how you see it." Sherlock said. "I'm sure."

John glanced around him in that moment and tried to puzzle it out. How? How was he sure?

Sherlock crouched and pointed at some of the drain scooped mess. "Murder weapon is a long, metal object, coarse, narrower than a baseball bat."

He glanced at the red pool that lay behind him.

Straight edge in the blood.

Lestrade tipped his head to put his ear closer to Sherlock. "How's that?"

Sherlock rose. He spoke to himself more than Lestrade. "Small skull fragment recovered from drain shows a pattern. No match with the corner of the wall."

John nodded. "So the original injury was smaller than the one the wall made. But it happened in the same spot. Remarkable!"

"Killer strikes. Critically injured victim stumbles out of the shower, collapses, and strikes his head on a corner. Dies. The killer backs away, drops the weapon by the sinks." He stepped around the blood pool and the almost invisible line of blood droplets that extended from the general mass. It was arrow straight. John had no idea how he'd even seen that.

Over one sink, Sherlock paused. "The killer washed up here," he crouched down, "and cleaned the entire sink."

Water drops on the underside. Drops on the floor. Almost dry. Over 8 hours old.

"He died last night." Sherlock muttered. Then he headed for the door.

Lestrade and John exchanged a glance and then hurried back along the lockers. They took the corner to fall in behind Holmes. "Freak coming through," Donovan called out to the crime scene team in the hall. Sherlock blew past her at a quick walk. He ignored Anderson's sneer.

Meanwhile, John practically had to run to keep up with those legs. "A constitutional is fine, Sherlock, but where are we going?"

"Don't you see? It's a conspicuous weapon." Sherlock told him, excitedly. His pale green eyes were so crisp they might have snapped like the tip of a whip, when he turned to face John. "Even early in the morning, it would have been too risky to carry around for long. The killer had to-" then he stopped and gave a moan. He turned in place, slightly off-kilter, like a disappointed child. "Cold Case Room?"

"Nope, I'm fine." Donovan rebuked over her crossed arms. She wasn't here to help him.

John looked at the door beside Sherlock's shoulder. It was a Janitorial Closet, so he hadn't been reading the placards, or anything.

Lestrade's expression was heavy with dismay. "Straight down the hall two more doors. If it's in there, it could be anywhere. The room and collection are both extensive, Sherlock."

"Ugh," Sherlock breathed and closed his eyes. "Going through boxes: boring."

Donovan bristled, "Excuse me?"

"Yeah, he hates moving for the same reason," John said cheerfully.

Sherlock was already off in the direction of the Cold Case room. Entry didn't require a key. Once inside the tall steel shelves, impersonal Banker Boxes, and rolling ladders seemed to sap Sherlock of strength. There were more boxes than John had imagined could be in the footprint of this building. Sherlock immediately turned his attention to the epoxied floor. He walked along without them, his gaze fixed on it.

Floor clean.

Janitorial clipboard on door schedules this zone at 9PM three times a week.

Last night: Tuesday.

Cold Case Room floor clean.

Shower Room not clean.

Dead body in shower room from approximately 8PM.

Estimated time killer spent in clean-up 15 to 30 minutes.

"Oh," Sherlock opened his hands. He squat down and touched the floor, and then looked up at John. "Is that jacket enough for you, John?"

"Wha? This?" John tweaked his brown leather jacket and felt strange being the centre of attention at such a time. "It's fine. It ischilly in here though. Now you mention it."

Sherlock stood up and actually chuckled. He clapped his hands together in air, held his pale fingertips to his lips as if praying, andsmiled. "Oh, this is blinding."

John half-turned his head a little and gave it a subtle gentle shaking motion.

"Oh yes?" Sherlock asked. "Not good, then?"

John sighed and looked across at Lestrade's bemused face. Lestrade smiled as well, but bitterly, "Trying to teach him, are you? I imagine treats will help. Does he like taffy? I have some on my desk."

Well, Johnliked saltwater taffy. God knew what Sherlock made of it. Though, if it happened to be in the house approximately once a week, it would likely be destroyed along with the rest of the food in the cupboards and fridge.

The only officer to overhear this exchange was Donovan who lingered in the doorway. Though the look on her face said that shefound Sherlock's comment unforgivable, she didn't immediately alert any of the others of his joy.

"It's not every case that we interrupt a crime in progress." Sherlock sounded exasperated then spread his hands. "There's a body in this room. The floor is cold enough, and the room dry enough to keep it stable. The killer stashed it here. He probably would have gotten it to the morgue with more time and preparation. He means to take it elsewhere before it's discovered. He's not bad, so far." He walked along the long halls of steel-cage shelves and white Banker Boxes, scanning the lanes.

Not bad, so far? John rubbed his eyes.

Lestrade followed them, "There's no one else missing. I've had people phoning, Sherlock." He followed the genius and John.

"Not police," Sherlock said, "Janitorial Staff. Someone saw the killer." This body would tell him a lot about the man who committed the first murder. And it was a man. He was sure of it now.

It was a large room. He broke into a run down one of the halls, searching the place visually. John followed quickly behind, and Lestrade too. It was like some odd footrace. Sherlock wove through shelves to get the maximum view of the space he hadn't run through.

"Sherlock!" John called out. "Lestrade says check the larger boxes on the floor in the back."

Sherlock had already noticed. He'd raced to the back wall. Dates and numbers lined up along the faces of these larger boxes, some of which were quite weighty. John walked along the tall row of them with Sherlock and tried to really observe. Numbers started to blur. Lestrade had caught up to them again, and he watched Sherlock's fingertips smooth along cardboard… until Holmes stopped suddenly. He looked up.

Air Conditioning duct.

Rolling ladder nearby.

Number system duplicated.

He bent beside the lowest box and gave it a tap that reverberated hollowly. "In this one."

Continued in Part 2.

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