Sherlock and John had been on this case for over a week now. Progress was painfully slow but they had picked up a few leads. They knew that the person going to be killed was likely the curator of a museum and Sherlock had managed to work out that they were allergic to pulses and wasn't a fan of crowds. John was beginning to get frustrated. He'd given up a game of squash with Paul for this. Reasoning with Sherlock hadn't really worked up until now but he decided to give it a go.
"Look, maybe this is one of the cases that we don't solve. Why not just hand it over to Mycroft or, slightly more conventionally, the police, and they can deal with it”. Sherlock jumped down from the couch where he had been examining an ever increasing collection of 'clues' pinned to the wall.
"It was Mycroft who gave it to me. Said he got intelligence from a man he was dealing with earlier in the year. He wouldn't tell him much. Mycroft probably couldn't solve it so handed it over to me. He's losing his ability to deduce so rapidly in his old age"
"And apparently you are too. Can we please do something else?” Sherlock looked momentarily annoyed before kicking his shoes off and lying on the couch and placing his hands in a prayer position. He closed is eyes and John thought that he had gone to sleep before he snapped his eyes open and twisting his head at what looked like a very uncomfortable angle to face John.
"What do you suggest then? Monopoly?” Sherlock questioned, daring John to challenge him.
"Err no…how about putting your shoes somewhere that neither of us will fall—“ John stopped. Just out of sight under the couch behind Sherlock's shoes was the box of photos that John had discarded there over a month ago. Suddenly he had an idea…
"OK, then you want a case? Here's one. There's a photographer who is shot right down the lens in the middle of—“ John was stopped again. But this time by Sherlock shouting and leaping up into the air onto the coffee table.
"How could I have been so stupid? It was staring at us right in the face” John was looking bewildered. 'Well its not staring into my face' he thought.
"Don't you see John?! This curator will be looking to acquire pieces for their collection. We know the attack is going to happen before the end of the month. What is the only new exhibition opening between now and the 30th?” Sherlock looked at John expectantly as the latter was attempting to quickly recall his limited contemporary cultural knowledge.
"The photography exhibition at the Tate Modern...its been all over the papers…whose is it again?"
"Wesener and Moran. We need to get tickets to the preview tomorrow night"
"Why the preview?"
"The curator doesn't like crowds remember. It'll be exclusive a few guests and…"
"Interested buyers”. John smiled to himself as Sherlock called Myrcoft. It seems that his skills as a great 'conductor of light' were continuing to be useful.
"Brother dear, remember when you said I should get out more? How about securing me and John tickets to the Wesener and Moran exhibition preview tomorrow night?”
The Tate Modern was one of those places that John had never really taken an interest in. Art wasn't really his sort of thing. Especially not modern art. Sherlock, however, was another story. There had always been paintings littered about his house growing up. He liked to read them. Find the hidden messages and symbols. Modern art was a little trickier, but Sherlock liked a challenge. Photography was a new area for him though. Aside from its use in forensics he'd never had the reason to retain any useful amount of interest or knowledge about the subject. Until yesterday that was when the situation was rectified after just half an hour's reading and research.
Sherlock ordered their cab to St Paul's Cathedral. The City was still bustling at 7 o'clock at night. Most would be in their offices for a long while yet. As Sherlock got out of the cab he turned is collar up to the wind. John smirked and felt a little reassured. Sherlock only ever did this when he felt that they were onto something good. When he felt that he was in control.
The two began the descent down from St Paul's and onto the Millennium Bridge, the chimney of the Tate Modern towering ahead of them.
"Go on then" John started, ramming his hands into his pockets, "What have you worked out that you're not telling me?"
"This is a brand new collaboration. These two photographers have never worked together before. Wesener is old school. Still shoots on film. Moran is digital. And only digital. The two fit together perfectly though. They focus on people. Particularly young people and children. However, for this exhibition the focus is on heroism. Who do we hold to be above all others? Who do we follow and look up to?" Sherlock and John slowed to a standstill in the middle of the bridge. Sherlock crossed over to the left hand side and leant against the rail. John joined him and the two looked out towards Tower Bridge. "For Wesener, his heroes were artists. He's been around for years. It will be interesting to see whose heroes are Moran's"
"Where is this going Sherlock?"
"I've narrowed it down to two possible targets. One is a curator for an auction house with links to a charity that aims to improve education for girls in Afghanistan. The other is a private collector. At the moment, I'm pretty sure its the private collector. Her name is Erika Sorensen. No one has heard of her, yet she is phenomenally wealthy. Hardly goes to any events except for the exceptional. Her family isn't rich so that money must have come from somewhere. She's not tied to any major company. She isn't married to anyone who is so…plenty of opportunity for behaviour that would mean that someone may want you out of the picture. Excuse the pun."
"And is she allergic to pulses?"
"Didn't you hear what I just said? She never goes out. How am I meant to gather an accurate pattern of her eating habits?"
"And is charity guy allergic?"
"Yes. He dined at a private function last week which had to change its starter from lentil soup to a much less anaphylactic shock inducing tomato"
"And his name?"
"Thomas Ianus. Italian father, english mother. Two older sisters who used to dress him up as Madonna in his youth. Now lives alone since he found out that his girlfriend was in fact -"
"I just asked for the name Sherlock. Come on, lets get going" John turned on his heel and walked towards the Tate.
"I thought you liked it when I showed off" Sherlock muttered. He watched as John walked ahead and wondered how much longer the two of them had together. Moriarty was coming.
The city looked particularly beautiful tonight. He turned to look at St Paul's. This was his mother's favourite part of London standing on the bridge between the two sides of the city with that stunning view of the great white monolith of St Paul's.
A gust of wind whipped around Sherlock as he turned to follow John. He ducked his head down against it and shoved his hands into his pockets. His right hand played with the squash ball he had taken from John's new set. He'd forgotten he'd left it in there.
Sherlock and John entered the Tate Modern on the river side and started their ascent up to the third floor. As they reached the top of the escalators they passed through security checkpoints. John was suddenly very glad that he'd left his gun in the top drawer. Their coats were taken and in exchange they were given guidebooks to the exhibition and a price list. Sherlock tucked the two into his suit’s jacket pocket before turning to John,
"I'm going to go ahead. I need to properly look at the space before many more people arrive. Judging by the cloakroom only half of the guests are already here. Text me if you need me”. Sherlock turned to leave but was stopped by John grabbing his arm. He looked down puzzled at his friend’s hand, somewhat unused to the physical contact.
"Sherlock, just wait a minute" his voice hushed "What's the plan? Are you just going to walk up to a total stranger and say 'hi, you don't know me but I'm here to tell you that you may very well be murdered tonight?"
"Probably yeah. Can you let go of my arm?” John dropped his hand and sighed.
"All I'm saying, smart arse, is that you actually don't have a lot to go on and it may be worth giving this a little consideration before you go barreling in. You don't even know why or how they are going to be killed. You're not even entirely sure who"
"Admittedly I'm still working on that bit but I won't be able to get any further with us having what Mrs Hudson has charmingly labelled 'one of our domestics' in the middle of perhaps one of the greatest photography exhibitions of this year, probably the decade -"
"Alright just go Sherlock. I'll just take my time"
Sherlock grinned and almost bounded off around the corner. John followed him and was about to call that such movement in this sort of environment would probably draw suspicion when he stopped and found himself staring straight into the dull blue eyes of a man he'd really rather forget about.
John felt an overpowering need to move. To run. To follow Sherlock. But his leg gave way.
"Please god, not now" he thought before he found himself leaning heavily on the white wall behind him with the green eyes of Private Moran moving ever so swiftly and silently towards him.
Sherlock's mind was racing. He needed to find the targets and, as John so rightly pointed out, he needed to work out who was after them and how they were going to get rid of them. This was by far one of the most challenging cases he'd had in a while. He could see why Mycroft didn't want it. He really must ask him who his source was.
The gallery had been beautifully laid out. The pictures were all in thin black frames and somehow seemed to draw even more out of the photos. They really did look stunning. As he entered the main gallery he saw Wesener stood in the middle of the room. The older man turned as Sherlock entered and walked towards him. Despite the thirty plus years that he had spent in New York, he had retained his German accent.
"Sherlock? Yes? I remember taking a photo of your brother. Most powerful man in Britain. I shall be taking one of you shortly no? Now that you are a famous detective." Wesener grinned as he shook Sherlock's hand. Behind his rimless spectacles his eyes had retained their youth.
"Mr Wesner -
"Please, call me Wolfie. Your brother did" Sherlock could never imagine Myrcoft calling anyone by a nickname but he decided to go with it
"Wolfie, thank you for agreeing to have us on the guest list so late"
"Oh it is nothing"
The two had begun to walk towards the main photograph in the space. It was of Wolfie's father surveying the world through is round tortoiseshell glasses. As they came closer a smell that Sherlock couldn't quite put his finger on appeared. Sherlock wrinkled his nose
"Yes, sorry about that. It should be gone within a moment. You get used to it. There was a delay with the installation of the photos, you know how these things are. The frames have been treated with something to protect them and I don't think its quite dried. I don't really know, I didn't really follow it. They did try and tell me. The photo is what I am really concerned about. The framing doesn't really matter to me. Seb chose the frames."
Wolfie went back to looking at the picture of his father. The two stood there looking at the old man as Sherlock weighed up the positives and negatives of diving in to an investigation head first. After about thirty seconds Sherlock was bored and decided to go for it. Politeness be damned.
"I'm looking for Erika Sorensen-"
Before he could continue Wolfie had spun one hundred and eighty degrees on his heels and was now facing into the middle of the gallery.
"Ah, the lottery winner. Although don't tell anyone that. She's over by Seb's picture there" Wesener pointed at a middle aged woman stood in front of a portrait of Barack Obama. Sherlock's mind went into overdrive as he began his deductions;
Erika Johanna Sorensen. Just shy of her 48th birthday. One daughter but the father has custody. She never shed the baby weight yet she doesn't look like she spends her days running round after an irrational creature who believes that walls are the perfect place to draw on. She has never done the after school run to dancing or sat patiently through yet another nativity play on an impossibly uncomfortable and small plastic chair. She just hasn't. So, what does she do then? Why does the father have custody? Is she working in a dangerous profession? Could this be why someone wants her dead? No. She is a horticulturalist. Working with rare plants. The skin on her hands is dry with tiny scars which could only be obtained through close contact with thorns. Her eyes look worn as well. Too much time examining small objects closely. Her skin too bears the marks of someone who has spent a long time in the sun. But it is also rough, so windburn. This all points to the fact that not only does her work involve practical elements but also close study working with plants on a regular basis. So that's her job. Who would want to kill someone who spend most of their days covered in John Innes Number 5? Wait, Wolfie said something about the lottery. Obvious really once you look at her. The way that she is dressed, expensive clothing but she doesn't seem comfortable in it. She has money but she's not used to it. At least not in this amount. And it must be a large amount because tickets to these previews are not cheap and the cost of the photos alone is eye watering. She's wearing a thin strapped Rolex watch, the tan lines of a much bulkier watch visible beneath it. Back to the outdoors work again. However, on her right wrist is a much cheaper bracelet. Couldn't be anything over £30 in worth. Why wear it then? A reminder of the old times? Yes. Its engraved with the shield of her college at Cambridge. Newnham. She has more money than she knows what to do with yet she still clings onto cheaper, and arguably quite tacky, trophies of her golden years. When she was free from husbands and children and could focus on her studies. Lottery winner then. Reasons why anyone would want her killed? None. All the money will be willed to the daughter and a woman this intelligent would make sure that the will was airtight. No room for her child's father to get hold of it. Any other activities that could put her in the firing line? Gambling? No. Trading, legal or otherwise? No. Black mail? No, she's too busy working. We've already established that. No motive. Random killing? Unlikely. Why would a random killing be planned in advance. Mycroft's source knew that someone would be killed. Killing Erika Sorensen would be a spur of the moment affair. She is too unimportant.
Sherlock had zoned out and Wolfie was now looking concerned. He took his glasses off and cleaned them on the bottom of his waistcoat.
"Sherlock, you're not here because you think she is going to be killed are you?"
"No, Wolfie. I don't think she is going to be killed. It would have made my evening a lot easier if she was though. Now I need to find the other one"
Private Moran was as softly spoken as ever as he guided John to one of the wooden benches in middle of the gallery. His hands were steady. Gentle yet firm. He sat down next to John, stretching out his long legs. John had forgotten how tall he was. He was probably taller than Sherlock. Moran turned to look at John but resolutely kept his head down,
"I didn't know you were a fan of my work Captain” Moran’s voice was calm, almost cold. Any of the quiet reserve he had only moments ago was slowly giving way to something much more sinister. And why shouldn’t it, after what John had done. After what they had all done. John flexed his hand as he felt the tremor starting. He was still looking at his knees. Drawing a deep breath he faced forward and answered Moran,
"I honestly didn't know that you were doing this. I'd seen sections about this exhibition in the paper but I never really read them. I didn't think you'd be into photography so I didn't for a second think that you would be one half of Wesener and Moran. It's a common name.” John let go a breath he wasn't aware he was holding. He kept his eyes fixed on the picture of Jim Lovell hung on the wall in front of him. He couldn't look at the man next to him. Private Moran stood up and looked down at John.
"Well, what can I say? Here I am, back to haunt you like a bad omen. I hope you enjoy the evening Captain” John could see Moran’s feet directly in front of him. Somehow he mustered the courage to raise his head and look at his former inferior.
"Please don't call me Captain. My name's John. Neither of us are in Helmand now Sebastian” Sebastian’s faced hardened, and his green eyes seemed to fade into black.
"No we're not John. But we both have marks to prove that we were"
As Sebastian turned to walk away, a small circular scar became visible on the righthand side of his temple, just under a lock of black hair, and John felt the overwhelming need to vomit.