A hard fist connected with the side of his face. Stars. Dizzy. Pain. What? He blinked a few times and shook his head, trying to bring himself back from the daze. Oh yes. He ducked, avoiding a second punch, and grabbed the man by the arm. His tight grip pulled the man's arm closer, he examined the sovereign ring on his finger.
"This better not leave an imprint on my cheek."
"Sherlock, can we get a move on?" Dr John Watson stood in the doorway of the plane. He had finally managed to get it open.
Sherlock glanced at John and then back to the man struggling to get his arm free from his firm grasp. He was pulling and flailing his other fist around like a small child, while Sherlock held him there still, as if he were made of paper.
John carried the case with the ticking bomb down the steps of the plane, followed by Sherlock who was dragging the man behind him. Inspector Lestrade and his team waited on the runway surrounded by flashing lights and sirens. Two police officers took the man from Sherlock. He dusted his coat down and gently fixed his hair before walking past Lestrade to the police car behind him. He leant down to examine his bruised cheek in the wing mirror.
"I won't tell you again," said Lestrade.
"Tell me what?" said Sherlock. "Here, can you see the Queen's face imprinted there on my cheek? Just under my eye?"
Lestrade rolled his eyes and turned his back. "Going off on your own, Sherlock. It needs to stop."
"Then start figuring it out before I do and I won't have to," Sherlock replied as he watched the inspector walk away.
Dr Margaux Cave walked through the hospital corridors with her head buried in her notes. She knew that if she avoided eye contact and hid her face, she would dodge the awkward 'sorry, I'm not that kind of doctor' conversation with passing patients and visitors. The white lab coat didn't help. She was flicking back and forth between two pages, examining the quick diagram she had sketched earlier, when her forehead collided with Dr Grant's chest.
"I am so sorry," she said as she bent down to pick her notes up from the floor.
He crouched, helping her put her pile back together. "No, I'm sorry, that was my fault."
They stood up together, laughing quietly.
"I didn't realise you were coming into the hospital today, Dr Cave,"
"Please, just call me Margaux, being a doctor is important around here. I don't think any of your patients would benefit from my PhD in forensic psychology."
Dr Grant laughed. Margaux was almost certain she had used that joke on him before. But he would always let out a laugh, every time.
"So you've been down in the labs?" he asked.
"Yeah, I've been running tests on some blood samples." She waved her notes as she spoke. "I was actually on my way to find Molly Hooper, to see if she can spare me a body."
"A body?" Dr Grant's golden skin turned pallid.
"Mhm. Preferably a middle-aged male." She folded her arms as if she was talking about the weather or her favourite tv show. "But honestly, I don't really mind what kind of body it is as long as she lets me dismember it."
Dr Grant rubbed his hand on the back of his neck.
"Sorry, I forget how creepy that must sound to people who aren't in my head." She ran her fingers through her thick, dark, wavy hair.
They stood in silence for a moment, searching for words. Any words.
"So I'm guessing this means you're working on a case?" asked Dr Grant.
"Yeah, a murder actually. Drowning. But the body wasn't found in water. So to find out where he was drowned I need to see the reaction that different kinds of water have on… well… human flesh." Margaux trailed off into almost silence.
"Wow." Dr Grant looked around before continuing. "See, when I saw you coming down the corridor, I bumped into you so I could ask you on a date. But I don't really know how to follow what you just said." He laughed.
His pager beeped. He looked down at the small screen hooked to his waist and sighed. She could tell he was biting the inside of his mouth from the way a dimple formed in his cheek. He was handsome, she thought. She had never noticed before. He looked back up to Margaux.
"Emergency, I have to go. Sorry."
"Of course, go. But er, Doctor Grant… Maybe I could do with a drink one night. If you're not completely put off by the dead people talk."
He smiled at her as he began to walk away. "Sounds good."
John sat at his computer, taking turns between typing and sipping a bottle of beer. Sherlock lay on the couch playing a solemn melody on his violin.
"What about 'A Story of Fight or Flight'?" John called from the desk.
Sherlock stopped playing. "What?"
"As the title for the blog post… The man on the plane… 'A Story of Fight or Flight'?"
"Mm. Too obvious."
"Well what do you suggest?" John sighed.
"Who cares?" Sherlock put the violin on the ground and curled up on his side. "It's all pointless."
"Pointless? You stopped a man from potentially hijacking a plane today!"
"You're… You're not normal," said John, taking a large gulp of beer.
There was a knock at the door. John looked over at Sherlock. Sherlock remained a lifeless ball on the couch. Another knock. John looked over again. No movement. With a huff, he got up from the desk and walked over to the door. In the hallway stood Mrs Hudson, and behind her, Inspector Lestrade.
"Is he in?" Lestrade asked as he stepped into the flat.
"Check that heap of self-pity over there on the couch." John pointed to Sherlock.
"Is he alright? Do you think a nice cup of tea might make him feel better?" asked Mrs Hudson.
John nodded, letting her walk around into the kitchen.
Lestrade stood over Sherlock with his hands in his pockets. "When you're done sulking, we need your help."
"You made it very clear on the runway that my help was not wanted." Sherlock mumbled.
"Your help is wanted. It's just… going off on your own… the paperwork that comes with it, Sherlock, the backlash if it goes tits up!" Lestrade let out a sigh. "Look, there's a very important man who's asked for our help. It's a weird one. Like really bizarre. We're stumped. Which means you'll probably solve it before dinner time."
Sherlock sat up from the couch, his bright blue eyes glistening with curiosity.
It had been all over the news. A successful businessman, on a trip to Burma, came across a large piece of Painite – the most rare mineral known to man – while hiking with friends. After bringing the mineral back home, it wasn't long before a deal was set in place with the museum in his home city. A deal that would soon make him a millionaire. The soon-to-be millionaire's name was Bartholomew V. Mentford, and someone, somewhere wanted him dead.
Sherlock and Watson's footsteps echoed across the marble floor as they crossed the length of the museum. On the other side, they could see a man. He was average height with tanned skin and messy hair. He was wearing an old pair of jeans and a leather jacket.
"You must be Mr Holmes," said Bart as he reached out his hand to shake Sherlock's. "And Dr Watson?"
John nodded and shook Bart's hand.
"Thank you both for coming."
"That's perfectly alright. We were told you've been receiving some threatening messages?" asked John.
Sherlock scanned Bart's appearance. Fake watch. Cheap haircut. Old clothes.
Bart nodded tentatively, "Yes, it's quite scary actually–"
"Show me the messages," Sherlock interrupted.
"Er, sorry Mr Mentford," John began, "What Sherlock means is… Well, yes, show us the messages basically."
Sherlock watched as Bart took the phone from his jacket pocket. It was an old smart phone, maybe a couple of versions behind the newest release, and there were scratches around the edge of the screen. Well-used. He fumbled with it, taking a few attempts to unlock it and find the messages.
"Sorry, it's new," Bart laughed. "Not entirely sure how to work it yet."
Something was off. Sherlock couldn't help but think that if a successful businessman needed a new phone, he would buy himself a brand new, top-of-the-range version. He thought about how to ask the question delicately.
"Surely if a successful businessman needed a new phone, he would buy himself a brand new, top-of-the-range version?" He said.
Oh well. Sherlock didn't care about how he appeared to others. He was a high-functioning sociopath after all.
"Yeah…" Bart stammered. "It's a funny story really–"
"I'm bored already. John, get the phone and give him the spiel." Sherlock stepped away, looking around the museum as John began to talk.
John cleared his throat. "Mr Mentford, in order for us to get to the bottom of this, we'll need to take your phone with us. As you're receiving threats, you'll be under police surveillance and you're advised to keep a low profile."
"But I can't; there's a ball here at the museum on Saturday, it's in honour of my discovery. That's where I'll be receiving my check and signing the stone over to the museum. I can't miss it," said Bart.
Three days until Saturday, Sherlock thought. "Okay, you can go to the ball," he said.
"What are you doing?" John whispered as he walked over to Sherlock.
"He's up to something, John. I have three days to prove it before he gets that check."
"Well, what's he up to? How do we prove it?"
"Well I don't know!" Sherlock sighed. "I don't know what it is. It's like a mind block. I just can't… think."
"Well where do we start then?" asked John.
"We need to pay someone a visit."
"The only other person smart enough to work this out."
Molly Hooper was careful extracting blood from a cold, dead arm when she caught Sherlock's clean scent in the air. She looked up from the body and there he was; his tall, slender frame draped in the grey coat and long scarf, his dark, curly hair falling just slightly into his piercing eyes. He smiled. She felt a palpitation in her chest.
"Hi," she said.
"Has Dr Cave been by today?" Sherlock asked.
"There was a woman who came in earlier asking for a dead body. She showed me her badge but I didn't catch her name."
"Yep that sounds like her."
"If she hasn't left, she'll be up in the labs." Molly nodded with a smile.
Sherlock left the room, returning after a few moments to say thank you.
"We still need to work on his people skills," said John as he left the room.
Margaux swished the petri dish gently as she moved her hips from side to side; playing quietly from the radio was her favourite song.
"Hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over," she sang as she placed the dish under the microscope.
She continued to sing as she examined the dish through the lens. Sherlock and John entered the room, stopping in the doorway as they noticed her. They stood for a moment, watching her as she sang and swayed, making notes, completely unaware she was being watched.
"We can come back later," said Sherlock.
Margaux let out a scream, almost dropping the vial of blood she was holding.
"Jesus!" She shouted, clutching her chest as she panted.
After a few moments, Margaux's raised eyebrows began to furrow. She folded her arms and stood staring at Sherlock. John watched Margaux as she stared at Sherlock, then turned his attention to Sherlock who was staring at Margaux. He flitted back and forth between the two. Finally, it was Margaux who broke the silence.
"You really should have made an appointment to see me at my office." Her arms remained folded.
"Nice to see you too, Dr Cave," said Sherlock sarcastically.
John let out a small laugh, "So I'm guessing from your obvious disdain that you know Sherlock well…"
"Barely, really," Margaux began, "Mr Holmes has this incredible talent for showing up when he… wants something. Then falling off the face of the earth again after he gets it."
John looked at Margaux in disbelief, then up to Sherlock who seemed oblivious to her tone.
"How long has it been?" Margaux asked. "Six months?"
"Something like that. I forget," said Sherlock.
John slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead. Margaux let out a sigh and returned to her work.
"I'm working on a case here. What do you want?"
Margaux glanced into his clear, blue eyes. "Fine," she said reluctantly.