The Ninth Muse - Baker Street Series Book 1

Chapter 7

Sherlock was seated at Melody's desk when they arrived. Donovan's temper was doing a slow boil by the look of her inflexible back and bared teeth. John extended a hand to detain Sarah. His voice was low. "Let him finish."

Sherlock opened desk drawers and started looking around.

Organized. Not tidy.

Glitter pens.

Two nail files.

Glitter bangles.

My Little Pony figurine.

Adolescent.

He pulled out a notepad and laid it on the desk.

Written letters almost identical in size regardless of case.

Emotional.

He got up and circled the desk, looking closely at its contents. Finally, he poked through the smaller drawer and came out with a small pink book, covered in tea roses. Each page's edge was bright with gold. Sherlock moved the small elastic aside and looked into the book.

Planner.

Phone numbers.

Personal friends.

He pulled out a photo and turned it over in his hands. "Who is this?"

"Marty White," Donovan said coldly. "Their families are close. Cop families. I suppose you wouldn't know. Your brother seems to despise you, and you-"

"Unimportant." Sherlock said. He took out the small magnifier he carried and squat over the desk, staring at the photo.

"The Gaels Pub is not a watering hole frequented by police." He muttered to himself as he scanned the photograph.

Body turned toward her.

Pupils wide.

Hand on her ribs, not her shoulder or upper arm.

Thumb on wedding band.

Affair.

Sherlock straightened and, for a moment, closed his eyes and looked slack. John had seen this look before – he was passing out. As unobtrusively as he could, John circled the desk and put a hand on the small of Sherlock's back. "Sherlock," he said in a firm, but quiet voice.

Holmes came back around and glanced down angrily at his left hand.

Sarah nodded at both the men at the desk. She stood back with Lestrade. "How about you both walk with me?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes but slid out of John's grip and complied. Lestrade led them all to a Men's Room into which he admitted Sarah. Donovan stayed just inside the door.

"Will this do?" Lestrade pulled over an uncomfortable looking couch and motioned at it. "Sit down now, Sherlock. It won't help them if you're bouncing around."

He didn't need to be told twice. "It's burning. Why is it burning?"

"Because you're using it, and not resting," John told him. He picked up Sherlock's arm and squeezed his wrist, counting seconds on his watch. "Uncross your legs. Take off the coat. Sarah could you prep a syringe of prilocaine?"

"Underway. How's the pulse?"

"Fast. Do we have a blood-pressure cuff?"

"No," she clucked her tongue with regret and brought the needles over.

"Oh look, Freak," Donovan smiled. "Those are a few of your favourite things."

He ignored her and unbuttoned his shirt. "Why does it feel hot now? Answer me."

Sarah pulled his shirt back and frowned, "He's got the beginnings of an infection. I suppose we should have predicted this."

Holmes glanced up at her.

"Oh, I'm sorry – deduced it. However you like, Sherlock. You told us you were running around for a couple of hours without a chance to clean it."

John shook his head. "We need antibiotics."

"I threw some in." She rattled a bottle. "Penicillin. Don't leave home without it. If you're shot."

John couldn't repress his smile.

Sherlock heaved a sigh and picked up a needle himself. Happy time was over. John snatched the thing out of his hand, which earned him a glare from Sherlock. "We have an hour. Inject me. I have things to do."

"I need to clean it," John crouched down and Sarah hurried back with clean paper towels. "We won't be taking any short cuts for an infected gunshot wound, Sherlock."

Cleaning it hurt. It was clear it hurt, because Sherlock couldn't talk. And this was a man who could talk in his sleep. Sally Donovan looked down at the wound, up at Sherlock's grim face, and walked out the door of the washroom.

By the time they bound it up and had Sherlock take the first of the antibiotics, he was exhausted and sore. He slumped to the right on the couch once they were done, his injured arm wrapped against his chest. Lestrade wiped sweat from his own face, having stood through John and Sarah cleaning the gunshot wound. "Oh, he's done. Poor beggar."

John glanced up to take the man in, unaccustomed to sympathy of any kind, for this devil. "We'll let him rest up a minute." John washed blood off his hands, careful to soak under the nails. Sarah sat beside Holmes, and placed a cool compress on his neck. She wiped his face clear of sweat with careful motions of wet paper towel. "I think they're going to have to cut him to clean it thoroughly."

She turned John's way. "If the infection takes hold, he'll be feverish soon."

"So if his temperature spikes, we're getting him to hospital." John finished. "I don't care if I have to carry him kicking."

Lestrade guessed. "Just chuck him in the arm and he's yours." He checked his watch. "Think he can nick these guys in an hour?"

No one speculated. Certainly not Sarah. She reached down and, after a second's hesitation, touched Sherlock's heavy curls of hair back from his forehead. She swept his brow with the cloth. "He's not awake… poor thing."

"Just, please, leave him. He needs to gather himself." John threw both hands before him and unrolled his sleeves over his forearms again. It was a ridiculous thing to be maddened by and a sure sign he'd been awake too long. John forced himself not to be silly about it. Particularly not with Sarah, a woman he truly appreciated, and who'd once smacked an assassin with some cast-off wood, not to forget. Aside from which, "If we tell him he can't do this, or suggest he give up, he'll leave us and work this out on his own."

Donovan pushed the door and stepped in again. She cocked her head at Sherlock on the couch. John expected cracks about someone having pulled the plug on the Freak, but she remained silent and watched him. It was as if she couldn't relate to him now that he was unconscious. He did look – John peered down at Sherlock – young.

"So what was his assessment of Mel's – of Melody's desk?" Lestrade cleared his throat. He leaned on the tile wall and crossed his arms. There were clear flashes of regret and pain at the mention of Melody's name.

John didn't know, so he said, "He went until he found her address book, and then a picture with some fellow named Martin White."

"Jesus," Lestrade said between his teeth. "Marty's family – they're a cop family just like Mel's."

"There was a photo of them meeting up in a place called The Gael's Pub. Does that mean anything to you?" John leaned back on the Counter.

"It's not one that I know," he shook his head. "Police kind of get established in the pubs they go to, I'm sure you know." Lestrade checked his watch and groaned. "God, I'm gonna be dead tomorrow."

Sarah blinked, "Well surely they won't suggest you should come in after a night like tonight!"

"All this?" Lestrade waved at John and Sherlock, "Not sanctioned by the Commander. I'm doing this on my own time, for Jerry's sake. He was a good man. And Mel – God knows I would never have pegged her for something like this."

Sherlock's tone was deep and gravelly with the near memory of pain, "Good reason for that."

"Welcome back," Sarah told him. She gave his curls one last smoothing and stood up to carry all the cold paper towels to the nearest disposal bin. Sherlock watched her curiously, made no particular headway there, and levered himself upright again.

His bowed lips compressed in a line of frustration, "GOD that stings."

"It's a bullet hole." John pointed out. "I didn't have enough medicine to properly numb it. And there's none left now. But… I know what you're going through, if it helps?"

"How could that help?" Sherlock honestly seemed at a loss. Shaking this off, Sherlock took the refilled water bottle Sarah handed to him and drained it just to not have to deal with it anymore. Once he was done he simply swung his arm out over the side of the couch and released the plastic bottle to fall with a clatter. It was a clear indictment – he didn't want any more fussing.

"Here's what we know. Melody Doyle was involved in a conspiracy that was doubling her income. She disliked it intensely enough to file it honestly on her tax report leaving a paper trail. She wasn't aware that something going on in this branch had already caught the attention of our mathematical genius in Home Office-"

Lestrade blinked, "Mycroft Holmes?"

"No. The girl. His girl." Sherlock flicked his hand before him as if sweeping the remark out of his mind, "So she confessed her part in the plot to Jerry Ballard. He dies the same night. She was being watched, making for a strong possibility we're being watched. It's not her nature to work herself into such a mess – she needed a gateway drug. Marty White, the man she was having an affair with. Melody would have been incapable of entertaining this scenario unless brought in by someone in whom she placed faith and trust. Initially, at least that person happened to be her lover." He nipped his bottom lip.

"Unicorn," John said to himself with a nod. Melody based everything on a personal connection. For her to be involved would require a web of people she trusted and admired.

"You haven't grasped the full sense of it yet." Sherlock hugged himself, his shoulders collapsing inward. The pain was a constant now.

"Marty's married," Donovan's head tilted to one side. "And he's not a heartless pig, Freak."

"Your average continues to drop," Sherlock straightened and turned crisply. "You're a terrible judge of character, Donovan. How do you get on with police-work?"

She went to respond, saw Lestrade shake his head, and fell silent instead.

"Marty's the killer, then?" John suggested.

Sherlock blinked at him, "John... you should get sleep."

"Thanks for noticing." John sighed.

"He's not in the country," Lestrade noted and then blinked. "Allegedly. Of course… now I'm risking my job on some of these allegations. Do you mind telling me who's at the bottom of all this?"

"I don't know him yet." Sherlock experimented with getting up. It was a bit of hard work, but he seemed pleased with the results. "The more I glimpse him, the more I realize he needn't have murdered these people himself. He's controlling. So far, we have Melody Doyle, Vincent Lloyd, Tony Butler, and Martin White. But there are more."

"You're sure?" Lestrade frowned heavily.

Sherlock managed not to roll his eyes. "We still haven't gotten to the killer. Tony Butler's dominant arm is in a sling. Vincent is alibied by his family. I can read your hen-scratches, Lestrade. Melody, we know, is dead. I assume you've confirmed the alibi of Vincent Lloyd?"

Lestrade's head dipped down a little, "His girlfriend is swearing to it. She's his only alibi."

Sherlock looked up from his texting, "Worthless. And bring him in. He's guilty."

"All right. And we'll look into Martin's holiday with his wife and kids. It's Paris."

"Bad timing for us. Marty's cronies just gunned down his lover. Provided he wasn't terrified, he might have given up the others." He clucked his tongue and tossed his phone in his pocket, "Lestrade, do you have any reports of unexplained gunshot wounds coming in to hospital?"

"Nothing yet."

"Then try the explained ones. John hit someone tonight. Of that I'm certain." Sherlock didn't seem to notice it when Sarah stiffened.

John did. He turned her way, his lips tightening in dismay.

"Bring in Tony Butler and his broken arm then. And Vincent Lloyd. I haven't the energy to chase after them tonight…. But we're closing on them now, Lestrade. As we cut their numbers, they have to draw in closer in order to stop us," Sherlock smiled suddenly. "An hour. I'll have this cracked in less." He pushed through the door, tired as he was, and strode out into the hall.

Sarah caught him on the sleeve as John began to move. "What did he mean, John?"

There was nothing for John to do but watch Lestrade and Donovan leave him behind. This wasn't a conversation he'd wanted to have with Sarah. In a Men's Room. How odd that backdrop should strike him now that Sarah's eyes were startling. Finally, he stilled and gathered himself for whatever was to come, and met her eyes. And Sarah threw herself on him in a tremendous hug. It so startled John that he backed up a few steps and had to catch her around the ribs.

"I didn't think you were so close to the shooting." She said. Her voice was indistinct, coming from the shoulder of his jumper as it was. "Was this another situation like with The Blind Banker?" she used the title he'd given that case in his blog. "I had such a bad feeling you were in danger."

John smiled broadly, reached around and rubbed her back in gentle circles. "Sarah. I'm fine."

She eased back from him, leaned forward, and kissed his cheek gently. Apart from the thrill of having her so close – she clung about his shoulders with her flat little belly pressed to him – there was the sudden flare of regret.

"My work with Sherlock can be risky, Sarah. And I'm sorry. I had to return fire. I hope you can-"

"Oh," she stepped back, "oh no, John, you mistook me. I don't care about that. You also had to shoot a perfectly hale Chinese man with a crossbow bolt because he was trying to kill me. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the sanctity of life, but when it comes to being gunned down, if it's you or them, let it be them. I'm just worried for you, the both of you."

"The both of us." He repeated and rubbed his short blond hair a moment. She was a confusing girl, this one. Sometimes John had the queasy paranoia that she was dating them as a pair.

"Of course," she pushed the door. "We should find Sherlock. He'll be needing us."

"I'm sure he will," John sighed. He picked up the baggy with its remaining medical supplies, and walked out to the hall in her wake. Far down the hallway, Sherlock passed through a throng of Late Turn police who looked at him with heavily mixed emotions that ran from curiosity to hatred. It put John on edge. If they hadn't been police, he would have told them to clear off.

Sarah scurried to walk close, flanking Sherlock's first-rate coat. John watched her there in a kind of haze. She did get along with him. Somehow. Superficially at least. It argued that some women could. Maybe it would be wise to listen, but listen critically to Mycroft as well.

Sherlock chose a briefing room to wait in. Ostensibly. In reality, he paced along outside the clear walls of the box. The humming of the air exchanger above threatened to undo John. Already, Sarah dozed at the end of the table – the seat directly to his left. The room was a bit far from the hubbub of the department down the hall, but that might have been a blessing in disguise. In spite his current presentation, Sherlock was exhausted, his energy-level halved, and he needed the peace and quiet. He should be in here, resting now. Instead, his constant circling drove a wedge of worry through John's attempts to catch a 20 minute refresher. It got to the point where John got up from the slab table inside, bypassed Sarah, and went out to intercept Sherlock in the hall.

One minute he was pacing, then next he was standing square in front of John.

"It's taking too long." Sherlock pulled out his phone and texted.

"For what?" John asked.

"For Lestrade to round up the men I requested." Sherlock checked his watch and held out his phone to John.

"It's been less than ten minutes."

"My point, exactly. Thank you, John." Sherlock said. The phone snapped back to Sherlock, who typed a few more words before distinctly hitting Send.

"You should learn to have some patience with police work, Sherlock."

"They should learn my methods."

"It's not as simple as that, Sherlock. You can't just read this stuff and know how to do it," John's phone chimed and he took it out of his pocket to check the text. It was Sherlock, of course. He shook his head and muttered, "Really?" But he also read the message this time.

'We are being followed. Come with me to the parking garage.

We need to draw this one out. On the way take the truncheon.

I will show you where it is.

And, John, when I show you my phone pay attention.'

John cast a long-suffering look up at the genius. He locked his screen and shoved the cell into his pocket again. "This person probably has a gun."

"But I have a plan."

They struck off together toward the stairwell. Sherlock knit through desks, his fingers brushing the surface of one in passing. John glanced down and swept the truncheon up under his coat. They continued in the direction of the stairs. He could distinctly hear Sherlock's heavy breathing. Holmes was in pain, but enduring. They headed down the stairwell straight to the bottom, and came out in the garage. Sherlock snatched the truncheon and gave the fluorescent lights above him a tap that shattered them.

A well of darkness cloaked them. Sherlock handed the stick back again. And, without a shared word, both men flattened to the sides of the door.

The officer behind them pushed through slowly. John was on the handle-side and saw the side-arm come through, held low, as the officer tried to figure out if the lights had gone here or been switched off. But he didn't remember the garage, the switches, or the distances between lights the way that Sherlock did.

It was only when the door was sufficiently wide that the sparkle of broken glass became visible in far off lights, by then, it was too late.

John swung.

The gun skittered away like a rat.

Sherlock hooked an arm around the door and caught a fistful of uniform.

He gave a wrench that yanked the police officer straight through the door over his extended ankle.

This officer crashed to the ground just short of the glass, scrabbled up, and bolted. John reached the gun first. He'd assumed this to be the target, but it didn't prove to be. The officer blew past, boots slapping concrete.

Sherlock was right behind.

If it came down to a footrace, John was hopelessly outmatched by Holmes. True, if it came down to many things. But not when it came to being a decent shot. He squared up and shouted. "Stop or I'll shoot you."

Apparently, this had no impact. John tore off parallel to Sherlock and the running officer.

"Shoot!" Sherlock shouted between gasps of pain. "John. Shoot the damn gun!"

John skirted through cars and reached open lots. He made time charging along at a flat run until he drew even with Sherlock.

"John!" Sherlock snapped as they charged along, only the odd pillar separating them. "She's getting away!"

"She?" John hadn't noticed it was a woman.

"John, honestly! Who cares?"

"The gun should be enough to identify her." John watched Sherlock zigzag around a parked car and cross to join him. Holmes was amazingly fast.

"And if it's not hers?" Sherlock's face was so white that it was deathly in the fluorescent glow from above. The glow of headlights bounced along the ceiling in front of them, the woman faltered, and that was all it took. Sherlock was far too fast for mistakes. He ploughed into her. Both his long hands took purchase around her, and he flung her in a complete circle. That was the force of his momentum, but it wasn't helping his injured arm any.

John winced to witness it.

As soon as she came to a stop – in front of John, as was no accident, John felt sure – the woman stuck up both her hands, "It wasn't me!"

"Who are you?" John kept the gun level. However, Holmes was behind the woman. He couldn't easily fire it at her.

"Kelly," the woman said breathlessly. "Get the Freak off me." She half-turned, her teeth flashing at him, "You're supposed to be all screwed up, Freak, so how can you be so bloody fast!"

"She knows you're shot." John said with a nod. Sherlock had worked her cuffs from her belt and reached up to cuff one of her arms.

"There's no need, you bloody nancy!" she bellowed at him. "I can't believe I'm being cuffed by the like of you. I can't believe you caught me to begin with." She made a sudden lunge at his left arm, which John had been watching for, and – so help him – he had to slap her full in the side of the head to keep her from doing it injury.

"Bastard." She gasped and shook her head a few times. The woman had to set her feet to stay upright. Sherlock cuffed her other hand easily.

"We need to get up out of here." John said edgily. It was a good place to get gunned down.

Sherlock looked up curiously. "You slapped her."

"Very good," John flushed red. "You're doing well. And, cut me slack, Sherlock – I had to."

"One wonders," Sherlock caught the back of her collar and yanked it tight to her throat, causing a soft gagging sound before he adjusted his grip. "You wouldn't fire a warning shot to slow her, but you slapped her hard enough to rattle the ball-bearings filling her head."

John clicked the gun's safety and pocketed it. "She was going to exacerbate your injury." He closed his hand on the woman's elbow before he impelled her forward. "You're in my care."

Judging by the smile, Sherlock seemed to find this quaint.

Kelly gave them some fight on the stairs, forcing Sherlock to press her to the wall and lean on her until she was gasping. She rained down swears on him for the rest of the walk up to the squad room. There was another fight at the door, where she flatly refused to be taken into her own office in cuffs. Sherlock hissed with pain and backed up. This was just as well. John gave the woman a yank from the door, which Holmes swept open so that John could stuff her through.

"You nancy!" she caterwauled and aimed a kick at Sherlock. "It's a pity they didn't fill you full of holes, Freak!" John wrestled her away.

Sherlock cocked his head at her. "I think we can classify Kelly as hostile."

John chuckled and got a heel in the instep for his trouble. He honestly didn't know Sarah was there until her hand reached in, caught hold of the blonde bun in Kelly's hair and gave a vicious yank. The woman cried out with pain, but it didn't faze Sarah any. She snapped, "Behave!"

"Get her off me!" Kelly howled.

It was impossible to miss this commotion. Lestrade reached into the knot of them and caught hold of Kelly's elbow. He yanked her clear. "Stop resisting, Carter."

"You shouldn't have let that monster get involved." The woman struggled. Lestrade put her in a police hold that instantly made her whimper and still.

John looked up at Lestrade from rubbing his instep. "You surprised by this one?"

Lestrade grumbled, "She's always been a hothead. No offense, but I'm surprised by bloody all of them, John."

But John was more concerned with what was lacking. He glanced around to find Sherlock. The now frail genius had withdrawn into the glass meeting room he'd selected. The run downstairs had been too much for him. Sherlock crouched in one of the leather chairs, knees pulled upward with his feet on the seat and his arms around his chest. He cradled his left arm. Oddly, Donovan stood just inside the room with him. Her back was to the door.

Two people he could never leave alone together.

And it wouldn't be much longer for Sherlock. His head tipped back against the pillowing headrest, his eyelids low, and his jaw tight with pain. The knowledge that there were no more syringes full of painkiller had to be crossing his mind. Holmes' eyes did not stray from the wall-clock. John briefly wondered if he had lost his mind, letting Holmes pursue this. Infections could kill people. This was an untreated gunshot wound – totally inhumane. Had the war gotten him used to this?

"I never killed anyone." Kelly bellowed just a few feet behind John. He spun around out of startlement, but she was buried in police. "I'm sorry he lived though. Freak!"

Sarah drew closer to him with a shudder. It was disturbing to see someone unstable thronged by police. John took a step in her direction and watched Kelly aim a kick their way.

"Calm down, Kelly, and that's an order," Lestrade demanded.

Too close. That big bruiser of a boot had come too close to Sarah's belly. John ducked between police and caught Sarah's hand. He tugged her into the glass room and stopped. Because Donovan and Holmes were… talking. Kind of.

"-know how many more?" Donovan asked him. Her voice sounded like a steel bar chipping away at solid concrete.

Sherlock opened his eyes and droned, "I don't have a tally book, Donovan. They'll tell me when we've got them all."

"Mel wasn't like them." Donovan crossed her arms and looked out through a glass wall.

And Sherlock agreed with her. "She's dead, which proves that theory."

"Kelly Carter. I never liked her."

"Look at that, we have something in common." His gaze rolled askance to John. "When are they bringing her in?"

"I don't know if Lestrade will. She hates you so much that I doubt we'll get sense out of her." John sat down in a chair on the right-hand side of the head of the table. Sherlock sat at the head, and didn't resist when Sarah picked up his pale hand and took his pulse against her watch.

"John, get my phone and text Lestrade. I absolutely must speak to Kelly Carter."

This drew a windy sigh from John, who was then obliged to get up, reach into the coat, and take out Sherlock's phone. Sherlock didn't even open his eyes for this.

"Text him this exactly – Offer Kelly Carter a lighter sentence in exchange for my shooter."

John texted this and shook his head. He laid the phone on the shiny, glassine surface of the table and closed his hands together. "She'll never go for it."

"Of course she will. Didn't you see her, John? Loud, brash, chin up with her collar popped inside her jacket. She's cocky with a daylight habit of alcohol abuse that makes her even more aggressive by the time she arrives here with her bullet-proofed buzz under steam. It's a simple thing to be grandiose when you're operating on liquid courage. In fact, that makes my offer a win-win for her. She gets away with a wrist-slap and gets to grandstand. After all, nothing is more fulfilling than putting one over on the infamous Sherlock Holmes because you know something he doesn't, and have something he wants." he roused himself a little. "Everyone loves to gloat, John."

"Alcoholism?" John asked. "What makes you think alcoholism?"

Sherlock sighed, "I don't. Do pay attention, John. Alcoholism isn't the same thing."

"You'd know." Donovan said, but even her dig sounded hollow. "What Freak means is that people who abuse alcohol have some ability to set limits. They aren't quite dependent on it yet, like craving it, and they aren't totally out of control, like an alcoholic. But I didn't know that about Kelly."

"You…" John stopped moving altogether. "You believe him."

"Didn't say that," she withdrew immediately. "I just don't see how he could know-"

"Shaking hands from too much drinking. Bloodshot eyes from insomnia. Slight weaving in steps from the buzz, and a decided mincing in her gait from the headache as the buzz fades away. A small aerosol of breath-spray in the upper right pocket of her uniform to mask the smell of alcohol," Sherlock said lazily. "When's the last time you saw a woman with an aerosol can of breath spray?"

"She's a drunk," Donovan said flatly. "Fine. But what does she have to do with Mel?"

Sherlock slunk, almost out of his chair. He put one hand on the table, one on the armrest, and eased his body up and out so that he could look Sally Donovan closely in the face. She didn't move, not a muscle, and didn't flinch or withdraw, even with Sherlock's green eyes within a foot of her face. He sank back into the imitation leather with a soft exhalation. "Oh, you were good friends, you two, and now… you have no idea how you missed it. You're furious. But not at me."

Donovan moved suddenly. Her hand came down on the table before Sherlock with a crack that jolted them all. "What does Mel have to do with this?"

Sherlock, his brows drawn up curiously, turned his face toward hers. They were so close they might have counted eyelashes. "Bring me Kelly Carter, and I'll let you stand here and find out."

She straightened slowly, and went to the door. She spoke to the officer standing there. Initially, he stepped aside to let her out, but Donovan had her orders. She sent him to Lestrade. She didn't leave. John appreciated that sense of duty. She was Sherlock's security right then.

Continued in Part 8.

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