A Rose By Any Other Name

Chapter 9

John felt as if he was trying to argue with Sherlock during the cab ride back. It took a half an hour’s worth of bickering to convince Aryn that she needed to sober up a bit more before going to Scotland Yard to clear up whatever it was she had just had an epiphany about.

In the vehicle, she chewed anxiously on the small sandwich John had bought for her, sipping from a bottle of water. She was sweating with anticipating. She was excited to get back and talk to everyone about it, not even hinting to John about what she had figured out.

John finally cleared Aryn after she opened her mouth to him to show she had eaten her entire “meal”. As much as he tried to get her to do it, she refused to let him treat her wounds because, as she put it, “there simply wasn’t time.”

The cab pulled up to the curb in front of Scotland Yard. Aryn didn’t even give it a chance to stop moving, let alone stop to pay the fare. She sprinted towards the building, leaving John to apologetically give the cabby money before chasing after her. Heading straight up to Lestrade’s office, Aryn raced wildly through the various desks until she made it, Donovan, Anderson, and Lestrade discussing other matters within.

“Bloody hell,” Lestrade commented, seeing the wounds on Aryn’s body. “Where were you?”

John came in soon after, breathing heavily and looking at Lestrade in a way that said he’d explain later.

Aryn didn’t say a word to anyone. Her hair was running wild and parts of her clothes were torn from where she had fallen. Her breaths were deep and her face was rosey. Blood had dried on her face from her other wounds and her eyes were wild with excitement. She began to look through Lestrade’s desk without asking, opening drawers and lifting papers out of the way as she searched.

“What is going on?” Donovan questioned, walking up to Aryn. “You can’t just bust in here like this and…” She sniffed the air around Aryn. “…have you been drinking?”

Donovan shot a concerned look to Lestrade, but Lestrade did nothing. He let Aryn look through his desk for whatever she needed to find.

“If you’re not going to do anything—“ Donovan warned, her blood starting to boil due to Lestrade’s passiveness. She reached for Aryn’s wrist to try and stop her.

Quicker than she expected, Aryn twisted her wrist out of Donovan’s grasp.

A loud thud indicated that Aryn was more aware of everyone in the room than they realized. John was surprised with the skill she had shown, pinning Donovan to the desk so that her arm was pulled up towards Aryn and her face was pressed against the cool wood of the desktop.

“Let. Me. Work.”

Lestrade walked around to take Donovan away from Aryn as he watched this woman he cared about frantically go through his office.

“What is she trying to find?” John asked, looking from face to face with concern.

“A-ha!” she exclaimed, holding up a pad of Post-Its.

John wondered at that point if she had really sobered up enough. She was holding up the Post-Its as if she had just found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Without acknowledging anyone, she started to walk briskly towards the meeting room.

Her heart was racing and her head was pounding with both excitement and because of how much alcohol she had consumed. To be honest, she didn’t even remember how many shots of whiskey she had ingested.

Opening the door, she was surprised to see Sherlock on the other side.

He was looking at the boards, the ring hidden safely in his palm. Its cold silver pulsated in his hand, his mind still focused on the argument that took place in that very room earlier.

Turning to see who had entered the room, he narrowed his eyes when he saw her wounds. “You’ve been drinking.”

“Shut up, I’m working.” She rushed over to the board and looked through the victims’ pictures. She used her finger to look through their general information profiles, each time landing on their ages. “It all makes sense.”

Everyone else had filled up the room—except for Donovan who had decided to separate herself from Aryn for the time being—all still bewildered as to what was happening.

“Aryn,” John asked, stepping towards her. “What’s going on?”

“I,” she began, frantically shuffling through the papers on the table to find her black pen, “have found our connection.”

“What is it?” Lestrade asked, walking up next to John.

She pointed directly at Sherlock.

“Me?” he asked in confusion. “Why would it be me?”

“Nothing about these victims even relate to one another. I have to agree with Sherlock: why would he be their one connection?” Anderson asked very matter-of-factly.

“No one asked for your thoughts, Anderson,” Aryn commented, finding her black pen and starting to write names down on singular Post-Its. “Sherlock, tell me the ages and genders of our victims.”

He looked at her in disbelief. He was in no mood to be bossed around. “No. Not until you tell me what’s going on.” His grip on the ring increased, the band creating a severe indentation on his hand.

“Oh come on Sherlock,” she whined, turning towards him. “You insist on showing off your deductions whenever you figure something out. Why not let someone else pull you along to their conclusion?”

“Because you’re drunk and I’m not really interested in hearing a drunk’s silly antics,” he growled. He slyly put the ring into his trouser pocket, then put both of his hands on her shoulders. All she could do was focus on him. “What point are you trying to get at by doing this?” His tone was cold and fierce, piercing in to the small woman that stood before him. His breaths were getting deeper as his frustration grew.

At first, her eyes were full of fear. Sherlock never lost her temper with her in this way. But within seconds, she smirked at him, her demeanor suddenly changing. “Better to hear it from someone who’s drunk than someone who’s just had a fix, eh Sherlock?” Her tone had become sly and sneaky.

His head moved back slightly in suspicion as he tried to read her eyes. She knew what he had done—or what he had almost done. But how?

“I saw your arm yesterday,” she answered without prompting, reading Sherlock’s mind. “Sleeve rolled up, rubber mark on your arm…now that I think about it, you didn’t put anything into the tank, though. Good boy,” she commented.

He let go of her shoulders and stepped back, his gaze never leaving her.

“I have an actual point to all of this, so just let me be,” she warned, looking around the room. “Now Sherlock, the ages and genders.”

He sighed, hesitant to give in to her various demands. Closing his eyes, he tried to remember. “Four males, two in their fifties, one in his thirties, one two-month old. Three women, two in their thirties and one in her seventies.”

She wrote the information down in scribbles under the names she had written earlier. “So seven victims which matches the seven rose purchase that six of them made before they died.

“Now Sherlock has a group of people that he cares about, even though he doesn’t outwardly show it,” Aryn began. She walked to the board and stood in front of the elderly woman’s profile. “Mrs. Hudson, the kind landlady,” she said, sticking a Post-It with Mrs. Hudson’s name on the elderly woman’s photo.

“Molly Hooper, the young woman who cares for the consulting detective,” she continued, placing a Post-It in the same manner as before.

“Greg Lestrade, the man Sherlock needs for cases as much as the DI needs Sherlock to solve them; Mycroft Holmes, the ever-caring older brother…”

She stopped when she reached the last three Post-Its, looking around the room to see if anyone else had caught on. Her eyes fell to John whose face had turned a pale white.

“And me…” John finished, staring at the board in fear and disbelief. He had to sit down to take in all of the information.

“And the Watsons,” she finished, taking a deep breath as she turned away from John. “Sherlock’s best friend and his soon-to-be family.” She placed the last three notes and stepped back from the board, running her hand over her mouth as if she was wiping something off of it. “Sherlock is the connection. It’s a hit list.”

The room grew very quiet. Even Sherlock sat on the table in disbelief, staring at the board as well as the notes Aryn left on them.

“Aryn, this is…” Lestrade started, not knowing how to finish his sentence. It was a first for him to become a target of a crime in this way. He wasn’t sure what was more shocking, though: being a target or being considered someone that Sherlock cared about.

“Greg,” Donovan called, slightly out of breath. She was standing in the doorway after jogging to the meeting room. Her face was white with fear, her hands behind her back.

He turned to face her and nodded, signaling for her to continue her statement.

“This came for you.” She lifted up her gloved hand that held a large rose that was fully bloomed, its scent wafting throughout the entire room. “And it came with this.” She held up a card that said in bold, black letters “One more victim to go.”

Sherlock sat at 221B Baker Street for the first time in several days. He had showered and tried to wrap his head around what Aryn had done that day. Not only did she find the connection, but it came down to the fact that the connection was him. He was putting so many people in danger—again—and he still hadn’t a clue who was behind these murders.

Not to mention there was one more person that was in danger; some civilian who resembled someone he cared about. He didn’t know who would be next.

He was sitting in his chair, violin in hand, robe gracing his frame. He looked down at the instrument, admiring its curves, beautiful reddish-brown color, and sleek strings. Placing it between his neck and body, he began to play whatever song came to mind. It was an all too familiar song that started to come out, though.

“I’ve heard that song before,” John commented from the doorway, recognizing the tune from the night prior.

Sherlock continued to play, his eyes fixed on what he was doing. “Shouldn’t you be with Mary?”

John shook his head as he walked in and sat in his arm chair across from Sherlock. “She’s fine. She can handle herself.”

Sherlock looked at John with cautious eyes, then brought them back to his fingers.

“So, you and Aryn…”

“What about us?”

“What’s the story?”

“There is no story.”

“Are you sure?”


John rolled his eyes.

“If you know there’s a story, then why ask me about it?” Sherlock snapped, discontinuing his violin playing. He glared at John intensely.

He looked over his friend’s features, trying to break him down as if he was Sherlock himself. He saw the tired look in his eyes, the frustration seeping out of his expression. Although he was fueled by anger, he could tell it wasn’t a place Sherlock wanted to be. Aryn’s actions haunted Sherlock, as well as his own actions all those years ago. It hurt John to see him getting more and more vulnerable with Aryn around. “I want to hear your perspective.”

Sherlock sighed as he set down his violin and mumbled to himself.

“Sherlock,” John began, leaning forward, “why did you leave her like that?”

Sherlock didn’t answer. Instead, he folded his arms over his chest as his eyes fell to the rug in front of him.

“Did you love her?”

Sherlock looked up at John as if he was a small five-year-old who was angry at their parent. The silent treatment was his weapon of choice.

John sighed in disbelief, leaning back in his chair.

Before Sherlock could answer, Mrs. Hudson came to the doorway. “Sherlock, dear,” she began. “Oh, hello John!”

“Mrs. Hudson,” John answered, nodding courteously towards the woman.

“Sherlock, there’s a package for you.” She brought out a brown box that was about 18 inches long and four inches wide.

His expression was suddenly curious. He stood up, allowing the robe to fall behind him on his chair as he walked over to accept the package. “Thank you Mrs. Hudson.”

He set the package down on the coffee table in front of the couch, looking it over with great detail. The package was simply wrapped with no postage marks on it. The only writing on it was Sherlock’s name. No tape secured the lid, allowing for easy access into it.

He lifted the lid slowly, scared of what he’d find inside.

John peered into it, interested in the box’s contents.

Within, there was white tissue paper. As Sherlock peeled the sheets back, there was another rose. This one was very different. It was a rose bud. The flower hadn’t had a chance to bloom yet. Not only that, but the flower itself had been cut off from the stem, as if it had been decapitated.

He looked up at John, his mind racing at a million miles a minute. Was this the next victim?

Aryn had slept for what seemed like days. Her body was aching with exhaustion and her head was sore due to the massive amount of alcohol she had consumed. As she sat up in bed, she looked around to find that John had been nice enough to leave her a glass of water on her nightstand. She took a healthy swig of it, kicked her legs over the side of the bed, and walked to the bathroom to shower.

The hot water felt relaxing. It was if she was washing away all of the negative things that had happened over the past few days. Although it was nice to finally have a lead, it didn’t help that they didn’t have an idea of who the last victim was going to be.

Her wounds stung as she lathered her body with soap. John had wrapped them with bandages and left extra wrappings on her dining room table so that she could redress them later. They were deeper than she thought, Aryn regretting not allowing John to treat them earlier. Not only did her wounds still sting, but her head was now pounding even worse than before.

She finished her shower, changed into comfortable clothes, then dropped onto her couch. She vaguely remembered Lestrade telling her to take the day off. She held her head. The pounding was getting worse. It was so bad, she couldn’t even think straight. It was going to be a long day off.

Rushing to Lestrade’s office, Sherlock held the box while John tried to call Aryn. She wasn’t picking up her cell phone, which John wasn’t surprised with considering what kind of state he had left her in the night prior. She was out like a light when he put her into bed.

“I thought I told you two to take the day off,” Lestrade barked, not very happy to see the consulting detective and doctor in his office so soon.

Sherlock held out the box to Lestrade.

He eyed it suspiciously.

“It’s the next victim,” Sherlock stated. He lifted the lid and showed Lestrade the rose.

“A flower? Not a person?” he questioned, leaning back in his chair. “I think I should go get a drink myself.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. He took out the rose and set it off to the side on Lestrade’s desk. Looking through the tissue paper, he couldn’t find anything distinct. It was frustratingly amazing how meticulous this killer was in their placement of items as well as how clean all of the messages were. No fingerprints, no remnants of DNA, not even the tiniest speck of dust to line the box; this killer was good.

Suddenly, something caught his eye. Beneath the tissue paper in the same dark lettering the last note came with, he saw a solitary word. Lifting the paper out of the box with haste, a lone name sat at the bottom:

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