"This week's new payroll," Gabriel said, handing over a distressingly slim file. "Only two of interest. Molly Hooper, a morgue tech at St. Bart's, and Henry Walsh, legal counsel for our embassy in Cairo."
Sherlock leant forward and accepted it, skimming the information on the first of only a few scant pages. The photographs were excellent quality – as always – which let him train his practiced eye on the details that weren't listed on the facts sheet.
She: early thirties, single, quiet, awkward. Liked the colour pink and had at least one cat.
He: late thirties, divorced, no children, golfer. Still got on with his ex and lived in Egypt enough to maintain a year-round tan.
"She'd be easy," Gabriel said.
"Yes," Sherlock murmured, flipping through the rest of the information. "But pointless." He raised his eyes to find his young associate watching him patiently. "No surprise Jim has someone at Bart's – it won't be the only morgue. We haven't go anyone there, have we?"
"No," Gabriel confirmed.
"It doesn't matter that it's her. It wouldn't matter if she were gone. He'd find someone else within a few days – she's easily intimidated but she can't be the only one. He'd barely bat an eyelash. She's a woman. Jim doesn't do women."
"No kidding," Gabriel murmured and Sherlock cocked an eyebrow at him before glancing back down at the file in his hand.
"But him… This would have taken work. Grooming. He's got something on Walsh or Walsh is greedy. Find out what. Make sure it goes public."
"How do you want me to handle it?"
"Mycroft," Sherlock said, snapping the file shut. "He'll be livid. Almost right under his nose. But he'll relish the excuse to use the military police."
"When?" Gabriel asked.
"Tonight. Front page of the Times on a Monday morning? It will make people sit up and take notice."
"It doesn't give me much time to find Walsh's secret."
"You don't need much time," Sherlock said, extending the file back across the small coffee table. "If you did, you wouldn't work for me."
"What about Glasgow?"
"Angela is good," Sherlock said simply. "Irene is better."
"Most people pretend not to be having affairs when they actually are, not the other way around," Gabriel commented, shifting slightly, a faint flicker of discomfort – no longer pain – behind his green eyes.
"Most people are not Irene Adler," Sherlock replied.
"You can say that again," Gabriel huffed.
"If Jim suspected my involvement, we'd know by now. Make sure something slips through in Walsh's arrest. He needs to know about this one. No more than a hint."
"Put Simone on it. Have her talk to Anthea. And some of the people on the street. We need to try and keep this from surfacing too much. Send someone around to Bart's to talk to Ms. Hooper, too. Preferably someone female and non-threatening."
"Not Irene then."
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"Who do we have in the military police?" he asked.
"About three people I'd trust for this."
"Have one of them. No more. Get some people in the crowd taking video on their phones, too. I want to see faces – politicians in particular but also reporters. Anyone else of note."
"Right," Gabriel agreed.
"And do it quickly," Sherlock said, pushing himself to his feet. "You don't want to disregard your doctor's orders and overwork yourself."
"No," Gabriel said with a grin. "That wouldn't do at all. Especially since I'm not the only one who would get an earful about it."
"Just see that it gets done," Sherlock snapped with more irritation than he actually felt, and strode from Gabriel's office, ignoring the silent laughter behind him.
A single finger forestalling more chatter by it didn't stop the expression that he could see even with his face in profile, eyes trained on something else. The wall. Immaculately painted, even strokes, up-down, up-down, so subtle that the brushwork was lost unless you really looked and wouldn't wallpaper look better anyway? Something patterned so that the shapes kept going, moving in on themselves smaller and smaller until there was nothing left but perfect silence?
It was quiet here, no muted noise from the street but there was Sebastian's breathing, in-out, in-out, like the up-down nearly invisible brush strokes on the wall but Sebastian breathing wasn't invisible because it would be shoulders shifting, chest rising, nostrils flaring minutely but still noticeable if you really paid attention and the whole world had made so many mistakes by never really paying attention to Sebastian Moran. Sometimes because he'd wanted it that way, other times because it was easier – for ordinary people – not to see what they didn't like.
He saw what he didn't like, a face on the television screen, on the front page of the newspapers, splashed everywhere in colour that was smaller than life or larger than life depending on what he was looking at. The same face, still shots over and over and over, not angry but closed because closing meant hiding fear but fear was a tool and the right person with the right lever could crack it wide open and there were so many levers for Henry Walsh, weren't there? Sister, ex-wife, parents, friends – could kill them all but it would cause comment now that his face was everywhere.
Everywhere with Mycroft Holmes and those pictures – oh those pictures, those grey eyes that were Sherlock's really, looking out at him, laughing. Because Walsh had been evading Mycroft Holmes, passing through the same corridors, breathing the same air, shaking the same hands, for years and there had been no recognition because Mycroft was smart – oh so smart, like diamond that could cut glass but things got lost in that refraction and Sherlock stood just enough in the shadows to see where the light landed the wrong way.
Oh yes it could be Mycroft but Jim had seen the other pictures, the ones the police had taken that no one else had access to – no one but him – and it was Walsh's office and Walsh's flat and the blasted man didn't drink wine so why was there the same kind he'd shared with Sherlock eleven days ago?
It was a detail – like which pill was the good pill, like a jade hairpin – that no one would notice, probably not even the older brother, and Henry Walsh would never look at those photos and say that's-not-my-wine-it-must-have-been-planted because why would anyone plant a bottle of wine?
As a clue. As a message. As a mockery.
It had been work, hard work, finding Walsh, slipping through all those layers and people who he could have used but who had weaknesses, failings, trip wires that rendered them pointless – addictions, secrets, secret additctions. But Walsh just liked money. He liked it taking up space in his bank accounts and didn't care how it got there, he just wanted it. He could spend it and he did and if it was gambling it was never too much and if it was women they were discreet and if it was drugs he neved exceeded his limits. Fun. Man after Jim's own heart – and he had a heart despite himself, could feel it beating, just like Henry Walsh's and he couldn't stop that, not yet, too soon, it would raise suspicion.
But this wasn't fun.
It was supposed to be a game and why whywhywhy didn't Sherlock understand? He'd taken the rules and burnt them and thrown them to the wind and it wasn't making it fun it was making it work when things with Sherlock were not supposed to be work. It wasn't supposed to be like walking in a minefield but like dancing, each step, one-two one-two-three and moving but not with Sherlock leading and–
"Orders?" Sebastian said.
"Three days," Jim said. "Then two more."
The paint on the wall, all neat strokes so it was invisible, peaceful, calming, unassuming. There was a man like that – not the Frenchman no but a doctor. A little doctor. Came from nowhere, didn't belong in the game, upset the whole board. Upset Sherlock. It was supposed to be a relief that the Frenchman had stopped touching what wasn't his but it wasn't, instead it was like lines Jim couldn't see in the paint, invisible but there. Grating. Raw. Unnecessary.
"Understood," Sebastian said but no it wasn't because he didn't have all the information and didn't he know and there was a smack of a palm on mahogany – killing the rainforest they said, sucking out all of the air but Jim needed to breathe now.
"Seb." The name was like honey but then not so sweet because sweet was not a word that would apply or Jim wouldn't have let him apply his skills, would have found a knife suitable for that trigger finger. Raised eyebrows, attentive.
"And paint. You'll need paint."
The lights flickered once, twice, failed.
Looking up was a stupid instinct in the pitch darkness but Lestrade did it anyway. The shift of clothing against upholstery told him Sally Donovan was on her feet and he stood too, as if this would help somehow, ears tuned to the bewildered shouts and questions from outside his office.
"What the hell?" he murmured under his breath, hearing a sharp inhalation at the words. The back up lights hadn't come on nor had the alarms gone off.
"The cells," Donovan said and Lestrade wondered if she was worried about suspects escaping or killing each other – or both.
A flash of light from outside his office indicated someone had remembered that police officers had torches and a moment later, a few more bright spots joined the first. Lestrade was rummaging in his desk from memory when his door opened and a beam caught him on the chest. He couldn't see the offending officer but at least the light wasn't being shone in his eyes – someone had remembered his training enough to dispense with it and not blind his DI.
"Sir? What's going on?"
As if Lestrade knew. He swallowed on the urge to say that the power had gone out and heard Donovan huff gently. He resumed his blind search, fingers curling around the handle of his torch. Funny that so small a thing could engender such a vast relief it almost made his knees weak.
"Let's get everyone out," he said by way of reply. "You all know the drill. Nice and orderly."
He stepped past the officer in his doorway – a constable, he checked just to make sure – Donovan right behind him, and began issuing orders for the evacuation. People were moving, falling into small groups behind the bob of torchlight but he could feel the resistance. New Scotland Yard was only evacuated if necessary. The last time had been a bomb threat – a faked one, as it turned out, but the tension strumming through the air here was the same. Worse, because no one could really see where they were going.
Lestrade appropriated a torch from a small group that had two and passed it to Donovan, who joined him unquestioningly to make sure everyone had got out before they headed toward the stairs themselves. It was an eerie feeling, trapped in the darkness in a place he knew so well, searching each room for people he saw every day.
Passing by a window, he thought he saw a flash of shadow and stopped short, swinging his torch round fast.
"Sir?" Donovan hissed. Even lowered, her voice sounded too loud in the unnatural darkness.
"Shh," he hissed back, as though their voices might carry through the building to the outside. He swung the beam down and stepped toward the window, peering out, eyes roaming carefully.
But who the hell would be all the way up here?
He let his police instincts override his common sense response that they were too high off the ground and that it wasn't possible for anyone to be up there. It wasn't supposed to be possible for the back up lights to fail along with the rest of the power, but they had.
He didn't see any more movement; the darkness that greeted his eyes was almost absolute.
"It's not just us," he whispered. "Power's out on the whole block, I think."
"Come on, Greg," Donovan whispered. Lestrade left the window quickly; being nearly alone in a darkened, deserted building was a bad decision.
There didn't have to be a bomb threat called in for there to be an actual bomb.
"Let's go," he told her, following her lead to the stairs. There were people in the stairwell, hurrying down past them, and their presence made Lestrade feel oddly better. He and Donovan joined the trickle, stepping into the cold March air. He wished he had his coat, although being in the press of evacuate police officers helped. There was some sort of order being imposed on the general milling about; constables had been rounded up to direct people to their units. He kept his eyes and ears open, searching for familiar faces or voices in the shuttering light from the torches. Donovan stayed close behind him in the sea of bodies; he felt her hand on his shoulder once, fingers curling tightly to keep them from being separated. It was a strange feeling, something he might otherwise consider too intimate a touch from a subordinate taking on a sense of absolute necessity.
There was a flicker and a shout – the cry was taken up by several voices and Donovan's hand dropped away as she turned. Lestrade spun, eyes fixing on the building behind them. The emergency lights were coming on in some of the windows, low and stuttering and not at all working at full capacity – the whole building should have been dimly lit rather than just patches here and there.
He blinked, frowned, blinked again, certain his eyes were playing tricks on him.
"Do you see that?" he asked, voice carrying over the murmurs all around him. Donovan nodded, still facing away from him, staring at the lit windows.
"Yeah," she said.
One of the marked panes was the one through which he'd seen someone, Lestrade was certain. The lights flickered again then stabilised. He reread the message, trying to make sense of it. One letter per illuminated window and a little heart sketched at the end.
I O U Sherlock
Donovan took a step back until she was standing next to him, just barely outlined by the glow of someone's torch, dark curls catching the faint light.
"How many people do you suppose there are in this city named 'Sherlock'?" she murmured.
"Not enough for this to be a coincidence," Lestrade replied.