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The Devil's Chord

By jdschmidtwriter

Mystery / Romance

Chapter 1

Doctor John Watson was going to throttle his friend, Hippocratic Oath be damned.

It didn't matter that their cab driver would witness the crime. John could pay the man off by giving him Sherlock's stuff. A win-win.

"You solved a thirty-year old cold case during breakfast and the murder of a political activist before tea." John pinched the bridge of his nose. "And I'm not even counting the fake diamond you so kindly revealed to that poor woman."

Sherlock pocketed his mobile. "If he truly loved her, he would have purchased a genuine gemstone. Isn't that how it goes with you sentimental lot? I did her a favor."

John's lips thinned. "Haven't you done enough for one day?"

"Don't be an idiot." The world's only consulting detective and the biggest prat on the face of the planet thumped the barrier separating them from the cabbie. "Forget Baker Street. Take us to Stryder & Chapel."

Their driver made a u-turn. Apparently, they were now on their way to visit an expensive law firm.

"Aren't you at least going to tell me about the voice-mail?"

"No, I don't believe I will. You're clearly not interested."

Sunlight shone through the cab window and cast a halo around Sherlock's dark, curly hair. Oh the irony.

John glared. "You're being ridiculous."

Unswayed, his bloody-minded friend refused to speak for the remainder of the drive.


"Do no harm," John muttered as he followed Sherlock into a conference room.

There were too many witnesses here anyhow. Far too many to pay off. Although, if anyone here knew the detective, they'd likely cheer John on as he punched him.

Rows of dark wooden chairs encircled a podium. A stout, spectacled middle-aged man with a ruddy complexion and expensive suit stood behind it, rifling through a large stack of documents.

A few people already seated glanced their way then returned to their quiet conversations. Sherlock chose a seat in the back and John, praying for patience, sat down beside him, the cushion surprisingly comfortable for such a posh looking chair. His face reflected back at him in the polished marble flooring.

"What are we doing here?"

Sherlock's gaze flicked from one attendee to the next. "I'm deciding whether we take this case or not."

"And what exactly is the case?"

"Murder, hopefully, or we wouldn't be here."

He frowned. "We've done missing person cases before." In fact, they'd rescued a kidnapped journalist a few months ago.

Sherlock drummed his fingers across the arm of the chair. "Yes, but only when desperate. Homicides are far more interesting."

"Right, because taking a case where you might actually save the victim instead of identifying their killer is boring."

"Precisely. Kidnappings are irritatingly predictable. It's always a family member or close friend committing the crime."

More people entered the room. A family of four chose the front row, while several groups of two's and three's took up the remaining seats.

A dark-haired man eased into the row in front of them and let out a sharp hissing breath as he sat. He cast a beseeching look at the woman beside him. "I promise you, this is it."

"I'll believe you once I've heard the will, Matthew." Her manicured nails glinted as she settled a designer bag across her lap.

Matthew shifted in his seat and massaged the threadbare elbow of his faded blue jumper. He twisted around and caught John's eye. "Have you got the score, mate?" A pained smile twisted his mouth. "I'd check myself, but my mobile's busted."

"That's a ruddy shame. I can check," John said, selecting the sports app on his phone. "Let's see, Saints just pulled ahead of the Tigers. Twenty-one to sixteen. Eight minutes left on the clock."

Matthew grimaced. "Do you think the Tigers have-"

The man behind the podium cleared his throat and an anticipatory hush fell across the crowd. Matthew faced forward.

"Ladies and gentleman, you are here today to bear witness to the last will and testament of-"

The conference room door opened. Everyone turned around to stare at the latecomer. A woman, tall, slender, and dressed in stark business attire, walked inside. Her high heels beat a sharp staccato against the marble.

She took the nearest seat available, which happened to be right next to Sherlock. John had never seen anyone with such perfect posture. It was as if a steel rod had been surgically attached to her spine.

The woman pushed a button on her mobile then looked up at the lawyer. "Sorry," she mouthed, adjusting the Bluetooth device on her ear.

The lawyer shuffled the paperwork on his podium. "As I was saying, you've been called here today to bear witness to the last will and testament of Ms. Rebecca Elinore Frost. My name is Edmund Hiddleston. I am the lawyer in charge of Ms. Frost's estate. Before we begin, I must verify attendance. When you hear your name, please respond."

He read off a list. Unsurprisingly, a number of people shared the Frost surname.

"Noelle Graves," the lawyer called.

"That would be my mother," answered the woman beside Sherlock.

Mr. Hiddleston gave an irritated sniff. "Substitutes are not allowed. The notice I sent out made it clear it was necessary for all listed to be here."

"I'm afraid that would be rather difficult, as she's dead."

"Dead?" The lawyer dropped his pen and gazed at her in consternation.

Flipping through the pile of paperwork, he muttered something uncomplimentary about a new secretary. He reached a page at the bottom of the stack and slid it out. "Your mother is Noelle Graves, born the 13th of March 1952, correct?"

"Yes. She married my father, Jamison Walker, in 1976."

"Why isn't your father here then?" Exasperation colored his tone.

"He and my mother were killed in a skiing accident when I was fourteen," she replied, her tone so matter of fact she could have been discussing the weather. Granted, it had to have been at least fifteen years since the accident. She appeared to be in her late twenties, possibly early thirties.

The lawyer eased his spectacles up the bridge of his nose. "Do you have any family members who are not dead? Aunts? Uncles? Siblings?"

She shook her head and a few strands of red hair came loose from a bun secured by a large metal clip. "I had an older brother, but he's passed on as well. I'm afraid you're stuck with me, Mr. Hiddleston."

The lawyer gave a small cough. "I see. It appears the information we have regarding your mother is sorely out of date. Did you bring the death certificates and your birth certificate?"

She nodded.

"My assistant will collect them when we've finished here." He paused, his pen poised for action. "I didn't get your name, Miss?"

"Walker. Vivian Walker."

Mr. Hiddleston nodded then continued on down the list.

A white-haired gentleman stared in their direction. John couldn't decide whether the impeccably dressed man was watching Sherlock or Miss Walker or perhaps the painting on the wall behind them. Although, if he had to bet on one of the three, he'd wager the old man's attention was absorbed by the woman. She fidgeted with her mobile, spinning it around in one palm in a practiced movement.

Sherlock eyed the phone, seemingly fascinated. It appeared perfectly normal from John's vantage point, but who knew what the mobile looked like through the eyes of Sherlock Holmes? For all he knew, his friend had deduced she made a living as a magician, preferred tea over coffee, and enjoyed long walks on the beach.

Mr. Hiddleston opened an official looking leather binder and several people leaned forward.

"Ms. Frost's will was written in letter format to recipients of her estate. Please wait until I have finished reading before voicing any concerns." He gave the group a stern look as if he expected someone to pipe up right then with some ridiculous query.

Satisfied, he continued. "To my composing critique group, you never failed to challenge me while at the same time supporting my efforts. I gladly leave my vacation home in Italy to be divided amongst the six of you. May it be a place where the creation of music continues to thrive. Legato, my friends."

A cheer went up from the right side of the room. The lawyer shook his head and resumed reading.

"To my faithful friend and butler, Henry Giles. Thank you for your many years of service, for helping me to manage my estate, and for ensuring I always left the manor looking my best. I trust you will ensure I look appropriate when I am finally laid to rest. The guest house at Aria is yours. I have set aside a large sum for you to retire comfortably, should you desire to do so, however, I am certain the heir to my estate will see the wisdom of keeping you on."

The elderly gentleman who had been watching Miss Walker gaped at the lawyer, then dabbed at his eyes with a spotless handkerchief.

"To my great niece, Beatrix Frost."

A girl in the front row gave a startled squeak.

"I've deposited considerable funds into a trust account for you. It should be enough to put you through school at Royal Academy. Don't let your parents try to push you into law school. I'm proud to know the love of the performing arts will continue on in the family. Knock 'em dead, Beatrix, and for God's sake don't take a stage name.

The properties in France, Kent, and Belfast will be sold. Monies earned will be distributed to a number of charities benefiting those in need and supporting the arts."

John smiled. He imagined he would have liked Rebecca Frost. She sounded kind and generous.

"To the rest of my family-" The lawyer paused. His gaze twitched to the crowd, then back to the letter. "You greedy sods. You will never see a penny from my estate. You only bothered to be in my presence as I grew old in the hope of currying favor. I only wish I could savor the look of shock on your face when you realize your efforts were in vain."

John sucked in a breath. A ripple of discontent spread across the crowd, angry murmurs filling the air. Sherlock looked away from Miss Walker's mobile. His eyes gleamed with renewed interest.

A vicious string of curse words spilled out of Matthew's mouth and his hands gripped the arms of the chair.

"I'm not finished," the lawyer said. The audience quieted, but the tension in the room remained taut like one of Sherlock's violin strings.

"Finally, I come to the lion-share of my estate. This includes Aria, royalties from my music, the flat in Bristol, and the rest of my investments. They are currently valued at twenty million pounds. I give this to my childhood friend, who is the reason why I became a composer in the first place. Thank you for encouraging me to live out my dream. I give you the Frost fortune to do with as you please. I name as my heir, Noelle Graves."

Miss Walker's mobile slipped out of her hand and bounced across the marble floor. The sound echoed in the sudden silence.

She lifted a hand to rub at her temple, mouth agape. "There must be some mistake."

The stout lawyer drew himself upright. "We do not make mistakes at Stryder & Chapel."

Matthew exploded out of his seat. His chair skittered sideways. "The will is wrong," he shouted. Fists clenched, he shoved past the chair to tower over Miss Walker.

"You bitch. Somehow you're behind this. You've tampered with the will. There's no way my sister would deny her own flesh and blood."

Concerned for her safety, John moved to stand, but Sherlock caught his eye and shook his head. Reluctant, he sat back, only faith in his friend's judgment preventing him from coming to the woman's aid.

Miss Walker held steady palms up. "I assure you Mr. Frost, I've done nothing of the sort."

"I don't believe you," Matthew said, now nose to nose with her.

"You should," Sherlock said, drawing the man's furious gaze.

"Shut your bloody gob. You don't know what you're talking about."

"Actually, I do." A cold smile cut across Sherlock's face. "I know your bookie will be displeased when he discovers you're unable to pay your debt, especially considering your latest rugby bet has failed. Judging by your discomfort while sitting in a decent chair, his men roughed you up a few nights ago. I wager the inheritance notice saved you from dismemberment in a dark alley. I also know your wife is going to leave you for another man, the fortune you promised her the only reason she's stayed with you. Shall I go on, or have I properly convinced you that I do, in fact, know what I'm talking about?"

Sherlock's icy words of contempt echoed across the conference room.

The man recoiled and turned to stare at his wife. A red flush crept across her cheekbones. Her chin lifted. She rose from her seat, designer bag in hand, and left the room without a backwards glance.

A muscle in Matthew's stubble-covered jaw spasmed. He glared down at Miss Walker. "This isn't over."

He shot a final scowl at Sherlock and Mr. Hiddleston, then stalked out of the room.

The slam of the door broke the spell over the crowd. Men and women surged forward to surround the lawyer, voices raised. Mr. Hiddleston slammed the leather binder against the podium. The bang startled the angry mob into silence.

"Ladies and gentleman. If you have a concern or wish to make an appeal, please queue in front of the podium." He cast a severe gaze across the room. "We will have order or I will have you removed."

Men and women jostled one another to be the first one in line. Security guards entered the room followed by a young woman in a blue business suit.

"Inheritors of Ms. Frost's estate will need to leave identification with my assistant, Matilda," Mr. Hiddleston said, nodding towards the brunette, who stood holding the door open. "She will meet with you in the lobby. I will then contact you within the next two business days to schedule a time for you to sign the appropriate documentation."

Miss Walker and those named in the will wisely left the room.

"Well, that wasn't boring," John murmured.

"Hmmm," came the distracted reply. Sherlock, leather gloves now removed, ran long fingers across a shiny, black mobile phone.

A phone that most definitely belonged to one Vivian Walker.

"Please tell me you aren't planning on keeping it," John said.

"Yes. I've decided to give up being a detective for a life of petty thievery." Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I simply wanted to examine the device before returning it. Have you seen a model like this before?"

John took the offered device. The phone was sleek, lightweight for being the size of his palm, and incredibly thin. A few rows of oddly textured buttons void of identifying numbers or letters lay beneath a darkened screen. He couldn't manage to power on the phone despite pushing all the buttons. Conceding defeat, he handed the mobile back and shook his head.

"I've never seen anything like it," Sherlock said, looking as if he itched to take the device apart right then and there.

"Perhaps Miss Walker will be kind enough to tell you where she got it," John said. They headed out the double doors of the conference room.

The hallway opened out into a spacious lobby, the room dominated by a large walnut desk. Tasteful potted plants lined the walls. Miss Walker removed a manila envelope from a leather messenger bag and gave it to the young woman behind the desk. She then stepped to the side to allow the elderly butler to have his turn.

Miss Walker rifled through her bag and a look of complete panic crossed her face. Odd that she chose now to panic rather than when Matthew Frost had shouted at her. She hurried back towards the conference room.

"Miss Walker," Sherlock said.

She spun around so fast the leather bag bumped against her hip. It was a nicely curved hip, John noted, sadly hidden beneath loose-fitting black trousers.

Sherlock held up her mobile and her agitated expression relaxed.

She met them halfway across the lobby. John was tickled to discover that she and Sherlock were nearly the same height. In fact, she had him beat by half an inch due to the heels she wore. Sherlock's eyes dropped to her shoes for a brief second.

John grinned. He bet it disconcerted his friend to have someone above his eye level for once.

Sherlock handed over her phone and she smiled. "It appears I owe you my thanks for not only distracting Mr. Frost, but for returning my mobile as well."

"It's our pleasure," John said, cutting in before Sherlock could say something abrupt, disparaging, or rude.

He offered her his hand. "Doctor John Watson."

Her grip was firm, confident.

Sherlock took her hand next. "Sherlock Holmes."

The welcome in her green eyes faded. She dropped his hand and took a step back.

John frowned.

Sherlock cocked a brow. "You have quite an unusual phone."

Miss Walker's smile went brittle. "Yes, I do. I'm afraid I have an appointment to get to. Thank you again for your help today." She gave them a brisk nod and headed for the exit.

"Pleasure meeting you," John said.

She strode out the front door, heedless of the pouring rain.

Sherlock stared after her, pale blue eyes narrowed.

"So, not a fan then," John said.

Sherlock slid his leather gloves back on. "No, apparently not."

"You know, people usually wait until after they've met you before deciding they hate your guts."

"Perhaps my reputation precedes me," Sherlock said.

"Or maybe Vivian Walker has something to hide," John mused.

Sherlock snorted. "There's not a person on this planet who hasn't got something to hide."

John raised his eyebrows. "Even you?"

Sherlock smirked. "Me? I'm an open book."

"You're a ruddy liar."

A smile tugged at Sherlock's mouth.

Not exactly reassuring. What could Sherlock possibly have to hide?
He swallowed. Perhaps it was best not to think about it. Sherlock liked to do odd experiments on body parts after all.

The old butler rushed over to them. "Thank you so much for coming, Mr. Holmes. I didn't think you'd be able to make it on such short notice."

Sherlock waved the thanks away. "Your voice-mail indicated the possibility of an interesting case."

"How can we help you, Mr. Giles?" John asked.

The elderly man leaned in close. "Rebecca Frost was murdered."

John blinked. "How can you be so sure?"

His shoulders sagged. "She told me."


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