Murder at the National Gallery
The world works in circles; dawn and dusk, life and death. And like everything else, goodness must fall and the evil must rise in its place.
Lestrade had exasperated that it was an emergency; John Watson could sense his panic. So it was with great haste that he and his companion Sherlock Holmes abandoned 221b Baker street. Mrs Hudson fussed over their departure, but quickly dashed upstairs upon mention of an unattended bubbling concoction on the kitchen table that Sherlock had been playing with minutes prior.
Armed with scarf and coat they stepped out into the wintry chill of London in January. Frost had laid siege to the city overnight, gripping lamp post and post box, making a seemingly harmless path mould into a death trap of invisible ice, a thick cloud cover had swamped the city after a clear starry night, And for it was still early the city was little less than black.
Hailing a taxi they climbed into the back, into the mild warmth, after instructing the driver of their destination they set off through the fluorescent streets. Fourteen minutes later they had arrived at the scene, an army of police cars already positioned outside, amongst them John could see the Inspector as he climbed out after Sherlock.
"Ah, brilliant." Exclaimed Greg as they approached, Sherlock offered no greeting and instead rushed past the man towards the building.
"You seem glad of our arrival, is it a troubling one?" John questioned.
"It is always troubling when a building such as this is broken into, never mind a murder." They made their way up the stairs into the National Gallery, "You see, the press dive headfirst into stories like this, can't get enough of them. You saw for yourself when Moriarty broke into the Crown Jewels, the Bank of England and Pentonville Prison; it was plastered in every paper for weeks."
"Well, hopefully not. We had our hands full with that lunatic, I bare to think of what would happen if we encountered anything worse, I'm thankful that we have Sherlock on our side; if he went-"
"He won't, there is no greater exercise to him than this line of work." John interrupted.
They had come to a room now, buzzing with people busy at work. There seemed to be a silent order spoken once they had entered as they all left leaving he, Greg and Sherlock alone.
The room was large and windowless, four blank walls, one with the entrance carved into it, and the others each held two framed artworks, the one to their right had a large question mark painted upon it, to the right of the painting on the right side of the wall. By the far wall, a body could be seen laid upon the ground; a security guard. Red blossomed from a hole in his pure white shirt, a bullet wound to the centre of the chest, ripping through an artery. Not a pleasant way to die to say the least. Yet there was something odd, something the Doctor could not place. The consulting detective was checking everything, under his sleeves, in his pockets where he pulled out the I.D of the victim. Then he paused, for a mere second he just crouched there, hands locked around a wallet, then he moved as though suddenly possessed. With careful gloved hands, he lifted one side of the body up, causing it to tilt at a forty-five-degree angle to the ground. Sherlock angled his head so he could see the back of the man. Then he stepped away, placing the body parallel to the ground once more. He began to pace before the pictures.
John looked at Lestrade, "What is it that was taken?"
However, before he could answer, Sherlocked offered his own explanation: "Nothing was taken."
"What? What do you mean? Nothing was taken, what other motive was there to killing this man?" Lestrade inquired.
"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time; he was a liability to whoever was in here last night, But you see Detective," Sherlock turned to him, pointing out the picture directly behind the body, "there is something wrong with this scene. Upon arrival I saw immediately saw the bullet wound in his chest, It was either a forty-five calibre or ten-millimetre bullet, that much was easy to deduce. But which one? I concluded that he had not been killed straight away, there is a very strong scent of sweat from his collar and cuffs, he was then quite clearly terrified for a period of time before he was shot, the murder likes to play games, loves to feel his victims pain, their fear. I noted the pool of blood soon after I entered, it then came to me that the wound upon his chest was not the cause of this, no tracks of blood were on is uniform to suggest that it had come from that wound and so, therefore, there must be a second wound, the exit wound. Upon turning the body I found the wound and confirmed that it was a forty-five calibre.
Yet, this begged a different question; as you can see there is no bullet hole upon that painting behind him, It is obvious that he was stood there when he was shot, but no bullet, how strange, but there is a bullet hole upon the one over there. They have been moved. Now you can see that nothing has been taken, but something has been left."
Sherlock moved to the painting he had before mentioned, beckoning John over they carefully removed the large painting from the wall and placed it to the side. Behind it they found the bullet hole, a splattering of red across it. Sherlock took a closer look, but it was clear that the bullet had been taken.
"Could you get someone from the gallery in here? I need someone to identify these paintings." Sherlock asked Lestrade who nodded and returned a short while later with a young woman with flaming red hair and freckled face.
"Fabulous!" Sherlock handed her a notebook and a pen. "I would like you to write down the names of each of these paintings, from left to right if you would." And so the woman wrote down the name of each of the paintings as she had been asked and handed the notebook back to Sherlock; after being told she could leave she disappeared back through the entrance.
Now it was the names of the painting that were under scrutiny by the detective, analysing the list as though it was some ancient or alien language. Then he stopped dead, his eyes wide and alarmed, a faint tremble in his hands.
"Sherlock?" John asked worriedly. "Sherlock? What is it? What have you found?" He pushed when Holmes did not reply. John and Lestrade startled when he turned with a blur, he pushed the notebook into the Doctors hands as he left.
John opened it to the notebook to the page with the list, it read:
Maternal Affection by Louis Jean François Lagrenée
Italian Landscape by François-Xavier Fabre
Scene from the Life of an Unidentified Bishop Saint by Pieter Aertsen.
Symbolic Representation of the Crucifixion by Giovanni Mansueti
Mars and Venus by Palma Giovane
Edward Grimston by Petrus Christus
Three Days Later:
John had followed shortly after Sherlock, only to find him already climbing into a cab; he had not been able to catch up in time. After several ignored messages the Doctor had returned to 221b Baker Street; Mrs Hudson was already in the corridor, it seemed that she had been anticipating his arrival for some time. "Is he back?" John asked.
"You could say that. Came rushing through that door half an hour ago, he did. Slammed it shut an'all ." She answered, "What happened? Did you fight?"
"No. Something seemed to have spooked him."
"Spooked Sherlock?" She led him to her kitchen where she poured him a fresh cup of tea and placed the sugar bowl down next to him.
"Where is he now?" He questioned sipping the tea slowly after sitting down.
"I suspect he is in his room; he wasn't in the main room when I went up ten minutes ago."
"I should go check on him." John made to rise, but Mrs Hudson placed a hand on his stopping him.
"If you are correct and his has been spooked by something he has seen; then, correct me if I'm wrong, it wouldn't be the wisest to interrupt him." Admitting defeat he placed his hands around the cup once more, they sat there for a while, occasional crashes and screams echoed through the ceiling from above.
That had been then; Sherlock had not left his room since then, not for the bathroom, to eat, to drink. It felt strange to not have him prancing around the flat 24 hours a day, to not be informed about such and such a thing suddenly, or to hear the soothing violin he played which was now discarded beside the window.
John had tried to reach Sherlock, but the door was locked and Sherlock, predicting his movements even then had taken steps to ensure that John could not break the door down like he had tried so many time to do. After a day the outraged shouts had become muffled murmurs, whispers of words John could not catch to understand. Mycroft had been called over later that day when both Mrs Hudson and John were convinced they had heard crying from within the room. Yet, the most powerful man in the country could so nothing but reason and fail with his stubborn young brother.
Still two days later the New Scotland Yard was no further with solving the case; John had then phoned an old friend of his, a man of experience in the field of art work and crime. And so, it was on the third day that Peter Burke, along with Neal Caffrey appeared at the door of 221b Baker Street.
"We heard you had a problem." Peter smiled.