An uneventful week passed. The temperature had stalled at the mid-seventies, and London was going through an unusual dry spell, but the weathermen were calling for rain later in the week. John worked at St. Bart's in the mornings, sorting papers and performing small tasks for Molly and other people. He enjoyed spending time with Molly—they talked about themselves and work and the city itself. She'd grown up in London, and on his third day of work she'd told him with a small smile that it was where she planned to stay. "Some people," she'd said, "grow up and leave. They go to America, or down to France, or into the country—either the city's too busy or not busy enough."
John wasn't sure what type he was yet. He loved the country, the way he could lie outside at night and stare up at the stars without the lights blocking them out or hear the crickets chirping instead of car tires running across pavement. However, there was something about a city like London that drew him in—he just didn't know what it was yet.
And then there was Sherlock. The more time John spent around his flatmate, the more enthralled he was by him. Sherlock walked around with an air of mystery around him, so it seemed to John. He would be gone for hours on end, and when John asked him once where he'd been he'd simply said, "Out." Once, he'd come home at two o'clock in the morning, banging around the flat, and John had had to bite his lip to stop himself from saying anything.
Sunday rolled around—John's day off—and he woke up late, opening his eyes to harsh sunlight and a loud bang.
Squinting, John pulled a tee-shirt and a pair of jeans on and shuffled out of his bedroom. "Sherlock?" he called, his voice husky. "Is that you—?" He entered the living room and came to an abrupt halt, his words trailing off.
Sherlock was sitting with his legs over the side of one of the arms of an armchair, pointing a pistol at a yellow smiley face painted on the wall. He pulled the trigger, and John covered his ears as another gunshot rang through the flat.
"Good morning, John," Sherlock said, and John dropped his hands.
"What the hell are you doing?" John demanded.
Sherlock sighed. "Passing the time."
"Passing the time?" John repeated, shaking his head.
"There's nothing interesting going on," Sherlock said, preparing to shoot the wall again.
"Sherlock, stop!" John shouted, and Sherlock rolled his eyes, lowering the gun. "You can't keep shooting the wall." He paused for a moment. "Where did you even get the gun?"
"Picked it off of Lestrade."
John opened his mouth, not entirely sure what to say but knowing he had to say something, but he was spared the trouble by the sound of a phone ringing.
John waited a moment. When Sherlock made no move to go for the phone, he said, "Isn't that your phone?"
"Aren't you going to answer it?"
John sighed, and then reached forward and took the cellphone from where it sat on the side table. He flipped it open and held it up to his ear. "Hello?"
"I'd like to speak to my brother, John," a familiar voice said.
"Hold on a moment." John took the phone from his ear and extended it towards Sherlock. "It's Mycroft. He wants to talk to you."
Sherlock, with a look of annoyance, snatched the phone from John's hand. "What is it, Mycroft?" he snapped.
John sat down on the couch and pulled out his computer. As he waited for it to log in, he heard Sherlock say, "Really? Fascinating." John looked over to see Sherlock leaning forward in his chair, his eyes bright. "You said 3 bodies?" John's eyes widened. Sherlock stood suddenly, a smile stretched across his face. "I'll be there shortly." He snapped the phone shut and clapped his hands together, a laugh escaping his lips. "Yes!" he exclaimed, putting the phone in his pocket. "Oh, it's Christmas!"
John stood as well, setting his computer on the couch. "What's happened?" he asked. "What's this about bodies?"
"A case, John!" Sherlock said, crossing the room swiftly and opening the door. "Finally, something exciting is happening!" He swept out of the flat, the door slamming shut behind him.
John stood in the middle of the room for a moment before walking into the kitchen. He took a glass out of the cupboard and was in the midst of filling it with water when a voice behind him said, "You're training to become a doctor."
John swung around to see Sherlock standing in the kitchen entrance. "Yeah," he said slowly, setting the glass down.
"You're going to examine a lot of bodies as a doctor," Sherlock continued. "Probably more than you'd like."
John nodded. "I suppose so."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Want to start now?"
John considered Sherlock's offer. "Yeah, okay."
Sherlock drove, weaving the car through traffic all the way to St. Bart's. When they arrived, Sherlock parked in a side parking lot and together, he and John entered the building. A man who looked to be in his early twenties was waiting for them in the lobby. He had dirty blonde hair and brown eyes that at the moment were locked on Sherlock.
"Hello Lestrade," Sherlock said.
"I think you're going to want to see this," was all Lestrade said, leading them to the end of a hallway and down a set of stairs to the basement.
As they walked, John leaned over slightly towards Sherlock. "Why exactly are we here, Sherlock? The police don't call ordinary people in to examine bodies."
"You're exactly right, John," Sherlock said as they entered a door labeled 'Morgue'. "They don't bring in ordinary people."
Lestrade flicked a light switch, illuminating the room with a harsh white light. He approached a wall composed of metal doors and unlatched one of them, pulling out a long table. On the table, sickly pale, was the body of a young man.
John sucked in a breath. There wasn't a single mark on the whole body except for a number, carved into the man's chest: 2.
"There're more," Lestrade said, turning and pulling out two more bodies, another man and a woman. Each body had a number on their chest.
Sherlock read them aloud. "Two two one."
"Two two one," John repeated. "As in…"
"221B," Sherlock said, moving closer to one of the bodies and scanning it quickly. "No other markings." He looked at Lestrade. "Poisoned?"
Lestrade shook his head. "The toxicology report came up empty. That's one of the reasons we called you. The other's obvious."
"Is somebody targeting us?" John asked after a moment, his voice coming out stronger than he thought it would. After the initial shock, he found that he could look at the three bodies laid out in front of him objectively and with a clear head. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that these weren't the first dead bodies he'd seen.
"It looks like it," Lestrade said as John thrust the thought out of his head quickly, focusing instead on the situation at hand. "Somebody who's not afraid to kill to get his or her point across."
"It's not just about the numbers," Sherlock said, and Lestrade and John both turned to see him straighten, brushing his hands down the front of his white dress shirt. "Whoever killed these people didn't just choose his victims at random—he would have a reason, a purpose, just like he had a reason to give us those numbers." Sherlock pointed at the woman. "Her. Mid-thirties, desk job—probably a secretary—with 2 children. Do we have a name?" He looked at Lestrade, whose expression hadn't changed with Sherlock's deduction.
"Stephanie Kildring," he said. "She worked as a secretary at Bizco."
"Bizco," John repeated. "The news company?"
Sherlock gave John a tired look. "Yes, John."
"He's Kyle Hampton from Presser Bank, and he's Isaac Richter from HP Insurance," Lestrade said, pointing at the two male bodies. "I ran checks and double checks—there seems to be no connection between these three murders. They didn't know each other inside or outside of work, and the companies don't collaborate. I would say that maybe the murder's targeting major corporations but—"
"—but what purpose would murdering a secretary serve," Sherlock finished, steepling his fingers under his chin. "What purpose indeed."
Sherlock and Lestrade continued making theories, but John's heartbeat thumped so loudly in his ears everything around him was drowned out. Bizco, Presser Bank, HP Insurance…
"I know the connection," he said suddenly, his voice sounding muffled to his own ears. Sherlock cut off mid-sentence and looked sideways at John.
"What?" he said, a small hint of surprise coloring his voice.
"There is a connection," John said, his mouth dry. When Sherlock raised an eyebrow, John shrugged weakly. "It's me."
Lestrade frowned. "What do you mean it's you?"
"I mean," John said slowly, feeling the world start to spin around him, "that my family subscribed to Bizco news, had our money held in the Presser Bank system, and used HP Insurance." He felt slightly dizzy, as if the ground had begun to turn under his feet. Suddenly, he didn't see the bodies of Isaac and Stephanie and Kyle; he saw the faces of his parents, his mother's kind eyes closed and his father's deep, rich voice forever silent. He had to dig his nails into his palms to push the wave of grief threatening to emerge back into the recesses of his mind. He would not cry in front of these people. He would not break down in front of Sherlock.
Lestrade crossed his arms and glanced at Sherlock. "Could be a coincidence."
"There are no coincidences," Sherlock said. "John's parents, who have connections with all three places, turn up dead, and then these three murders with the numbers 221 carved into their chests? John is right—he is the connection."
"You think my parents have something to do with this?" John said, his voice coming out too loud. Even as the words left his mouth he knew that Sherlock was right, of course; it couldn't be a coincidence.
"Unless they both died from natural causes."
John looked away, focusing on the top left corner of the room. "No," he said quietly. "They didn't."
"Then Sherlock's right," Lestrade cut in. "I'm sorry John."
John just shook his head. "What do we do?" was all he said.
"We solve the case," Sherlock said. He gave John a half-smile that made his eyes light up. "The game is on."