The first time Mary saw Jim's ghost, he was on the dashboard screen of Mycroft's hired car at the airstrip, looking over his shoulder with dead eyes. "Miss me?" he asked, and then his smiling photograph reappeared, and the message repeated its cartoonish mantra, "Did you miss me?"
She was distantly aware that Sherlock and John were exhibiting signs of shock, that Mycroft was sweating inside his impeccable suit, and that none of them were looking at her. No surprise, since only Mycroft knew about her connection to Jim, and all he knew was that Jim had employed her as an assassin.
While Mycroft and his assistant made calls, Sherlock began to spin wild theories to explain how Jim faked his own death, which Mary only half-heard. John stood at Sherlock's side, listening in that grave, thoughtful way that made it dangerously easy to tell him anything.
But not this.
He wouldn't believe her. Neither would Sherlock. Hell, neither would she if she hadn't seen Jim's work with her own eyes.
She toyed with the idea of telling them then and there, but thought better of it. They needed time to digest what they'd seen. Time to gather data about how many people had seen Jim, how many recognised him, and the extent of the panic his appearance caused. They needed to eliminate all other explanations before they'd be ready to hear the truth. Assuming they ever were
Mycroft's car, sans Mycroft, returned them to Baker Street, where Mrs. Hudson met them with tea and biscuits.
"I saw him on the telly," she said, brushing each of them with fluttering hands, as if to reassure herself they were truly there, before embracing Sherlock. "I'm so glad you're back."
"No time for tea, Mrs. Hudson," said Sherlock, sweeping up a cup and a biscuit. "Moriarty has returned. He wants us to find him, and find him we shall."
"What, now?" asked Mrs. Hudson.
"No time like the present. Come along, John."
John, who had just removed his coat, sighed. "Where were we going, exactly?"
"Scotland Yard, of course," said Sherlock. "Obviously there's something we missed."
"You want to go to Scotland Yard," said John flatly.
"Of course. Lestrade has the complete Richard Brook case file. I only have the highlights in my index."
"You want to go to Scotland Yard to dig around in a case in which you were a suspect after getting away with a murder only by making a devil's bargain with MI6. A deal that, by the way, you've already reneged on."
"Mycroft's people made sure it was put down as self-defence."
Mary swallowed hard against the lump that rose in her throat when she thought about Magnussen, and the baby in her belly shifted, as if sensing her anxiety.
"Fine," said John, raising his hands in a gesture of defeat. "But don't say I didn't warn you."
Sherlock tossed an arch look over his shoulder. "Are you coming or not?"
John kissed Mary's cheek apologetically. "I'll be back soon."
"Text me when you're on your way home?"
John's smile made the knot in her stomach loosen slightly. "Of course I will."
After the street door below slammed shut, Mrs. Hudson tutted loudly as she poured Mary a cup of tea. "Men. They didn't even think to ask how you were, did they?"
"No, they didn't," said Mary, gratefully accepting a cup. To her dismay, her hands shook so much that the cup clattered loudly against the saucer. She quickly set down the tea and crossed her arms across her chest. "Well, why should they have?" she asked, her voice cold and even.
"Because you're shaking like a leaf and now you're talking like a ruddy robot," said Mrs. Hudson, her brow furrowed with concern. "What's happened?"
"I'm worried for John and Sherlock, that's all," she lied. "Moriarty tried to kill them how many times?"
Mrs. Hudson blinked disbelievingly. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Mary managed not to flinch by telling herself firmly that it was a common expression and that Mrs. Hudson didn't mean anything by it. "It's nothing."
Mrs. Hudson's face fell, and Mary felt a twinge of guilt at not being able to confide in her. But she wasn't convinced that having Mrs. Hudson on her side would help convince John and Sherlock, especially of something that was difficult enough for her to believe.
"If you say so, dear," sighed Mrs. Hudson, clearing up the tea things that Sherlock and John had abandoned. "But if you ever need someone to talk to, someone who understands, pop on by."
"Thanks," said Mary. "I think I'll just wait here until the boys get back."
"Let me know if you need anything, love," said Mrs. Hudson, patting her shoulder.
"I'm just so bloody tired all of a sudden."
"Well, you're burning energy for two now. It's no wonder you're exhausted."
As Mrs. Hudson bustled out, Mary allowed her weary body to slump against the arm of the sofa. She tucked a cushion under her head and closed her eyes.
The second time Mary saw Jim's ghost, it was in a dream. At first, it was just his voice, airy and sing-song.
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary: how does your garden grow?"
She was standing in Jim's old flat wearing her black tactical gear, but it no longer concealed the swell of her belly the way it once had.
"With laser sights and sleepless nights and a baby. Surprise! It shows!"
A cold hand slid across her belly and Mary recoiled, spinning on her heel to face Jim.
He looked the same as he always had: impeccably turned out, with something ominous lingering in the air about him. But in the dream, she didn't only feel menace radiating from him. Jim stank of death, and darkness wafted off of him like mist.
"What the hell do you want?" she asked.
"Is that any way to greet an old friend?" His lower lip protruded slightly in a parody of a pout.
"Hi, Jim," she said with false brightness. "Lovely to see you again. Sorry you didn't manage to kill Sherlock. Oh, and by the way, your whole network's dead."
"Not my dear old number one."
"I was never your number one."
"No, you're right, it was actually me, but don't let pointless things like facts distract us from my very real feelings for you."
"Sod off, Jim," said Mary, not bothering to conceal her visceral disgust. "I'm not coming back."
"Why would I want a flabby old cunt too stupid not to get knocked up?" asked Jim, his voice still pleasant. "Your moronic husband's made you disgustingly soft, and I don't just mean the fat arse and pudding thighs."
Mary smiled grimly. Same old Jim. "Not everyone's a psychopath who can only get it up for little boys."
Jim's smile was as empty as it ever was. "How I've missed our little chats."
"Now that the niceties are out of the way, fuck you very much," said Mary, willing herself to wake up.
As if sensing her resistance, the darkness around Jim thickened, making his skin appear pale as bone. "Aren't you going to ask why I'm here?"
"You're haunting me."
His unfocused eyes suddenly filled with hate. "You you you. You always think it's all about YOU! You're NOTHING!"
"Really? You must not have much to do if you're faffing about in my dreams, then. Do you need a new objective? I could use someone to do my laundry."
"The objective's the same as it ever was," said Jim, his voice light and boyish once more.
"Get Sherlock," said Mary quietly.
"You do remember! Sherlock's still mine. We belong to each other, now more than ever."
"Yeah, not so sure about that," said Mary. "Being dead and all, you might've missed that he had a girlfriend. Sweet girl, Janine. They met at my wedding, you know."
"That was a lie!" shouted Jim, his mouth twisting in rage.
"So what does that matter? You're dead. Your followers are dead. And I would send you to hell if I could. End of story, end of dream, end of haunting."
"Ah ah ah," he scolded. "Have you forgotten Magnussen?"
Mary fought to keep her features from betraying the terror she'd felt that night when Charles Augustus Magnussen had stared down the barrel of her gun and spoken to her with Jim's voice.
"I know you were... in him. You said if I shot Magnussen you'd be free."
"And then you refused to shoot him, which was very naughty of you. Wasn't it lovely of Sherlock to finish the job?"
"So that's what you've been doing all these years? Waiting for someone to shoot Magnussen?"
"Blackmailers only last until they push someone too far. That's why I usually don't bother with them. No opportunity for repeat business. I suppose I could have left Magnussen at any time. But we struck a bargain: he sheltered me, and I helped him integrate his businesses."
Mary's finely-honed bullshit detector gave Jim's explanation a decisive ping. "And naturally, you did everything you could to make him push his victims too far. Was that you who pissed in the fireplace or Magnussen?"
Jim giggled, a mirthless titter at first that grew into full-throated howling. "That, my dear, was wholly a joint effort." He sobered in the blink of an eye. "Now, shut your mouth, or I'll cut your lips off. You're going to give Sherlock a message. Tell him: I still owe you. Got that?"
"I'm not a bloody messaging service."
"No, but this is the sort of thing that's best delivered by a friend," said Jim, his voice mocking. "And if you don't, well, you've seen what I can do on television. Oh little girl, if you liked that, just wait and see what I can do in your dreams."
Suddenly, the smell of dust and carbide filled her nose, and she was transported back to March of 2003, the night her team completed their mission to pave the way for the Iraq invasion. They were having a piss-up in their safe house in the outskirts of Kirkuk, flush with their success at wooing the Kurds to fight with the 173rd.
The harsh fluorescent lantern drained their weather-beaten faces of color, and Mary couldn't stop her dream self's hand from accepting a drink from Phillips.
"No," she whispered, as the dream around her began to blur. When it cleared, she was flat on her back on the dusty carpet, unable to move her limbs and unable to scream for the others as Phillips whispered obscenities and vile endearments in her ear. His roughened hands fumbled with her underpants as his legs shoved hers apart.
Jim loomed behind Phillips, his tongue protruding from his lips as he rubbed his hands against his crotch.
But then Jim's face crumpled into a look of befuddlement.
"What the—?" was all he had time to utter before Mary jerked into wakefulness, her scream finally emerging and dying in the pale afternoon sunlight as she gasped for breath. Her arms reflexively encircled her belly as the child within her squirmed and kicked, and Mary knew her daughter's heart was racing as quickly as her own.
As the disorienting terror of Mary's dream faded, she realised that Mrs. Hudson was standing over her brandishing... something. It appeared to be a brass amulet carved with whorls and shapes that looked like leaves and stars.
"That's quite enough of that," she said, scowling at the air above Mary's head. "You can just clear off and go back to where you came from!"
She pressed the amulet between Mary's hands and began her familiar clucking.
"Poor love," she said, wrapping a blanket around Mary's shoulders. "I heard Mycroft tell Sherlock that you worked for Moriarty. I'd hoped it was just shooting people."
The amulet was warm against Mary's icy fingers. "What is this thing?"
"It's a cleansing charm for sending evil spirits on their way. I had it made years ago. Didn't think I'd ever need it again, but I kept it around. Sentimental."
A laugh bubbled up inside Mary unexpectedly at the ridiculousness of Jim being sent off by something that looked like it had been taken off a Christmas tree.
"Where can I get one?" she asked, half in jest.
Mrs. Hudson shook her head. "That kind of thing won't work on his sort a second time. I haven't seen the like in—well, never mind. The point is that you're going to need something much stronger."
"What exactly is he?"
"A ghost, of course. But he's not one of the accidental ones."
"He did shoot himself in the head," said Mary.
"What I mean to say is that he meant to come back. Oh, I was afraid of this. Appearing on the telly is new, but otherwise it's just like what happened with Frank."
Mrs. Hudson had in the past mentioned the odd detail about her late husband, namely that he was sentenced to death for a double-murder, but never anything about cleansing charms or ghosts.
"Mrs. Hudson," said Mary, deliberately calm. "What happened with Frank?"
"Hanged himself in prison. But don't you see? I helped him with the ritual, so when he came back, he had a direct line to me."
The word ritual sent another chill through Mary.
"He was a lifelong Catholic, but he got into Voodoo while he was in prison," said Mrs. Hudson. "When the court denied his appeal, he asked me to help him with a ritual. For better luck, he said. I was the one who got Sherlock involved in the first place, so I hadn't the heart to refuse him. We did it during a conjugal visit. I smuggled all the ingredients in in my bra. Except the snake, of course. That was in my hair. I hadn't any idea what it was all about. Not until after he'd offed himself."
"Your husband used Voodoo to come back from the dead?"
"Oh, he was still dead," said Mrs. Hudson. "He didn't have a body, so he couldn't hold a gun, thank goodness. But he could communicate in loads of ways: Ouija boards, tarot cards, through a medium, and in my dreams, of course. That was just awful."
"Could he make you see things?"
"Oh yes," said Mrs. Hudson, her voice grave. "And I couldn't hide anything from him. He was so angry when he found out about Sherlock."
Mary squeezed her hand. "What did you do?"
Mrs. Hudson laughed hollowly. "The only thing I could: hitchhiked to New Orleans to find a priest who could exorcise him. Nobody would, of course. Catholics won't touch a Voodoo spell, and none of the Voodoo people wanted to get on the bad side of the priest who'd invented the ritual. But I was able to keep him out of my dreams with that," she said, gesturing towards brass amulet. "And what's more, I found out what I needed to do in order to bind him to one place. Sometimes it's best to take care of things yourself, especially when you're the one with the mad late husband in your head."
"Couldn't you destroy him?"
"I probably should have. But the ritual was the last time I saw him, and he wanted it so much. I didn't think I had the right to take it away from him."
"And now Jim's gone and done the same thing."
"Not exactly the same. Frank couldn't appear on the telly."
"Right," said Mary, hoisting herself to her feet and taking a notebook and pen from the desk. "Tell me everything I have to do to get rid of him. For good."
"I don't rightly know," said Mrs. Hudson, wringing her hands. "I haven't done anything like that in a donkey's age. My hip, you know. And chicken feet might go off, mightn't they?"
"What's to stop the bastard doing something to my little girl?" Mary asked, voice hard. She could still feel the coldness of Jim's hand on her belly.
"Oh dear." Mrs. Hudson's expression was so stricken that Mary's knees weakened, forcing her to grip the arm of Sherlock's desk chair to steady herself.
Mrs. Hudson was at her side immediately, guiding her gently but firmly to the seat of the chair. "He won't touch her. Not while there's breath in my body. Now, if we want to keep him away from here, we'll need something of his. Let me see," she muttered, bustling off in the direction of Sherlock's room.
"I'll see if Sherlock has anything of Jim's in his files," called Mary, and with a deep breath hoisted herself to her feet once more and opening the drawer labeled M. Unsurprisingly, the drawer was filled to overflowing with information about Jim: papers, photographs, and case files from the Metropolitan Police. She pulled out the whole drawer and deposited it on the kitchen table
"I think I found something," said Mrs. Hudson, emerging from Sherlock's room holding a plastic bag that contained a pen knife and something dark brown and shrivelled.
"Ugh, what is that?"
"It was an apple," said Mrs. Hudson. "Look."
Odd. The marks on it bore an unmistakable resemblance to letters. I.. O... U... The words of Jim's message rang in her ears. I still owe you. "It's his."
Mrs. Hudson beamed. "Wonderful! That'll be a big help. What about the knife?"
Mary accepted the knife and examined it. "His as well. See the nick in the blade? That's from when he threw it at me and hit my grandmother's vase."
Mrs. Hudson frowned. "You've traded up."
"Don't I know it." After all, it was John's devotion to Sherlock at the pool that had first made Mary see what her relationship with Jim was lacking.
"Well, this is plenty to get on with. You have a look through those files for anything else we can use, and I'll just do a spot of banishing and put the kettle on."
"What exactly am I looking for?"
Mrs. Hudson paused. "We'll need to know a thing or two about the ritual he used to come back, and a big part of that is the condition of his body. Frank's ritual depended on his body being buried whole, you see."
"Molly can find out what happened to the body," said Mary, pulling her mobile out of her handbag.
"Good thinking, dear," said Mrs. Hudson, whose face was hidden behind a cabinet door.
Fortunately, Molly was between autopsies and didn't miss a beat when Mary asked her about Jim's remains. After giving Mary a few minutes of Metallica whilst on hold, Molly came back with the name of a funeral home in Birmingham where Moriarty's body had been sent, according to his will, which was conveniently posted to St. Bart's. Molly agreed that the circumstances were dodgy, especially the team of solicitors who managed to prevent her doing a full autopsy, but everything about the will checked out. Molly accepted Mary's thanks with her usual self-deprecation, and Mary rang off.
Mary glanced up from her notes and found Mrs. Hudson hanging glass eyes in the windows, whose sills were sprinkled lines of salt.
"Hold this for a tick, would you dear?" she asked, handing Mary a shrivelled claw. "No, up over the table like this," she said, raising Mary's hand. "I want to be sure the kitchen is fully protected. They can come in through the ceiling and floor, you know."
"Right," said Mary, ignoring the surreality of the situation in favour of taking up her mobile once more. "I'm going to call these people in Birmingham. If Sherlock was as thorough with Moriarty's network as he thinks, they may have been storing Jim's body for years."
"It is odd, though," said Mrs. Hudson, pulling out a mixing bowl and placing it on the counter next to a selection of colourfully labelled glass bottles. "It's been nearly three years since he killed himself. Where's he been all this time?"
"Building an anti-Sherlock fan club," said Mary, scrolling through the funeral home's website and identifying it as a decades-old family business, which was helpful, and concluding that Jim hadn't paid the additional hundred quid to have a hosted memorial website where people could leave images of candles. "Jim was always a bit, well, mercurial. But after he got back from America, he went absolutely potty over Sherlock and had these wild ideas about being with him for all eternity. That's why he made Sherlock jump off the roof at St. Bart's, so he could join their spirits after they both committed suicide."
Mrs. Hudson's hands flew to her mouth. "Bless Molly Hooper," she whispered. "She has no idea what she helped save him from."
"And now she's helping save him again," said Mary, tapping the mortuary's number into her phone. An automated answer service prompted her to tap zero to speak to a real person, only to be put on hold. The organ dirge made her miss Molly's Metallica.
Mrs. Hudson lit a fire in the grate and began to sprinkle contents of her mixing bowl into it, which sent a pleasant herbal smell through the flat, and memories of Jim's ritual began to surface.
While the hold music played, Mary cast her mind back to the night of the ritual. Her part had been to stand there in a white robe and let Jim take her blood until she lost consciousness, but she'd seen everything up until that point. She held the image in her mind and began to write down everything she could recall.
Location: mausoleum (family name Clay, the rest too weathered to read)
Ritual items: Circle of grey powder (ash?)
Brazier (wood-burning, pine?)
Metal (brass?) keys (positioned crossways)
Black rooster (live, not for long)
Black-handled knife (sharp)
White robe (for me)
White cloths (for soaking up blood)
Bundles of dried herbs (smelled nice when burned)
Large burlap bag containing (unknown), irregular shape, weight about fifteen kilos, smelled horrid when burned in the brazier
Mrs. Hudson glanced over her shoulder. "Oh, that's a good idea," she said, wafting incense from a brass censer around the apartment with a paper fan. "I'll do the same once I'm finished."
"You're quite good at this," said Mary, admiring Mrs. Hudson's handiwork.
"Like riding a bicycle," said Mrs. Hudson, clearly pleased. "You may get a bit rusty, but you don't forget."
The tedious hold music was interrupted by assurances that her call was important. Thankfully, the prompt offered her the option of leaving a message rather than remaining on hold, which she gratefully seized.
"Hi," said Mary, modulating her voice into a nervous stammer. "My name is Mary Moriarty, and I-I'm hoping you can help me with a genealogy project. I'm trying to find out where my fourth cousin once removed is buried, and his will said that you handled his arrangements. His name was James Moriarty, and he died about three years ago. If you could maybe give me a call back, that would be great."
She left her number and rang off just in time to see Mrs. Hudson throwing the shrivelled apple and pen knife into the fire. She was slightly disappointed that there was no puff of smoke.
"That's sorted, then," said Mrs. Hudson, climbing on a chair to hang the claw from the lamp over the kitchen table. "How do you feel?"
"Better," said Mary. She was certain that the power of suggestion was at work, but the tightness between her shoulder blades had eased somewhat.
"Right, let's see what Moriarty did, then," said Mrs. Hudson, slipping her reading glasses over her nose and taking Mary's notepad.
Mary's phone buzzed to announce a text from Molly, which was accompanied by a crude drawing in ballpoint pen of three spirals in an approximately triangular shape.
From prelim phys exam notes: symbol tattooed on the roof of mouth. Shot himself straight through it.
Interesting. She hadn't known about the tattoo.
"Take a look at this," Mary said, handing Mrs. Hudson the phone.
Mrs. Hudson read Molly's text and shuddered. "Ugh, how awful!"
"What, is it some kind of death symbol?" asked Mary.
"No idea," said Mrs. Hudson, "but can you imagine getting the roof of your mouth tattooed?"
"What we do for beauty," said Mary, amusement lifting the corner of her mouth. She texted Molly her thanks and looked up to see Mrs. Hudson frowning at the notepad. "What is it?"
"I don't understand," said Mrs. Hudson. "There were a few things in common between Moriarty's ritual and Frank's, like the date and the brass keys and blood, but I can't make sense out of the rest of it. It's not Voodoo, that's for certain."
"Then how did your amulet banish Jim?"
"That is a mystery, isn't it?" said Mrs. Hudson, taking the pen and writing her notes.
Mary flipped through Sherlock's files on Jim. The bulk consisted of details about Jim's former network of now-dead operatives, but her fingers paused over a handwritten list of Jim's criminal clients. Some of the names were familiar to her from John's blog, like Raoul de Santos (murder) and Margot Vaclavik alias Margaret Wenceslas (forgery). She was tempted to add Charles Augustus Magnussen (blackmail) to the list, but doubted Sherlock would appreciate it.
Mary pulled the client list out of its folder and continued to peruse, noting that it was in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent and going backwards in time. Jim had consulted for dozens and dozens of clients over the course of his criminal career, but some of the older names bore question marks. Sherlock probably didn't have solid proof of those, likely small-time crooks that set up suspiciously ingenious schemes. The list stretched on to a second page, where one name jumped out at her:
Francois Huval alias Frank Hudson (drugs trafficking)
"Interesting" she murmured.
Mrs. Hudson's eyes snapped up from the notepad. "What is it?"
"Sherlock thinks Frank hired Jim to help with his business," she said, handing the client list to Mrs. Hudson.
"Oh my," said Mrs. Hudson, her brows knitting. "But Frank died on Halloween of ninety-five, and I bound him to his grave on the Feast of St. Expedite in ninety-six. Moriarty would've just been a lad at the time."
"So was Sherlock," said Mary. "You said he was involved. What if that job was the first time their paths crossed, without them even knowing it?"
Mrs. Hudson tapped her pen against the notepad. "You said Moriarty went mad about Sherlock after a trip to America. The trip wasn't to Florida, was it?"
"I don't know where he went, but I do know it was in two-thousand ten. Why would he go to Florida looking for someone who's been dead for fourteen years? Unless—"
"—unless while Sherlock was making a list of Moriarty's clients, Moriarty was working on a list of Sherlock's cases!" said Mrs. Hudson, her voice trembling with excitement. "He went back to the beginning and found Frank!"
"But that doesn't explain how Jim found out about the ritual, unless Jim freed Frank somehow."
A good kick could have broken the binding," said Mrs. Hudson, sounding a bit chagrined. "Or the twine could have broken on its own after being out in the open for so long. I might've used something stronger, I suppose, but it bought me enough time to move back to England."
"So Jim went to Florida looking for anything about how Sherlock was involved in your husband's case, and instead found a very angry ghost," said Mary, her thoughts awhirl. "Frank wanted revenge on Sherlock and Jim probably told him what he wanted to hear: that Jim wanted Sherlock dead So Frank told Jim how to become a ghost and take Sherlock with him. But Sherlock didn't actually kill himself, so Jim decided to share a brain with Magnussen for a while, and they put pressure on Sherlock through John and me."
"That explains Bonfire Night," said Mrs. Hudson quietly. "I never understood why a blackmailer would have tried to kill John."
"Sherlock may have killed Magnussen, but Jim must've been with him for long enough to know all the secrets he kept in his head. That's more than enough to start a new criminal enterprise, don't you think?"
"Bloody hell," whispered Mrs. Hudson.
"But there are still so many pieces missing," said Mary. "None of that explains what happened to Frank."
"I think it does, rather," said Mrs. Hudson, pointing at Mary's list on the pad and tapping on the burlap bag that Jim burned as part of his ritual. "I think Moriarty destroyed what was left of Frank's body. And the ash circle means he couldn't have escaped."
Mary's stomach gave a lurch, remembering the horrid, acrid odour the bag made when it and its contents burned. "You think Moriarty, well, ate his spirit?"
"Subsumed, dear, subsumed," said Mrs. Hudson, sighing. "Poor Frank. He wasn't always nice, but he was never in Moriarty's league. It must be awful for him."
"Could Frank help us in any way?"
"Even if he could, I doubt he'd want to. And we gave our blood willingly. It's not like we can threaten to take it back."
"So what can we do?"
"We have to find Moriarty's body and burn it," said Mrs. Hudson firmly. "That's the only way. Now, I don't know about you, but I could use a cuppa."
Mary levered herself into a standing position using the edge of the table. "I'm famished."
"Don't trouble yourself," said Mrs. Hudson, rising and opening the refrigerator from which she recoiled with a cry of disgust. "On second thought, I'll get us something from downstairs. Be back in a tick!"
Mrs. Hudson hadn't been gone two minutes before Mary's mobile rang, displaying the number for the mortuary that received Jim's body from St. Bart's. However, her excitement was short lived.
According to the proprietor's son, the day before Jim's body would have been declared abandoned and scheduled for cremation, a "foreign-sounding" cousin contacted them with detailed instructions for embalming the body. A hearse had picked up the remains several days later, and the driver had all the necessary forms. The ultimate destination listed on their copy of the paperwork was "a private cemetery in County Clare."
Mary thanked them for her help and assured that County Clare would be her next stop, and rang off, disappointment bitter in her mouth. Jim's body could be anywhere in the world. How on earth were they going to find it?
She wandered over to Sherlock's wall-sized map of Britain, which was riddled with pins and string, and took three green push pins from the edge. The first she stuck in 221 Baker Street. The second she stuck in Birmingham, where Jim's body had been sent. She rolled the head of the third pin between her fingers. The only other place that Jim's ghost had been seen was on television, but again, the broadcast could've come from anywhere.
And yet, that wasn't quite right.
Until Christmas Day, Moriarty's known whereabouts were wherever Magnussen was, and Magnussen met his end at his flashy mansion in the Cotswolds. Magnussen was a media magnate. Could they have come up with a way to send Moriarty's message from there? Or did Jim merely subsume Magnussen once his body was rendered inhabitable?
Unsurprisingly, there was already a hole at Appledore's location for Mary's third pin.
As Mary stared at the triangle of locations, the tattoo on the roof of Jim's mouth superimposed itself in her mind's eye. Frank, Magnussen, and Moriarty: Sherlock's past, present, and future. The instigator, the sustainer, and the devourer. Three blackened souls united to destroy her friend, and she'd given her blood to help make it happen. She shuddered, suddenly cold again.
Mary was startled out of her reverie by the sound of Mrs. Hudson returning with sandwiches, bowls of soup, and a large bag of crisps. As Mary's stomach growled audibly, she made room on the table for the food by returning the drawer of files to Sherlock's index, since there was nothing more to be learned from them. As she passed the coffee table, she grabbed John's laptop hoping that Google could provide some insight into their quandary and set it on the table next to her bowl of soup. It was cream of tomato and smelled like heaven.
"You're a life-saver," said Mary, tucking in to the food.
As they ate, Mary filled Mrs. Hudson in on the call from the funeral home and her thoughts about Appledore.
"There's no chance Magnussen's body went through St. Bart's as well?" asked Mrs. Hudson hopefully.
Mary mentally kicked herself for not wondering about that sooner, but she thought about it for a moment before shaking her head. "He was killed almost a hundred miles away. Even with Mycroft's people involved, they wouldn't have brought him all the way to London."
"You don't suppose Magnussen did a ritual as well?" asked Mrs. Hudson tentatively.
Mary felt her hopes sinking into the pit of her stomach, recalling all the times Janine refused to talk about her boss. But no, while Magnussen had been disgusting, he hadn't held Janine in the same kind of thrall that Jim had had over her or Frank had over Mrs. Hudson. "I don't think he'd have wanted to give Moriarty any motivation or opportunity to subsume him," said Mary. "Hopefully he had himself cremated out of spite."
Mrs. Hudson sighed. "Ah, well. I suppose it's enough that Moriarty's body is still in England."
"Wait, how do you know that?"
"Ghosts can't wander the world freely, you know. They're tied to the physical plane, either where they died, like your bog standard ghost, or to their mortal remains, like Moriarty and Frank were. If Moriarty came to you in a dream today, it stands to reason that his body isn't too far off."
Exasperation that Mrs. Hudson hadn't seen fit to mention this before and excitement that they might actually be able to locate Jim's body warred for dominance. "What sort of range do ghosts have, then?"
"I don't know, rituals don't come with manuals!" said Mrs. Hudson. "Let me think. Frank killed himself in the penitentiary in Coleman and was buried outside Ocala, but he first came to me when I was working at Weeki Wachee. That's a ways off, eighty miles or so?"
"We've got him," said Mary softly.
"I don't follow you, dear," said Mrs. Hudson, frowning.
"Why did Jim decide to show himself now? Why not quietly re-establish a network first? But don't you see? He had to. It wasn't because Magnussen was dead, it was because Sherlock was mid-air on his way to somewhere in Eastern Europe, somewhere Jim couldn't follow him. He had to stop Sherlock leaving, and it also means that broadcasting that video wasn't originally part of his plan. The only time I've ever seen Jim make mistakes is when someone forces his hand. We just have to suss out what vulnerability he's exposed."
Mary opened John's computer and searched for news about Jim, but the results were nothing but panic and speculation. However, searching for Magnussen brought up something that made Mary smile fiercely.
"Look," she said, turning the screen towards Mrs. Hudson. "They're reading Magnussen's will today at Appledore. What if that's where Jim's body is?"
"That's hours away," said Mrs. Hudson. "And you know there will be security to keep the riff-raff out."
"Yeah, but I know someone who might already be there," said Mary, grabbing her mobile. Mrs. Hudson perched her reading glasses on her nose and pulled up a chair next to Mary's in order to see Mary's mobile screen. Mary took a deep breath and texted Janine.
I should thank Sherlock. The massive bloodstain really warms the patio up. Stalking me again?
I'm sorry about that. I'm helping out a friend.
Did you draw the short straw? Or are you doing Sherlock's dirty work now?
This is for me. Sherlock's an idiot when it comes to this sort of thing.
What, lying to people? I'd say you're pretty evenly matched manipulation-wise.
Mary sighed. Of course Janine was still angry that both she and Sherlock had befriended her to get to Magnussen. But unlike Sherlock, she'd actually liked Janine. She was the first friend Mary had had in ages who didn't kill people.
Look, I don't blame you for being hacked off. I would be too. But you know I wouldn't be contacting you like this without a bloody good reason. Do you know if Magnussen was cremated?
I hope so. Otherwise I really don't want to look inside that urn.
Mary felt some of the tension in her shoulders evaporate. Any benefit Magnussen's sudden death might have given Jim had been mercifully short-lived.
Know what that arsehole left me?
Mary blinked at the abrupt change in topic.
A fucking typewriter. Five years I let him walk all over me. Five years I kept his calendar and kept my mouth shut. Took me four sodding hours to drive from Sussex because the A40 was a mess, all for a worthless piece of rubbish.
Mary winced. Janine had been devoted to doing her job discreetly. It had taken Mary months to get any useful information about Magnussen, and she only succeeded after he'd done something particularly vile to Janine involving her eyeball.
That utter wanker.
I'm taking all his good liquor. Half of it's in the boot already. And an ivory thingy. It was on a plinth so it's probably valuable.
The other heirs are nicking things, too. The bastards didn't hire enough security to deal with all the people to whom Charles gave the final sod off. They only kicked out the ones who were breaking the furniture.
Good lord. The heirs were running amok at Appledore, and Janine was out for revenge.
Good thing you've got so much practice pretending nothing's wrong.
Thanks. Means a lot coming from you.
Mary snickered. She might've had an ulterior motive for befriending Janine, but she always appreciated the woman's sarcasm.
Keep an eye out for anything with this symbol on it.
She texted Molly's drawing to Janine
Why, looking for something nice for the baby's room?
Want to reduce anything with that on it to ashes, actually.
I'll bite. Why?
A half-dozen pretexts danced through Mary's mind, but she dismissed them with a shake of her head. If she was going to ask for Janine's help, Janine deserved the truth.
Through circumstances too messed up to describe, Magnussen's hidden the body of a dead criminal mastermind somewhere on his estate, and the ghost of said mastermind is haunting me and wants to destroy Sherlock.
You're taking the piss.
Wish I was. Honestly, don't you think I could come up with something more plausible than that? Mrs. Hudson actually banished him from the flat, but we need to get rid of him for good, and that means burning his body.
OMG tell Hudders I said hi!
"She always was a sweet one," said Mrs. Hudson fondly.
I sometimes miss you, you horrible tart. Especially when you encourage me to torch my ex-boss's skeevy mansion.
You don't have to burn the whole house, just anything that looks like a long-dead psychopath decorated with springs. Unless you want to burn it all, I mean.
Too much cement to burn, really. And I won't burn the liquor!
Wouldn't dream of asking you to. Doesn't he have a can of petrol in the garage?
There's a bloody premium petrol pump there! Do you know how many fucking Jaguars Charles had? It is not a small number.
LOL! Full disclosure: the body might not actually be at Appledore. But if it is, burning it will make the world a better place. And you might turn up more liquor looking for it.
It's Moriarty, isn't it?
Mrs. Hudson ceased fidgeting.
How did you know?
Please. As if I couldn't figure it out from 'criminal mastermind' and wanting to get Sherlock. You actually believe in all this stuff?
I don't know how else to explain everything that's happened.
You'll have to tell me everything. Lunch next week?
Mary's heart swelled with fondness for her friend, and she blinked away tears of gratitude.
I owe you big for this.
You're lucky I'm an angry drunk.
Be careful, all right?
I'll sing the Ghostbusters song when I go exploring. There are plenty of little outbuildings near the helicopter landing pad. One looks like the sort of place I'd hide a body. Or possibly more liquor ;).
LOL Let me know if you find anything. See you Wednesday.
Mrs. Hudson let out a shaky breath. "Do you think she'll do it?"
"We'll just have to wait and see."
"I suppose there's nothing else to be done," said Mrs. Hudson, collecting their empty plates and bowls and taking them to the sink.
Mary made to follow her, but Mrs. Hudson flicked the dish cloth at her. "Go put your feet up, dear. I can take care of this."
Mary wrapped her arms around Mrs. Hudson's shoulders. "You've taken care of so much already."
Mrs. Hudson ducked her head towards the sink, obviously pleased. "It's nothing."
"Hardly," said Mary, going up on her toes to kiss Mrs. Hudson's cheek.
The third time Mary saw Jim's ghost, she wasn't entirely certain that it was him.
The fire in which Mrs. Hudson had burned Jim's apple and knife gave a loud crack, which made both Mary and Mrs. Hudson jump. Mary stared at the fire, her heart in her throat, and fancied she could see Jim's face in the flames, mouth agape in a silent scream, before the embers popped once more, and the apparition disappeared.
Mrs. Hudson tutted and stirred the fire with a poker, returning to her seat just as the episode of TOWIE that neither of them were paying attention to came back on. Thankfully, Mary was distracted from waiting for her phone to buzz by the sound of John and Sherlock tramping up the stairs, and the cold air that they let in from the corridor was warmed by the fragrance of curry.
"You didn't text," said Mary, not bothering to adjust her recumbent position.
"Sorry, love," said John, kissing the top of her head. "We grabbed take-away from Rakesh's. I got you some chicken vindaloo."
"You needn't have bothered," said Sherlock, glancing at the kitchen and living room. "They've already eaten and polished of half a container of chocolate ice cream, from the look of it. Not to mention covered the flat with superstitious nonsense. Typical hysterical response to an unknown threat."
Mrs. Hudson swatted at Sherlock's coat as he flounced by. "We're having a nice girl's night in."
"Is that a chicken foot?" asked John, frowning at the claw hanging over the kitchen table.
"Mrs. Hudson dabbled in fortune telling in America when she wasn't taking off her clothes for money," said Sherlock, following John into the kitchen.
"Really, Sherlock!" said Mrs. Hudson, flushing.
Mary squeezed Mrs. Hudson's hand. "What did you find out about Moriarty?" she asked Sherlock.
"The footage was genuine," said Sherlock, poking the chicken foot with his finger and pulling it closer to examine it.
"And the message was piggybacked from somewhere in England, but that's all we know," said John. "We think it was a talented hacker with a taste for spreading panic, probably."
"That's what Lestrade thinks," said Sherlock scornfully.
Mary's phone buzzed.
Guess what? Helicopter fuel burns even better than petrol!
The text was accompanied by two photos of the inside of a windowless breeze-block bunker. The first featured a rectangular wooden crate painted with the triangle symbol, and the second was a blurry but unmistakable shot of the crate consumed by flames.
You brilliant thing.
You're buying Wednesday. XOXOXOXOX
Mary held her phone out to Mrs. Hudson, who patted Mary's back before she rose and removed one of the glass eyes from the window. "I'll just clean all this nonsense up, then."
"If you're done playing Candy Crush," said Sherlock, sounding a bit peevish not to be the centre of attention. "Though the footage was genuinely Moriarty, he looked precisely the same as he did the day he killed himself, so it wasn't new. How could it be?"
"He didn't fake his own death then?" asked Mary.
Sherlock frowned at his index and opened the M drawer. "Of course not. I was right all along." He shot Mary an irritated glare. "But I can see that someone else has formed a similar hypothesis."
"It was a fairly elementary conclusion, Sherlock," said Mary in a deliberately bland voice.
Mrs. Hudson hid a smile.
Notes: This story was written for fleetwood_mouse for the Winter 2015 round of Holmestice on Liivejournal. Given that this story was written as a gift in accordance with the recipient's preferences, concrit is not being solicited.
This fic was inspired by Susan Glaspell's 1916 one-act play "Trifles." The title is the name of a very beautiful, very famous aria from Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, and is also known as Dido's Lament.
Enormous thanks and many hugs to to AR and sc010f for idea bouncing, JS and AR for beta-reading, and richardgloucester for Brit-picking. You are all wonderful!
mundungus42 2015, all rights reserved