Within five minutes, Lestrade and a decidedly hand-cuff-free Kelly Carter walked down the hall which ran parallel the glass wall. Carter was in sweats now, rather than in uniform. Sherlock scanned her head to toe as she came through the door and leered at him.
“Well if it ain’t Billie-no-mates his-self.”
“Himself.” Sherlock said reflexively. It didn’t seem to bother him he’d been called a friendless outcast. No, it was the grammar that got to him.
“I been offered immunity, nancy, how do you like that?” She sat down in the chair on his right and leaned her elbows on it.
"You'll get yourself in trouble and land in jail soon enough," Sherlock told her. Behind them, Lestrade shut the door and took a few steps into the room. He stood behind Kelly.
"Like you did?" She laughed at him. "Oh my God, you may be a nutter, but you're damn pretty. Jail, for you, would have been pure hell."
Lestrade took a step forward only to receive a warning glance from Sherlock to stay back.
"I don't believe in hell." Sherlock said indifferently.
"Oh, maybe it was pure heaven then, nance. You smart boys do need a bit of force." She sneered at him. "And you are a Freak, after all."
"You know how this game goes," Sherlock told her idly. "You don't get immunity gratis – means 'for free'. It's about time you tell me what you did for them."
"So much rather talk about you, though," she knit her fingers and gave him a look straight out of a police handbook. "Like how long you think you gonna live tonight, mate."
"All of it," Sherlock told her.
She put her fist under her chin and said, "These are some serious people, nance. Sure you want to make that kind of a projection?"
Sherlock cocked his head and glanced at the set of her arms before he said. "You don't know them. By that I mean you don't know who they all are. Don't you think that jeopardizes your immunity somewhat?" He leaned in a little. "Do you believe in hell, Officer Carter?"
It was the first chink in her venomous façade. She sat back a little and blinked. "I know they're going to give you a few extra orifices, Sherlock." She said his name like it was something dirty, but the delivery of the threat had a slightly panicked ring to it.
"And how, exactly, is that going to save you?" Sherlock asked her.
Now she took her elbows off the table and sank back in her chair. There was a long pause during which clicking issued from the round white clock face at the front of the room. It looked fascinating from outside, with all its moving parts visible through the glass…. Finally, Kelly said, "You're wrong."
"I'm right," Sherlock corrected her.
"You don't know cack about my role in all of-"
"You're passed out on your couch in the day," Sherlock said imperiously, "not here, like Martin, or Tony, or Melody. You are on the late turn. You don't know who they are. What do you do for them?"
She sat back far enough for her shoulders and the back of her head to meet fake leather, and then she shut her mouth. It took whole minutes, as if they were locked in a staring match. "I don't know. I don't know what I did for them. The only person I met – the only one I talked to – was Melody. She'd even come over to my house and pick up." Kelly looked down.
Sherlock set his hands together under his chin. "She was their people person. Melody had the charisma and the receptivity needed to keep the rest of you operating together. She was the glue."
Kelly shut her eyes. "I honestly don't think she believed she was doing something wrong."
"What did she ask you to do?" Sherlock asked.
"She'd show up sometimes with some simple things." Kelly scratched her arm at the inner elbow as she spoke. "Nothing big. Nothing really harmful. Mel was a good kid."
Old injection site.
Sherlock looked up from the scratching. "You know she's dead?"
She dropped her head and nodded.
"Who told you?"
"I just heard it when I got to the office."
"That's a lie."
Kelly ignored him. "She'd ask me to unlock a door that shouldn't be unlocked. You know. Get her keys she shouldn't have. Let her in places. Get her back out. Get her computer passwords. Nothing ever came of any of it."
"Something did," Sherlock said. "She's dead, after all. And you… you know how to nick things out of pockets, and pick locks-"
Her bloodshot eyes pivoted up at Holmes. "So do you."
"Ever so useful, people like us," Sherlock smiled a little and said. "You can take her away now, Lestrade. Expect withdrawal signs from her in about a half a day."
Lestrade caught Kelly by the elbow and helped her out of her seat.
"You'll be dead by then." She snapped in retort as she was dragged out the door.
"And you'll wish you were." Sherlock rolled his fingers in air in a parting wave. He sat back as soon as she withdrew from the room. He sat staring, his hands and fingers laid together against his lips.
"So…" Donovan said quietly.
Sherlock glanced over his shoulder a little. "She was often called to domestics, often included on cases with children. She was good with people. Difficult people. Martin brought her over and she became their PR person. She identified Kelly as someone with the necessary skillsets – a juvenile record for theft, run-ins with the law, minor drug violations, but a good disposition if handled correctly. Her relationship with Jerry Ballard would have helped her do this. Martin was her lover – means she trusted him. But that wouldn't have been enough. Someone like Melody is too idiosyncratic-"
Dots her 'i' with circles.
"-the person giving the orders… she would have to trust him even more deeply. She would have to admire him. Otherwise, she couldn't follow him. Which, in the end, she found to be the case…."
"Fascinating," John breathed and glanced across at Sarah's equally amazed expression – a smile, actually. "How'd you come to that inference?"
"You heard her," Sherlock got to his feet and checked his watch. "Melody Doyle didn't think she was doing anything wrong. For that to be so, her faith in the man at the top had to be nigh unshakable."
"Where are we going?" John hurried after him, but not as quickly as Donovan did. Sarah caught up the dwindled bag of medicines and trotted to keep up.
"Melody's desk." Sherlock spread his hands, his cheeks suddenly flush with colour. Well, as flush as they could be a couple pints too low. Or was that fever? "We have 20 minutes to the hour, John. But I'm only minutes away."
"She won't have written it down," John shook his head. "She sounds too careful."
"Careful, yes, but you're wrong about the rest. These things get written all over her life. She's peculiar. She seems unsophisticated, but she's also signalling like firefly." Sherlock told him. He looked down at Donovan and said, "She was much cleverer than you."
"She was." Donovan's lips compressed in sorrow so sudden that it caused John to reach out and wrap a hand over her shoulder, briefly. Far from being irritated, Donovan clearly appreciated Sherlock's expositions on her friend.
It was part of the little she had left of Melody. John thought it must be a horrible feeling.
"It must have irritated her when no one called her on that tax return. Taxation was asleep at the switch." Sherlock glanced back at Donovan. This was because she didn't slow as they arrived at the desk. He studied her face for a moment as he moved around to stand behind the chair.
Donovan bent over the keyboard, and typed in Mel's password. Sherlock, behind her, made an inarticulate sound in his chest, a sort of non-verbal 'of course', and the desktop popped up – a stunningly romantic Mucha wallpaper of a dancing girl that made one corner of Sherlock's lips pull back. "Subterfuge." He checked her most recent documents. "Nothing." Sherlock thought for a moment and did a search for .bmp, .gif, and .jpg. He let that run as he searched the desk.
His trembling hand swept lightly over the desk's coloured pads, glitter pens, and fluorescent sticky notepads. "Visual. She's visual." He dropped to his knees and searched under the desk. Nothing.
"Search is done," John said from above him. Sherlock had started tearing things out of the drawers and arranging them in piles on the floor. He also flipped through pages in the planner, his shoulder pressed against Watson's legs for support, or for the sake of safety. His left arm was injured, and it was more likely to get an inadvertent bump in his present position. Keeping it against John was the perfect point of reference. John, above him, fancied he could feel the heat of a building infection right through the coat and switched the view to Large Icons. He started scrolling the results. "She's been to Paris too; lots of cute cat pictures, she likes cats; pictures of nights out drinking."
Donovan made a little gasp. "That's Martin with his arm around her there." Her fingernail made a tap against the flat screen.
"Donovan, who was she close to?" Sherlock asked.
"Mel? Lots of people."
Now Holmes pushed an entire stack aside. "No. Who did she admire?"
"She admired a lot of people, Freak, for different things. She wasn't a social pariah, like you. Try being more specific." Donovan's lip curled, but she kept from shoving him away from her with her foot.
John scrolled down. "Pictures of her family – her mother, God. Pictures of a little sister, it looks like. And Sally, there are pictures of her with you at Notting Hill."
"Oh, are we working?" She redirected her attention to the screen.
John dared a glance at her exhausted face and nodded. "You should keep those."
"John," Sherlock barked from under the desk somewhere. "Focus." Really, the impulse to tread on his hand right then was pretty powerful. Sally expected no better and simply nodded her agreement.
"Is that her mother?" Sarah asked Donovan. "She looks lovely."
Sherlock growled, "She could look like a shoe-horn – it doesn't matter." This time John lifted up the toe of his runner to jab Sherlock in the thigh. The genius' whole body gave a small jump.
"Oh yeah," Donovan told them. "Actually, that's mum, Mel, and Shelley. Shelley is Mel's little sister. A house full of girls, their house, you know? So it was always pink wallpaper and tea roses everywhere. It's such fun being over there, because each of them is just weirder than the next. They're always up to something unusual. See Shell here, putting stars on Mel's nose with Zinc. They're idiots." Her voice was warm as she indicated her friend on the screen.
Sherlock popped up over the side of the desk and looked at the photo. He scooted Watson's hand off the mouse and scrolled through the next few. "So… she has no father."
"The Doyle's are a cop family, actually." Donovan yanked the mouse away from Sherlock. "Her father died when she was 19, in police action. I was never really clear how it happened. It was all hush-hush. Everyone said she'd drop out of academy, but she didn't. The whole thing almost tore their family apart though."
Death of father. Cover-up.
She loves the Met.
She resents the Met.
Sherlock sat back on his heels, his eyes directed at the stacks of papers and possessions before him on the floor. "The murderer… he's her father figure."
It was like a light bulb went off for Donovan. And then she laughed. "Plonker. Try again."
Holmes stared up from the floor, across Donovan's pant suit, over her tightly crossed arms, and into her disdainful face. He said, "You're thinking of someone. Say the name."
"It's impossible, Freak." She glanced away from him.
Sherlock rushed up off the floor and chased her gaze. He shot off through the desks with his coat flaring behind him, until he reached a quiet corner – perfect for observation. He flipped the decorative name plate on its neat and tidy face around. "Alec Fisher."
Donovan followed him much more sedately. "Not sure how you did that, but Alec's an old sweat. You'd have to know him to know how barmy this idea is. The guy is law and order in the hair roots. He's been at it forever. He's close to retiring."
"Seems like a good time for padding the nest." Sherlock glanced over the desk.
"Doesn't seem like a good time to ruin your entire career and suddenly turn into a multiple murderer." She threw her hands up. "Here, let me speak your language. It's not plausible, Freak."
Sherlock circled the desk and wiggled the mouse as he searched. The desktop came up. It made him double take. Default OS Desktop. Even if the computer was password protected, it wasn't locked.
Superior. Sets traps.
Sherlock opened a written file on the face of the desk, and read the writing there. Nothing pertaining to this case, rather, it was paperwork describing an incident where he'd had to discharge his weapon. It was dated a month back. Sherlock's fingertips traced down the page quickly.
Sharpened downward't' strokes – domineering.
Approaches to open letters looped. Finals from open letters, looped.
Deception. This desk is staged.
Sherlock picked up the rubbish bin beside the desk and found it empty. He went over a few rows until he found garbage and glanced in. Inside, he found blue sticky notes that he opened and read. The writing was a match.
"He has enough of a track record of wrongdoings that he's now habitually paranoid." Sherlock dropped the sticky notes back in the trash.
"Alec? Are you mad?" Donovan laughed at him again, as though Sherlock were a fool. Neither Sarah nor John joined in. "Alec is a friendly old guy. He talks about his past glory a lot. Bit of a Station Cat now, but he's getting up in age."
"And he doesn't like to use his own bin for his own garbage," Sherlock said.
"He's a neat-freak, look at his desk!" Donovan replied.
"He's obsessed with leaving no trace of himself," Sherlock told her and yanked out a drawer, randomly. "Look at this space. Notepads – no writing on them – stacked according to size. A blue ballpoint pen – local. A wood ruler – local. Where are the sachets of sugar and salt and pepper? There's not even a headache pill. The man is invulnerable. He doesn't even have a coffee cup. Look around you, Donovan. What do you see on just about every desk here."
John looked quickly about, and the array of highly individualized mugs was persuasive. He glanced at Melody's desk. She had two. One pale blue with 'Jem' and a pink-haired girl printed on it: it held pens and pencils of all imaginable colours and styles inside; the other had Miss Piggy hugging Kermit the Frog.
"He uses disposable cups." Donovan said staunchly.
"And throws them out elsewhere," Sherlock pointed out. "This is not being neat and tidy; this is him removing himself from a scene. It's all a façade. The underlying psychosis, that's real. But this isn't. He's been running scams from the inside of the Met for a while, surely, because work like this would take practice; probably just small things at first, like a hobby, until he figured out that he could do them without the rest of you being any the wiser. He used Melody's potential properly, at first. Carter, she didn't even know who Melody reported to. With practice he became careful to distance himself from the criminal activity. In the end, though, he did something to shake her trust, and Melody Doyle began her campaign to take his retirement fund down."
Sherlock began taking the desk to pieces, throwing the contents of the drawers onto the floor. He created a stack of papers which had actually been used and a stack that he called 'filler'. The difference was so stark that even Donovan blinked in disbelief. Sherlock buzzed around the desk.
So little to go on. It was maddening.
"Cipher." Sherlock stood back and pointed at the piles definitively. "John, we must find this man. He's on the cold case list and he had power over Melody Doyle. This desk screams he's guilty as sin, and well aware of it. He's our mastermind." Sherlock checked his watch and smiled broadly. This was because he still had two minutes to the hour. "Ah, nice – very nice!"
At a noise, Donovan turned in the hallway. She had her hand on her gun so quickly it would have been awe inspiring… if John hadn't made it to Melody's even more quickly. Down the hall, a pale face flickered for a moment then exited in a hurry via the stairs.
"Who was that?" John asked.
"Hugh Bennett," Donovan cocked her head. "Acting… too strangely for coincidence. Someone had their eye on Mel, for sure, and now it looks to be your turn, Freak." She took out her cell phone and dialled. Her destination turned out to be Lestrade. "Sir, you'd better come up here right now. Freak has some news for you. And I just saw Bennett… why?"
She listened for a while and turned wide-eyes to John. "Carter just gave up Hugh Bennett to save herself. He's part of the Late Turn, like her. Always treated her bad though. He won't get out of the building, seeing as the D.I. has people looking for him."
"We should meet Lestrade." John suggested. He glanced to where Sarah – God love her – had somehow fallen asleep in Alec Fisher's chair, long ago shoved aside. She wasn't much for late hours. John went to stir her, and she blinked at him.
"Did I miss much?"
John simply smiled. "We need to go tell Lestrade who the killer is."
"We do?" She sat up and rubbed the back of her neck. "Nuts. I missed it."
Sherlock brushed by in a wash of distinctly medical scent, underwritten by the rain scent that typified his coat. "I suggest you be happy you don't figure in the dénouement, bound and gagged." This drew a strange look from Donovan, who followed Sherlock doggedly.
Sherlock paced back and forth waiting for the elevator. His hands moved like lightning over the keyboard of his phone – faster and faster. John watched the unhealthy glow that had taken hold of his eyes. Their next stop would be hospital.
Lestrade met them at the elevator door. As soon as the door belled and opened, he hung up his phone and took his hand off his gun.
"Jumpy?" John asked him. Like he hadn't been doing the same thing.
Lestrade watched Sherlock stride past the door to the left then back again. He relaxed realizing that Holmes was pacing, and stepped out of the elevator. "How many of these people are there?" he huffed and cursed under his breath. Sherlock didn't answer, and none of the others had any idea, so Lestrade sped along. "Vincent and Tony are locked up downstairs. There's one God awful chase going on in the lower floors after Bennett, people legging it left and right."
"I knew we should have gone after him," John clucked his tongue and noted that Sherlock had given not the slightest attention to Lestrade. "Sherlock, he's here. Stop texting. And for God's sake, stop pacing. You're sick."
"Freak." Donovan snapped at him.
Sherlock angled for the elevator and Lestrade without looking away from his phone. One long and articulate hand swung toward Lestrade. "Your lynchpin is Alec Fisher."
Lestrade actually laughed. "What?"
Sherlock pointed the phone at Lestrade and explained. "Fifty five year old man admitted to Lambeth Hospital with a gunshot wound approximately 20 minutes ago. Bullet entered through the wrist and exited through the shoulder. John shot down his gun arm and nailed him. Badge number checks out. Alec Fisher."
"My God – I don't believe he'd do this to Melody," Donovan said. She caught hold of Sherlock's arm and gave it a tug in her direction. Far from this having the desired effect – bringing the screen her way – the cell immediately hit the floor and Sherlock reeled back with an audible gasp.
John went for him, catching up after Sarah had. She had hold of his elbow in one hand, and had wrapped her hand around the back of his bowed neck with the other. "I think it's safe to say he's feverish now. Feel here."
John reached in and palmed his neck. "Erratic pulse and he's boiling."
"But it's a dry heat."
Everyone looked up. John found Melody's gun reflexively.
The lights on the floor went out before he'd even finished the sentence.
"Who's there!" Lestrade shouted in the darkness. "Show yourself."
John edged in front of Sarah and Sherlock, "Stay with him. Keep yourselves hidden."
"What?" Sarah said shakily. "And where will you be?"
John didn't answer that. "Lestrade, what are the chances for assistance here?"
"Most of the police will be chasing Hugh in the downstairs." Lestrade grumbled. "I can't believe no one saw a problem with all the tempered glass in here. Makes it hard to hide."
"For him too," John pointed out. The sound behind him was Sarah making an executive decision: if the stranger on this floor with them knew they were by the elevator, they had to move.
"Where's she going with him?" Donovan whispered. She set off after the pair of them almost at once, and John remembered she'd been assigned as Sherlock's protector tonight.
John hurried behind Lestrade in pursuit. Ahead of them, Sarah made good time with Sherlock, who was doing his level best not to gasp in pain. The pair of police, and John, met with them and Sarah whispered, "Do we know where we're going? Because I'm making for the stairs right now."
"Trap," Sherlock said unsteadily. "I would expect the stairs. Centre of the room."
Sarah zagged with him, hurrying between desks and taking them to the centre of the large upstairs. She didn't question, such was her faith in him. She dropped down behind a desk and began to peel the coat from Holmes' shuddering body. He didn't even open his eyes. The bandages were red, the blood soaking through his shirt.
"Jesus," Donovan took off her coat and pulled off her scarf. She handed it over to Sarah who set to binding the injury. But, remarkably, it wasn't the blood draining from Sherlock that had John's attention. It was the blood on the floor. The trail of blood on the floor. He turned Sherlock's way and caught him up by the chin. He was positively burning up. "Listen to me, Sherlock. You can't rest yet. This isn't over yet and you have to be ready to move. Do you hear? Can you understand me?"
Sherlock blinked his feverish, liquid eyes at John and said, "Of course I understand you, John. Have you lost your senses?"
"Someone else is in here-"
"That's not unexpected."
Of course. It was important to be specific with Sherlock when his sense was fading. "One of the conspirators is in here, and your blood has left a nice shiny trail straight to us."
Sherlock blinked heavily. "The advantage of this central location is the amount of unpatterned searching the average person would have to do in the dark to locate us, plus the mobility afforded us. Fifty percent nullified if he notices the blood." Sherlock squinted a little at John. "Blurred vision. Headache. Trembling."
"Blood loss. You've developed an infection and are now feverish. Very good," John told him. "Mycroft should be primed to destroy me when he returns."
"Mycroft," Sherlock scoffed his brother's name. "What's important here is the fact I can't operate optimally, John. Being shot was trouble enough." He shut his eyes and seemed to fade from consciousness for a moment, John having to catch his lolling head and steer it to rights before his abnormally glittering greens opened again.
Sarah finished binding his arm and whispered, "Gunshot wounds tend to lead to complications if not properly treated. Do you think you can run if you have to?"
Sherlock took a moment to reply. His head lolled back to the desk drawers. "I like running."
"Oh my God," Donovan said quietly. "I honestly… I didn't mean to hurt him."
"I know," Lestrade told her. He was texting away on his cell. "Hush. I'm taking a page from Sherlock's book and I don't have a lot of time. I hear him coming."
Sherlock's eyes opened. He looked to the right as if in response to his name being spoken. "He's not far now… and getting closer."
"I see your blood, you bastard."
"Who is that?" Donovan mouthed to Lestrade, but she was also helping Sarah sneak under the desk. The chair had been out of the way when they'd first gotten here. John took her hand for a moment, and then pressed close to Sherlock, wrapping an arm around his ribs. If they needed to move him, John would have to assist with Holmes. Sensing this, Sherlock shifted a little, and pulled his legs in under him.
"Alec's a good man. He's probably not going to survive what you did to him, Holmes! Arteries and veins just ripped apart…. Took me forever to even get the bleeding under wraps, and then I had to drop him off at the hospital. I had no choice. He's a better man than you. And you've killed him." His voice had become slightly less distinct.
Sherlock sat forward to Donovan's ear. "He's facing away."
Donovan risked a glance over the desk and came back down uninjured. "Robert Reid," she whispered and shook her head. It was barely more than a breath.
Lestrade texted this as well. He texted faster than John did, at least, and showed the phone to Sherlock and John. It said, 'Hair-trigger temper. He won't hesitate to kill you.'
Continued in Part 9.