The Ninth Muse - Baker Street Series Book 1

Chapter 5

Lestrade parked the car in the garage, shut the engine, and looked at the blank slab concrete wall before him. He set his hands back on the wheel, his knuckles nicked and traced with old scars. No one moved. Sherlock probably didn't know they'd stopped yet.
"Commander Snow," Lestrade sounded irritated. His eyes glanced off the mirror to the back seat, and missing Sherlock's attention entirely, fixed on John. "There's a decent possibility that he won't allow you into the building, and you can be certain he's been told we're on the way. That's likely to mean he has people waiting for us."
"He's a big fan of Sherlock's," John rubbed his cheek and felt the beginnings of stubble. "God, do they ever get tired of coming out of the woodwork to give us grief? How is it we get to deal with every clot of them?"

"If he sends you out of here, we're going to relocate to work on this."

"Baker Street," John nodded and rubbed his cheek again. He hated stubble. "Seems like the best place to me."

"I was thinking another station, actually," Lestrade half-turned in his seat and opened his mouth to explain when Sherlock exited the car and started pacing wildly in the garage.

Donovan's glance was poisonous, "Leash your dog."

"Sherlock. What's on?" John cracked the car door and got out.

"Everything I need is in there," Sherlock's hands flicked at the station in that eloquently hyperactive way of his… which currently alarmed John.

"Mind the arm." Thanks to Sherlock, John was relatively sure he never wanted children.

Holmes squared up. "Upstairs."

Lestrade slammed the car door. "Sherlock, have you heard a thing I've-"

"And check hospitals. John did not miss." Sherlock pointed a long hand at Lestrade.

"We can do that," Lestrade patted air as if it could squash Sherlock's temperament, which was sure to be some pure delirium. Then he glanced back at John. "But he can't charge in there. You both need to listen to me, this is delicate-"

Sherlock stalked smartly to the elevator and jabbed the up arrow, several times. "Let's go, John!" he turned and called impatiently. "Surely you can see how close we are?"

"Ah, no, I honestly don't. And… I think you've done it – the elevator's coming."

"Then it needs to hurry," Sherlock set his hands on his hips and stared at the steel box that defied him. The elevator made a ping. He checked his watch.

Lestrade waited for Donovan to arrive at his side and followed John. "How's he close, exactly?"

"I don't know. He barely had time to talk to her." John shook his head. He motioned with his hands, "He's right there, meanwhile."

"All Freak did was shout names at her." Hatred made Donovan's voice rumble in her chest. "He wasted her time and got her killed."

Sherlock pivoted in the elevator; his coat belled out around his long legs. "The names were cross referenced."

"Are you serious!" Donovan's body jolted with the force of her shout. "If you hadn't called her out, Mel wouldn't be dead! But why would that ever cross your mind!" She started for him, only to be detained by Lestrade.

"She'd be dead and you'd never have seen her again," Sherlock said coldly. "Come on, Donovan, she was bright enough to understand this, pay your respects by following along."

Sally Donovan shut her eyes and gathered herself for a matter of seconds, and then began shouting again. "You really think they'd hang around watching you? And maybe you should wake up, Freak – the Cold Case room isn't locked. Anyone can get in."

"The killer knew exactly which box to go to for a murder weapon." Sherlock held the door with his right hand. His stare was of the sort seen among experts, when a fool blundered through. "The shooter knew precisely where I was well enough to easily elude police sent to safeguard me."

Lestrade frowned. "I hand picked-"

"You didn't," Sherlock darted a deft fingers at Lestrade. "You began by hand selecting them. But these people would have been milling underfoot. You chose from their number." Sherlock redirected with a weighty stare at John.

John blinked away growing exhaustion. He opened his arms and trudged toward his flat mate. "God Sherlock, wait a moment – who would be so bold?"

"Police." He winced as the elevator door began to alarm from being held open for so long. He pulled back from them reflexively.

"Then how could they be organized enough to react so quickly?" John headed for him.

"Unicorn." Sherlock exclaimed through the shutting doors. Then he was gone.

"You just let him loose in the Met!" Lestrade gasped. He covered his mouth with one hand.

Yes. Yes, I did. Hands on his hips, John stared down at his shoes. He rubbed his eyes, walked over to the elevator, and stabbed the button, Sherlock style. There were times when he strongly considered a shock collar for his flat mate, so useful at times like this. 'Not good?' Zzzatt! Oh he was tired, all right.

The police came to wait beside him and, after a moment of silence, they boarded the elevator and Donovan pressed John, "If you'd just think what being around him, not even professionally, but personally, says about you?"

Something inside of John rallied. "It says I need to keep up," John straightened himself up. He might trudge into the elevator, and he might be spent, but he wasn't being hunted by a killer, and – through some miracle – he hadn't been shot tonight. One little transfusion was like filling Sherlock's engine with high-grade petrol: off he shot. And John admired that.

The bell sounded. The doors opened on a low, growling voice, whose underpinning was an unhealthy wheeze. The events of the night had been too much for John's nerves already. He struck into the hall in a hurry and narrowly missed treading on Sherlock's instep. There stood the genius, hands in his pockets – looming in that frankly intimidating way Sherlock had. He stood above a gathering of Met brass. They stayed, for the most part, well back from Sherlock Holmes.

Fear.

John looked up at the intensely focused face beside him. He might have been a human radar. Sherlock could be subtle about it when he wanted to. That was almost always, in fact. This display was nothing shy of antagonistic.

On contact, Sherlock hadn't liked Commander Snow.

Oh boy. John glanced at the man in the lead. It was his windy voice that had grumbled through the elevator doors like a distant storm. Coming out, John had caught the words 'undesirable influence on this department', and, now, above the collar of his white shirt, the man's face and wide neck were red with anger. Then his small blue eyes found a new target. "Lestrade, I believe it was my direct order that he was not to set foot in here. You must value your job – you must – more than you do the guidance of this lapsed junky."

Sherlock's expression changed little, but John saw the momentary slip in focus which indicated Sherlock had felt something. All Sherlock said was, "Again: clean."

"You don't try my patience." The man jabbed a finger at Sherlock. "You flew in here lit up like a beetle's arse. You're so cranked your eyes are glowing. I can't believe no one else is seeing this. I'll bloody-well have you booked and searched, and we'll see if you're clean."

Sherlock's head tipped a little to one side, analysing, but John also saw Sherlock swing his hands behind his back to grip one another. He did that to keep from inadvertently touching things he found distasteful, and because, it seemed to John, joining his hands was a gesture that soothed Sherlock. He often joined them while he was thinking, for example.

"Sir," Lestrade began, "there have been developments in this case-"

Commander Snow half-turned, "There's no case, man. You didn't have enough of him making a fool of this department during the Cabbie Killings?"

Lestrade shook his head, "No one in the press pool knows the trick with the cell phones was him. The press doesn't even know who he is. Not to mention he hasn't done it since."

John looked at the floor. Holmes would text the Queen if it got him what he needed, and John knew it. Best not let that show on his face.

Sherlock scoffed. "I gave you a serial killer. You're cranky about my texting."

"Shut up." The Commander ordered. "Another word and you'll find yourself in lock-up getting a urine test you and I both know you'll fail."

John, since he was totally ignored in this tense situation, walked a few steps out and swung around to look at Sherlock's face. Didhe lookhigh? Large pupils. Bright eyes. How? Then John felt a blast of cold water in his veins. He'd fallen off more than once waiting to change out the bags for the transfusion. Had Sherlock been asleep the whole time? The back of that ambulance had been packed with powerful prescription drugs.

Sherlock's glance bounced from Snow to John in a fraction of a second. Though John put up his hand to cover the lower part of his face, it was too late. Sherlock's gaze raked the room so hard objects should have been jostled. He'd seen it. John turned choppily to Snow again, suddenly angry.

Snow pulled himself upright and smoothed his already smooth clothes, "You'll lose your job, Lestrade. Is your pet addict worth that?"

The fireworks in the hall sucked up the air like an open fire. Maybe that was why Lestrade pulled a deep breath, and shut his eyes a moment, before he set out again. "Sir, putting Sherlock completely aside, there's been another-"

"You should answer my question." Snow pointed at him.

Lestrade bristled, "You should hear me out."

It was like lighting propane. John took a few steps back from Snow. The man swung his arms out in a great X. "This association ends tonight, or you're done! This death-buff never darkens the Met's door again!" Snow swung a large paw of a hand to point at Sherlock, who promptly ducked down and scrutinized it.

It would have been funny. Normally.

"Cabbie killings." Sherlock swept past, hands still firmly joined behind his back. The rest of Snow's officials parted around Holmes like he carried deadly typhus. Sherlock looked down at John, who kept even with him by rote. "Horribly uninspired. A Study in Pink is thought-provoking, at least."

"Uh, thanks," John said. He scratched the back of his neck looking at the men spreading away from them, "Sure. Talk about this later?"

Snow was still railing down the hall.

"Get him out of here. I don't want him traipsing around our crime scenes like he's something other than a strung-out glory hound. For pity's sake, you are relying on the advice of a man who freely called himself a high functioning sociopath, Lestrade."

But officers froze, torn because Lestrade cut with a look anyone who made for Holmes.

"Anderson," John muttered hotly. He could about wring that man's scrawny neck right now. And he might have smacked Sherlock in the back of the head. "You shouldn't tweak his nose like that."

Sherlock rolled his shoulders before he was forced to stop by the last of Snow's men.

"Thankfully," Snow headed over with Lestrade gritting his teeth right behind him. "Now throw him out of here. Ridiculous," he glanced over his shoulder and sneered at Lestrade. "He's had so much crank we could grind him up and snort him."

John's eyelids flickered widely. Cocaine?

Sherlock's chin rose, his eyes narrowed at Snow. Not a friendly look. But there was also that sudden moment of self-awareness that Sherlock never wore well. John didn't need to be the world's only Consulting Detective to know that was shame.

Sherlock watched Commander Snow rub the centre of his sternum, right above his prodigious 'baby bump' of Irish breakfast, and nightly seconds.

Heaviness in the chest.

Trace powdery substance on lower lip is antacid.

Stiff gait. Back pain.

Not chronic heartburn, but-

Sherlock gave his head a little shake.

"This is done, or it's your job." The man snapped.

Lestrade put his hands on his hips and looked at the floor. He looked up at Sherlock with the most measuring gaze that John could ever remember seeing on the man's face.

"I'll escort him out," Donovan said. She meant it to keep Lestrade from making a disastrous decision, but it also forced the Detective Inspector's hand. He knew Sherlock was right. He knew Sherlock's life was in danger. Would he cut Sherlock loose?

There was almost silence in the offices around them. None of the night-shift stirred, except those who moved distracted about essential business, staring and clearly worried for the Detective Inspector.

"Sir," Donovan said a quiet plea.

Damn her. John shut his eyes and prayed for a moment, because he didn't have his Browning. The way the night was going, they'd never make it to- what was that soft clack filling his right ear? Sherlock made a soft groan and turned his back entirely.

"Good evening." Mycroft said as he crossed the lobby, umbrella making a soft staccato on the floor as he went. "Hello, Dr. Watson."

Continued in Part 6.

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