"Burning the candle at both ends?"
Sally Donovan looked up to see a cup of coffee and a doughnut being set in front of her.
"I could say the same for you," she replied as the DI settled into the unoccupied desk opposite hers.
"You could," Lestrade agreed, "but I'm the boss."
She smiled ruefully, sipping her coffee. It was far too late to be drinking caffeine but she'd given up the illusion of getting any sleep tonight anyway – even if she went home, she'd keep herself up mulling over all the little problems in her mind.
Little problems, she sighed to herself. It came to something when shootings and disappearances counted as 'little problems'.
"You're also the one with kids," she pointed out.
"Who are, if I'm lucky, fast asleep. I'll be there in the morning when they wake up to kick them out the door to go to school. And again when they get home. I'm already planning some embarrassing dad thing to do with them."
He grinned and Donovan felt herself relaxing slightly. She sipped her coffee again, the warmth of the drink helping to stave off the chill that came from being tired.
"What's keeping you here?"
She sighed, setting the drink down, looking at the doughnut. The sugary coating seemed unappetizing right now but she didn't push it away. She'd need something later and it was close at hand – good enough.
"The Mitchell case," she admitted.
"Ha," Lestrade snorted. "Which one?"
"That's just it, isn't it?" Donovan said, raking her hands through her hair before slumping back against her chair. "Someone shoots the younger brother, then the older brother goes missing. The sister's lucky then, isn't she? Yeah, I know, I know, we caught the shooter. But – do you ever get the feeling you're right on the edge of something but you just can't grasp it?"
"All the time," Lestrade sighed. "But then, like you said, I do have kids."
Donovan rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, I get it," Lestrade said. "I can't shake the feeling they're connected, either."
"Two brothers and that kind of trouble? It can't be a coincidence."
"It could be," her boss countered. "A bloody messy one." Donovan nodded in resigned agreement – it could be unrelated. She knew that. She'd seen enough seemingly connected incidents that had turned out not to be linked. And she'd seen enough apparently disparate events that turned out to be related.
There was something wrong with these cases, though.
"Why the older brother?" she asked. "I mean, he's a low life, yeah, but he's just a petty crook."
"If you count assaulting a cop petty," Lestrade shot back, his voice suddenly dark. Donovan held up her hands in a placating gesture, shaking her head.
"I don't," she said. "Sorry. I wasn't thinking."
"You're always thinking, Sally. It's what makes you a good cop. And you're right though – in terms of likely targets, he wasn't one. Unless, of course, he beat up someone else and it was the wrong person. He assaulted a cop and we sent him to prison. Could be he made a bigger mistake."
"Can't really say I'd be sorry to see him go," Donovan sighed.
"Nope," Lestrade agreed.
"All right, but why shoot a real estate agent?" she asked.
"I dunno, there were a couple times after we bought the house that I wanted to," Lestrade replied with a wry glint in his eyes.
"I'd say wrong place, wrong time," Donovan mused. "But do you get the feeling that it's not?"
Lestrade gave her a long, evaluating look.
"Yeah. I do."
She drummed her fingers on her desk; it was time to come clean.
"I know you didn't order it, but I've had someone keeping an eye on him. Visual surveillance only – nothing intrusive." Lestrade cocked an eyebrow but kept silent and Donovan felt a rush of relief; he wasn't going to tear a strip off of her about this, at least not yet.
"He doesn't go much of anywhere – I guess that would be the injured leg. Work, his girlfriend's, out a few times to a park or dinner."
"Girlfriend?" Lestrade snapped.
"Yeah," Donovan replied. "Girlfriend. It wouldn't be the first time someone's lied in that situation. Got Holmes into the hospital, didn't it? We barely questioned it."
"Damn," Lestrade said, running a weary hand over his eyes. "He's a bloody good liar."
"Exactly," Donovan sighed. That sat poorly with her, too. If Holmes was that good of an actor under that kind of pressure, what could he do when he had time to prepare? It made her uneasy.
"So Mitchell's keeping his nose clean," Lestrade said. "He's just been shot and his brother is missing. I'd be doing the same."
"If we could just get to Holmes…" she sighed, ignoring Lestrade's derisive snort. "We're just rounding up the bit players and the extras, aren't we? The stars are operating right under our noses and even when we can spot them, we can't touch them."
"Every little bit counts."
"Do you believe that, Greg? Really?"
"Have to," Lestrade replied, "or else I'd just go mad working this job. Maybe he's really nothing more than the CEO of an international real estate firm."
"Right. I'll believe that when I see pigs fly."
"You and me both," her boss replied then frowned as his phone chimed a grating little melody. He fished it out and frowned at it, expression distant.
"Everything okay?" Donovan asked.
"It's Anna," he replied. "Inspector Anderson. In Edinburgh," he clarified, seeing her puzzled expression.
"Something going on up there?"
"In Glasgow, she says. Some tip off led to a raid at the docks and they've uncovered a weapons smuggling operation."
"Well," Donovan sighed. "At least someone's getting results."
The meeting request wasn't entirely unusual, but while Gabriel usually had his secretary handle the background checks, the name 'Rani Sharma' was unfamiliar in a way that made him want to handle it himself. He had Michael look into how Ms. Sharma had found them, took care of the more urgent work that was required of him that day, then turned his attention to finding out about his new client.
It was almost disappointing to find out that she was one of the legitimate ones. They were, in his opinion, always a bit dull. Sherlock had impressed upon him early on that although these weren't the clients the kept them in business, they were the ones that kept their business from coming to the attention of the police. Most of them paid quite well for the service and the properties and some of them bridged the gap between the law abiding world and what Gabriel considered his actual job.
Ms. Sharma, however, didn't appear to fall into that category. Sherlock had never actually said that these clients were a necessary chore, but the feeling was there all the same. Gabriel gave a quiet, disappointed sigh – Rani Sharma was forty, single, and a successful solicitor. She had no police record although he suspected she was well known to them, being a private defence attorney. She had no history of substance abuse, no apparent gambling problems, no vices of any kind aside from working too much. Gabriel was disinclined to consider workaholism a valid character defect. There was something wrong, in his opinion, with anyone who considered loving one's job to be some sort of flaw.
Sharma was had a spacious flat in the city centre, a gym membership, and a car for getting out of London on the weekends when time permitted. She was looking to purchase holiday property somewhere warm, preferably in the EU where the Pound-Euro exchange rate would benefit her.
He sighed, closing the files on her; he'd get Michael to do the legwork on the potential properties and had him schedule her in for the following Thursday.
The day would have ended on a dull note, he thought, had the last thing on his schedule not been a meeting with Sherlock. Michael had tea and HobNobs ready when Sherlock breezed in and folded his long frame gracefully into one of the leather armchairs, glancing around with an air of interest – he always did this, as though he'd never been in Gabriel's office. The younger man resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Usually he went to Sherlock rather than his boss coming to him, but Sherlock was making concessions for Gabriel's injury. He strongly suspected this had something to do with John Watson, but he wasn't sure. The connection might only be in Sherlock's head.
"Have you been downstairs?" Sherlock enquired.
Gabriel nodded. "Yesterday. I can't get very far, though, not on the crutches. The foreman showed me some pictures. Looks good."
"Proceeding apace," Sherlock agreed. "I paid a visit this morning. Well done on finding them. I trust you've given Cheryl their files?"
"Yes. But I don't think she'll be necessary. Maybe just the architect. The builders think it's something else."
"Ignorance is bliss, as they say," Sherlock replied, then pulled a face. "Although I've never found that to be the case. In my experience, it can be an extraordinarily dangerous thing."
"Well, most people aren't you," Gabriel pointed out with a quick smile.
"Very true," Sherlock murmured. "Will Cheryl be disappointed, do you think? She hasn't had much work lately."
"I can't ever tell with her," Gabriel admitted. "If it was Moran, I'd say yes. But she's not a psychopath. She just kills people for a living."
"If she were a psychopath, she wouldn't be in my employ," Sherlock replied. "Professional pride is one thing. Instability is another. Cheryl is nothing if not measured and sensible," – he shot Gabriel a dark look – "Most of the time."
"She was still thorough and discreet. I'm not apologizing."
"I know you aren't," Sherlock snapped. The dangerous flare in his grey eyes faded as quickly as it had come and he sipped his tea, looking thoughtful.
"Does Jim know about John yet?" Gabriel asked, getting to what he considered the most important point of their conversation. It had been five days since Sherlock had – surprisingly successfully – cooked dinner for the doctor, but what went on in Sherlock's flat was information that even Jim Moriarty found difficult to obtain. It was easy enough to buy someone outright if there was no devotion; it was harder to do that when genuine loyalty came into play.
And when Sherlock made of point of letting Jim know that he kept careful track of the whereabouts of everyone who lived and work in his building.
"What Jim knows is that Charles spent one night at my flat and the rest of his time in London at a hotel, which he has never done before. He may suspect some sort of falling out – because he's always wanted us to have one – but I don't think he's made any other connections. He's aware that John, as your physician, is off limits."
"Yes, but that's as my doctor," Gabriel pointed out. "Hurting my doctor inconveniences me a bit but nothing else. He wouldn't care enough to do it. But hurting John…"
"I know," Sherlock said. "Which is why hints are reaching him that John Watson isn't to be touched. No reasons yet, only words that our people on the street have whispered to his. It will work its way up."
"And what about Charles?" Gabriel asked. There was a brief, faint scowl on Sherlock's features but he wouldn't dismiss the topic. "If it was anyone else, they still wouldn't try to go after him, not even now."
"But Jim isn't anyone else. Yes, I know. It would be extremely stupid, but this is precisely the kind of stupidity that would appeal to him. I've given Charles extra security."
"Does he know?"
"Yes. Otherwise he'd suspect he was being watched and try and evade them. I need his mind focused on the job, not on perceived threats."
Gabriel nodded, finishing his tea and fixing himself some more, ignoring the faint discomfort in his leg as he moved. It had been a long day – longer than he was supposed to be working according to John's orders, but what the doctor didn't know wouldn't hurt him. He needed to go home soon, though, put his leg up and take some painkillers.
"If Jim never liked you with Charles, he's going to like you with John even less."
"Jim doesn't like anything at all."
"I'm not so sure about Moran," Gabriel commented, glancing up.
"Nor am I," Sherlock admitted and his expression was honest. It bothered Gabriel that Sherlock didn't know, that Moran was an uncertain element. Jim had always despised the idea of Sherlock having lovers, seeing it as some of debasement – reason would suggest he wasn't indulging in the same thing. Gabriel had no problems believing that any kind of physical contact put Jim off altogether.
The problem with Jim Moriarty, Gabriel mused, is that he leaves reason stripped bare, flayed, and executed.
"He'll find out soon," Sherlock continued. "I have plans established already."
"And when he does?" Gabriel asked.
"We will see," Sherlock replied. "But you should be ready to act at any given moment."
"Right," Gabriel said. "I always am."
"'Evening, Sherlock. How are you?"
"Is this a medical enquiry?"
John grinned at the suspicion in Sherlock's voice; he could picture his partner's pale eyes narrowing as he tried to work out precisely what the doctor wanted.
"Not at all."
"Then I'm all the better for your call," Sherlock said and John felt a flash of unaccustomed shock.
"Flattery will get you nowhere," he growled, smothering the laughter in his voice, fairly sure Sherlock had picked it up anyway.
"You'd be amazed where flattery has got me in the past," Sherlock replied and John's grin grew.
"Do you have plans tonight?" he asked. There was a slight hesitation on Sherlock's end before he answered:
"Nothing that can't be rescheduled. Why?"
"Because it's been a few days since our last date – dragging me to business meetings doesn't count, so don't even try. I'd like to take you somewhere."
"And where might that be?" Sherlock asked.
"You'll find out," John promised. "Come around eight. No cars. We won't be going far."