The chilly evening breeze ruffled Rose's hair. She wished she'd put on a jacket before she jumped through that crack. Her hand gripped Sherlock's arm more tightly and she squeezed up next to him for warmth as they walked down the street. She could feel his discomfort in the way he moved, a slight stiffness to his walk, but she was freezing and unless he wanted to offer his coat he would have to live with her closeness.
A strange chime sounded from Sherlock's pocket, obviously announcing a text, but as he reached for it a scream tore through the night, raising the hair on the back of her neck. In the next moment she grabbed Sherlock's hand and ran toward the sound. Down the street, round the corner, and…she slowed down. Not sure where to go, but Sherlock seemed to know. He pulled her with him as he ducked into an alley.
They both came to an abrupt halt. A man and a woman stood a few meters from them. In the light of a lamp hanging above the back door of the building on Rose's left she could clearly see both of them. The woman appeared to be around her mum's age. She wore serving clothes and Rose realized she'd seen her at the restaurant that she'd been to with Sherlock. The man looked about ten years younger. He wore a heavy coat over a blue shirt and faded jeans. The man held a gun in his right hand, pointed at the woman's head.
Sherlock dropped Rose's hand and took a step toward them. The man's hand gripped the gun more tightly.
"That's a bad idea, mate."
"Look, you don't have to do this," Rose tried.
She could see how nervous he was. She wasn't sure why he was holding a gun to that woman's head, whether he was robbing her or for some other reason, but she could tell that he really didn't want to be doing it.
"You think?" the man asked, sarcastically.
"You have to do it," Sherlock deduced.
"Has to do it?" Rose asked.
"Don't have a choice, do I?"
So, someone put him up to it and he didn't think he had a choice.
"Why?" Rose asked.
"Because I ain't got the money. If I did I wouldn't be here."
Money. He was going to kill her because he couldn't pay back the money he owed. At that moment Sherlock's pocket chimed. Another text and at the worst possible time. The man eyed Sherlock suspiciously.
"What's that then?" he asked, nervously.
"It's nothing," the detective dismissed without pulling his phone out. "To pay back the debt you owe you must kill this woman. Why?"
"That's what he told me to do."
"He? He who?" Sherlock asked.
Something in Sherlock's voice drew Rose's eyes to him. It was more than curiosity.
"He said I've got to kill her to send a message and then we're even," the man explained, drawing her attention back to the immediate problem.
He was desperate and desperate people were dangerous. They had to stop him. Sherlock was closer, but if he tried to jump the bloke he might shoot the woman before the gun was out of his hand.
"Send a message to whom?" Sherlock asked.
"To you," the man replied.
He was supposed to shoot the woman to send a message to Sherlock? He was mad or whoever put him up to it was. While he was looking at Sherlock she took the opportunity to reach into her pocket, intent on disarming him.
"Me?" the detective asked.
"You're Sherlock Holmes, ain't ya?"
Rose pulled the sonic out, aimed it at the bloke and pushed the button. It emitted the familiar warble, startling the other three people in the alley. The gun in the man's hand sparked with the static charge that the sonic sent though it and in the next moment he dropped it with a yelp of pain.
"What the bloody hell…" but the rest of his sentence was cut off as a shot rang through the night.
She heard the whisper of the bullet as it whizzed by her right ear and into the man's skull. His head jerked back and he crumbled to the ground.
"GET DOWN," Sherlock yelled.
Rose followed him behind a dumpster on the other side of the man's body. She looked around the alley for the woman, but she must have run off.
"Where did that come from?" she asked.
"The roof, across the street," Sherlock said, pointing out the building.
It couldn't have been the police. They would've announced their presence and he'd already been disarmed so they wouldn't have had enough reason to shoot him. Someone wanted that bloke to kill her maybe whoever put him up to it was keeping an eye on him.
"Do you think he was being watched?" Rose asked.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Very good, Ms. Tyler." She couldn't help smiling. He returned her smile and then seemed to think better of it and focused on the building. "Whoever sent him must have been watching to make sure he succeeded."
"You think he was shot because he couldn't go through with it?"
She was the one who disarmed him and because of that he was dead. She glanced at the man's body.
"I wouldn't lose sleep over it." Sherlock caught her eye. "He was willing to kill someone to alleviate his debts."
"He might've changed his mind."
"And if he had the result would be the same."
"You think he would've been shot for not killing her?"
"I believe he would've been shot even if he had."
The sound of police sirens echoed down the street.
"The sirens will have sent the assassin on his way," Sherlock said, standing up.
He walked over to the man's body and crouched down. Rose followed and bent down next to him. On closer inspection the dead man appeared to be about the same age as she was. He hadn't shaved in a few days and he reeked of ale. What could've driven him to kill someone? He said he owed money, but she knew plenty of people who owed money…well, back when she shared a small flat with her mum.
"Who do you think he was?"
"Construction worker, judging from his boots, but he hasn't been to work in a while. Probably lost his job due to his drinking habits," Sherlock said as he searched the man's pockets.
"What makes you say that? I mean, I can smell him, but he might've had to get tanked to go through with it."
"There's the state of his knuckles. He's been in a few pub brawls. Flushing of the cheeks and dry skin indicate a vitamin B deficiency, which is found in a fair number of alcoholics. Either his drinking led to gambling or the other way round." He reached into the man's coat pocket. "Ah." He pulled out…a picture.
She heard a car pull to a stop behind them, but her attention was focused on what Sherlock held in his hand, a printed photo of the two of them. They were sitting together at the same table they shared at the restaurant. The picture couldn't have been taken more than an hour ago. There was a single word written across the front. BURN.
She looked at Sherlock. His brows were drawn together in concern.
"What does it mean?" she asked.
"Sherlock, didn't expect to find you here," a man said.
She stood up and turned around to find Lestrade standing behind them.
"Lestrade," Sherlock greeted. His pocket chimed again. He pulled his phone out and appeared to be reading through the messages.
"And…Rose, was it?" Lestrade asked.
"That's right," she agreed, giving him a smile.
"Dr. Watson's been looking for the two of you."
"Yes, he's been texting," Sherlock replied, sliding his phone back into his pocket.
"What happened here then?" Lestrade asked, nodding at the body.
"He was shot. The building across," Sherlock explained, pointing out the building, "The roof. If you send someone up they might find a shell casing, but I'm afraid the murderer's gone."
"You saw it happen or you just come across the body?"
"We heard a woman scream," Rose supplied.
"A woman?" Lestrade asked, looking around the alley.
"We were walking back from dinner-"
"Dinner?" Lestrade raised his eyebrows. "What? With him?" He glanced at Sherlock.
"Something wrong with that?" Sherlock asked, indignantly. His phone chimed again. He pulled it out, read the text and returned it, again without replying.
"No…I mean…" Lestrade rubbed the back of his neck. "With him?"
"It wasn't-" Rose began, meaning to explain that it wasn't dinner in the sense that Lestrade thought it was, but Sherlock cut her off.
"We followed her scream to this alley where we found the man whose body you now see holding a gun to a woman's head. Then Ms. Tyler-" His eyes fell on her and he abruptly stopped.
"She, what?" Lestrade asked.
"She told the man to let the woman go and then someone shot him. The woman must have run off and then you lot arrived."
"The rooftop you say?"
Lestrade gazed at the building across the street.
"The rooftop," Sherlock agreed.
The Inspector stepped away to chat with one of the police officers. When he was out of earshot she turned to Sherlock.
"You didn't tell him," she said.
"Tell him that you disarmed a man standing two and a half meters from you with a weapon I've never seen the likes of before? I'm still trying to work out the possibility."
"It's not a weapon. It's a screwdriver."
"That is NOT a screwdriver."
"Thank you, for whatever reason."
"All right now. If you two will come with me I'll get your statements," Lestrade said, walking over to them.
"Actually, Lestrade, I think it would be best if I got her home."
"I need her statement and yours for that matter."
"She just witnessed a murder. She could be in shock. You wouldn't want to be responsible if she passed out while you were taking down her statement, would you?"
"I can call for an ambulance if you-"
"That won't be necessary. I'll have John take a look at her."
"I'll want your statements in the morning." Sherlock started to lead Rose out of the alley. "Hang on," Lestrade said, trailing them. "I'll need her address so I know where to send the car in the morning."
"She'll be at 221B Baker Street," Sherlock called without turning around.
Rose couldn't help glancing over her shoulder. She almost laughed at the stunned look on Lestrade's face.
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