Stand Up

By Alex Beiderbecke

Adventure / Mystery

Chapter 5

Sherlock needed to find Ianus. The exhibition was beginning to fill up with the remaining guests. His time was running out. He still didn't know how Ianus was going to die or even who was going to kill him, never mind why. Sherlock's eyes were frantically darting around the room trying to find the Anglo-Italian businessman and philanthropist. He needed to slow down. He needed to think. Just think.

Sherlock's mind palace opened up in front of him. This time he was in the library of Magdalene College, Cambridge. This was part of his days before John. His days before the beginning of a downward spiral of self destruction. The calm before the storm. Sherlock glided down to the tunnel running between the left and the right cloister of the library. He ducked down to pass through the low baring doorway and entered a much loftier space. The tunnel was surprisingly light with bookcases arranged to form private reading spaces. He sat down in his favourite corner, the one where he powered through his Chemistry examples papers over a decade ago and pulled out a book in front of him entitled "London Auction Houses Owners with Allergies". This is where he kept his information on Thomas Ianus. The man whose life he was surely about to save.

Thomas Ianus. Born 4th October 1978, London, England. Harrow then Cambridge. Privileged then. Family are of some wealth. Could his death have something to do with this? His father drove hard bargains in his business deals but would they drive someone to murder his son in what has turned out to be a very light, open, air conditioned and increasingly busy space? Potentially. Keep that in mind. What about Ianus' own work? Auction house owner. Could sell smuggled goods. Could sell stolen goods. Could be a fraud. Could be selling fakes. The possibilities are endless. So, likely to be something to do with this. Just to be thorough, better look at his charitable works. He runs a series of sch—

Sherlock was pulled very abruptly out of the tunnel of the library and into the Tate Modern as someone clapped a firm hand on his back. The world pulled back into focus. Wolfie.

"Sherlock" he began, his tone concerned as he pushed his glasses up his nose "Your partner doesn't look too well. Bas was looking after him before but I think you should go and check on him. He's looking a bit off…"

Sherlock was about to berate Wolfie for his unhelpful interruption when he caught sight of John over his shoulder. John was sat on one of the wooden benches in the middle of the main gallery space, his hands clasped together and although his head was angled down, Sherlock could see a sheen of sweat visible on his forehead. John looked grey. He'd only ever seen John look like this once before. Sherlock had stayed up to work on a case in the living room, working only by lamplight. He heard a shout coming from John's bedroom and was about to go and investigate when he heard John shuffle towards the door. He listened as John walked, no limped, towards the kitchen. It must have been a nightmare. Probably about the war. Best to keep a distance then. Sherlock struggled with empathy, although he was making a concerted effort to get better.

John flicked on the kitchen light unaware that Sherlock was observing him, concealed in the near darkness of the room next door. Using the edge of the table for support he made is way to the sink. Hands trembling he turned on the cold water tap and watched the water run for a couple of minutes before plunging his hands under the flow. He brought his ashen face closer to the sink and splashed water onto it. John stayed hunched over the sink. He slowly straightened up and reached for a glass and filled it with water. As he drank he turned slightly and Sherlock got a clearer look at John. He looked haunted. Damaged. John never looked like that when Sherlock was there. Sherlock knew John missed the excitement and thrill of war. He had never really thought about the long term emotional impact. He suddenly felt a pang of something in his chest, the effect of which Sherlock couldn't quite articulate. Its funny, Sherlock thought, that we hide what we really feel from those we are closest to. After all they are, more often than not, those who are most willing and able to help.

Sherlock pulled himself back into the present. John was looking damaged again and Sherlock felt uneasy.

"Thank you Wolfie" he muttered before walking towards John, his pace quickening as he drew nearer. Something wasn't right.

"John" he said tentatively, not quite sure what to do with his hands. Should he reach out to his friend? Touch him on the shoulder? Offer some kind of support? In the end he settled for holding his hands behind his back. John looked up to see Sherlock leaning over him.

"I need to go" he managed to croak out. His mouth has suddenly become very dry "I just need to get out of here for a bit”. John slowly stood up, trying to ignore the dull throb in his leg.

"What happened John? Was it Moriarty?" Sherlock sounded like he was genuinely concerned which took John slightly aback.

"No. God no. Nothing like that. It was someone…who…army…someone"

Before Sherlock could ask anything else John had turned away and was making his way towards the escalators. Nothing serious then. Sherlock felt a wave of relief come over him. Just an emotional response to a face from the past. Human nature and its many faults. Now was not the time to be distracted by such trivialities. There was a task at hand.

————————————————————————————————————————

John made it out onto the South Bank, which in his mind was a minor miracle. Leaning heavily against the railings be took in the most refreshing breath of London air he had ever taken. As he looked out onto the north side of the city his initial unease at seeing Sebastian was replaced by frustration. He should have kept his cool. Not let him affect him so much. He was a higher rank than Sebastian. Rationally he should hold no sway over him.

John rubbed his leg. He needed his gun. He just wanted the security of it. He walked down towards the Globe and hailed a cab. He felt mildly guilty about leaving Sherlock on his own but he was sure he would cope.

Pulling up outside 221b, John told the cab driver to wait. He went up to his bedroom and located his gun. He holstered it in his belt and turned back down to head over to the Tate Modern once more. He would face this. He had to. He couldn't hide from his past forever. Sherlock might need him.

As he sat down in the taxi he decided he made a good move in going back for the gun. He was sure he wouldn't need it and going through security again might be an issue but there were ways round that. Having the gun made him feel like he could help Sherlock, even save him if he needed to. He didn't like feeling powerless. Particularly after Sebastian had -. Never mind. Sebastian had done well for himself. Better than any of the other colleagues he had heard of recently. He was a success. And why shouldn't he be.

As the taxi moved through London, its speed slowed down to almost a crawl. Gridlock. Getting back to the gallery could take a while. Sherlock would be on his own for longer than anticipated.

————————————————————————————————————————

Back at the Tate Modern, the preview was nearly over. Sherlock was steadily getting more and more irritated at the lack of appearance from Ianus. He was about to give up and send a series of passive aggressive texts to Mycroft when boom. Ten minutes before closing time, there he was. Ianus was just handing over his coat to the attendant in the cloakroom, effortlessly cool in his Armarni suit. There was a twenty-something brunette on his arm. He'd moved on then. Pulling out a pair of black rimmed glasses from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and placing them on his face, he seemed to glide into the main space.

Nine minutes left.

Ianus knew what he wanted. That much was obvious. Why else would you only come to something like this minutes from its close. He was going shopping. Both Wolfie and Seb had made their way over to the man. They knew they were about to make some money here. The group was moving through the gallery to the back room.

Seven and a half minutes.

Sherlock followed them, keeping a distance and an eye out for the attacker. Most of the other guests were leaving the exhibition, moving on to drinks or simply going home. The list of killers was dwindling rapidly. The four figures entered the small room right at the end of the exhibition space. Including Sherlock, there were only six of them in there now.

Wait. Six?

Sherlock hadn't registered John coming in and standing next to him. He really must try and improve his peripheral vision. John was probably going to distract him now…

"Sherlock…"

And there it is

"That's Ianus isn't it?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes and looked down to John who seemed to be decidedly less like he was at death's door.

"Thank you for your input John. We've got roughly five minutes to save him"

"I thought you were just going to walk up to him and tell him he was going to die with all your customary tact and diplomacy"

"It's not that simple-"

"Aaand finally you're beginning to get a handle on human nature"

"Look at the room we are in. Perfectly square. No windows. Pristine white. Two beautifully shot and framed photos hanging on the walls and nothing else. Literally nothing else. No smoke alarms not even motion detectors. Zilch. The gallery is now empty, probably, and no one else will be venturing all the way back here"

"So the killer is in this room?"

Sherlock scanned the back of the heads of the other four occupants of the room. John recognised that look. He was deducing.

"No. None of them are armed. You couldn't conceal a weapon in that dress, not even a blade. Wolfie…well its Wolfie. I could list the reasons why the killer isn't him alphabetically, chronologically and in Swahili but I won't delight you with that for the time being. Maybe later. Sebastian's clothes have no pockets. His trousers fit well and his shirt sleeves are rolled up. In fact, the only person wearing a jacket who could conceivably conceal a weapon about his person in this room is Ianus himself and I don't think he is going to kill himself tonight, do you?"

"Well what now then?"

"Mycroft's source said that Ianus would be killed tonight in this gallery" Sherlock had raised his hands to his mouth in a prayer like position. John's patience was beginning to wear thin.

"No he didn't you deduced that"

Sherlock cast a sideways glance at John before retorting at his usual breakneck pace

"Before you go any further John, no I did not get it wrong. No one would kill in this room though. There are too many witnesses and only one escape route which involves passing a dozen security cameras in the main space. There would be an exact record of who came in and out. Not many people frequent modern art galleries at this hour. At least not legally or without an invite"

In front of Sherlock and John Ianus was shaking hands with Wolfie and Sebastian. The deal had been done. After the end of the public exhibition, the two photographs in this room were to be his. Ianus took off his glasses and placed them back into his jacket pocket. The four moved back towards the exit. Ianus stopped next to John and Sherlock and gestured towards the photographs on the back wall

"Beautiful aren't they? Things like that make all those long hours seem worthwhile"

Ianus smiled and took his girlfriend back towards the cloakroom. Wolfie and Sebastian stayed behind. John was determined to keep his cool and hold his head up this time. Sherlock watched as Ianus exited down the escalators in the perfect picture of good health. Wolfie clasped Sebastian around the shoulders

"Well, I have to say, when I met Seb in New York earlier this year, I just knew he was going to do well. He'd only been working as a photographer for a few years and his work was wonderful. He has a real understanding of light. The best at whatever he turns his hand to. An honour and privilege to work with. I am proud to even know you Seb"

Next to Wolfie Sebastian was looking humbled, as if a father was acknowledging his son's success. The two men looked at each other and John could tell there was real affection there. He was glad that Priva—, that Sebastian had found someone who appreciated him. Possibly even loved him. He didn't have that in Helmand. Whatever happened back then, Sebastian was happy now. It was just a surprise, and more than a little ironic, that the thing that earned him this latent success was photography.

By this time Sebastian had summoned up the courage to speak

"Thank you Wolfie. That means a lot. It really does" the two smiled at each other and shared a quick embrace before Sebastian turned back to Sherlock and John "I really hope you enjoyed tonight"

"Thank you. We have" Sherlock replied as they moved back towards the cloakroom. The two photographers said their goodbyes to Sherlock and John and left to make some rough calculations of how much they had made. When Sherlock was certain they were out of earshot he turned to John

"I know I wasn't wrong" he hissed

"Maybe the killer changed his plan. Got wind of the fact you knew something. Look, lets just put this down as a loss, update Mycroft and go home"

John placed a hand on Sherlock's back and guided him to the cloakroom. He handed in their tickets to collect their coats as the world's only consulting detective sulked next to him like a three year old.

Unpinning the tag from his own coat, he passed Sherlock his.

"Take the tag off Sherlock. You don't want the world knowing what number hanger your coat was on"

Sherlock was about to respond to the second most patronising thing John had said to him in the past half an hour alone when he stopped. He was examining the tag on his coat as if someone had pinned the order for his own execution onto it.

"John, we need to go back in"

"But the preview is over. No one is there anymore. Ianus is safe. Even Wolfie and Sebastian have gone"

Sherlock looked at John with genuine fear in his eyes. He ripped the tag off his coat and scrunched it up in his hand. He put his coat on in one fluid motion and headed back into the gallery, throwing the balled up tag into the rubbish as he went.

John followed but stopped by the bin and pulled out the discarded strip of paper. Opening it up, he frowned as he read what was printed on it

"I.O.U."

He put the ticket into his pocket and subconsciously touched the gun in his belt as he jogged round the corner to catch up with Sherlock, the limp a distant memory. As he reached Sherlock he was about to speak when Sherlock put a hand up to silence him. The two stood motionless at the entrance of the main gallery staring into the middle of the space.

Moriarty was stood on the wooden bench, camera in hand.

"Say cheese!" Moriarty took a photo and began to review it on the viewfinder "Ugh. You two. You don't even look the tiniest bit pleased to see me. I'll have to photoshop smiles onto your faces later"

Moriarty jumped down from the bench and placed the camera where he once stood. He walked towards the two men and passed silently between them. As he reached the end of the main room he turned and called back to them,

"If you want me I'll be longboarding in the Turbine Hall. Oh and Captain Watson, if you see Private Moran again, tell him I'm waiting"



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