Again, sorry for the delay. We're almost done people.
Many thanks to TheGirlWhoImagined, purpleflames, DanceLikeChildrenOfTheNight, itsbeautiful9, zenstarrflower, coconut-dreamer, Yema, Aimee, laced-with-fire, 88dragon06, TheMagentaColor, House Calls, Ellie, LolaWants, SerbiaTakesCntrl, JMac96, Owlettes, MORE, sixtysix, LunaAnatolia, Don't Fade Away, fan, Devan-Rae, and Miriam Gill for reviewing. You guys are what keeps my going!
I hope you enjoy.
"I knew I set that alarm."
Alexandra's pulse raced and she clenched her hands into fists, barely registering the sharp stab of pain as her fingernails cut into her palms. For a moment neither man spoke, and even though she couldn't see them a clear image of the two found its way into her head. In her mind Sherlock was smiling smugly, eyes shining with excitement. Madison was all opposites; mouth turned down in a frown, his gaze wary. When Sherlock spoke next she could hear it in his voice and the picture cemented in her head.
"Ah, Doctor Madison, you're right on time."
"On time? For what?" he asked cautiously.
Sherlock ignored him. "You aren't flouncing about, threatening to call the police even though I'm obviously trespassing so I assume you know why I'm here?"
Alex heard Madison's heavy sigh over the creak of the door shutting again. A rustle of fabric and she knew he'd sat in the chair she'd just vacated.
"Yes," he answered wearily, one word enough to convey his resignation.
They were silent again and Alex fought the unbearable urge to fidget.
"I'd overlooked it at first," Sherlock admitted bitterly after a long moment. "Missed it. I was distracted of course. It won't happen again."
Alex winced inwardly, somehow knowing she was the distraction he spoke of.
"Sherlock…" Madison started only to be cut off by the younger man.
"I always knew Charles Claymore was at the center everything. That even in death it was about him in some way. So I absorbed everything I could about his life, his family. He was an only child so I looked into his parents, his aunts and uncles, friends, coworkers… everyone. When that didn't turn anything up I even went so far as to look into his parents previous relationships. Did you know his mother had been married twice before she met Henry Claymore?"
"You know I do," Madison spat quickly.
"But neither of those unions resulted in children," Sherlock continued. "It never occurred to me to look further. Not until a few days ago."
"Sherlock this is pointless," Madison tried to interject, only to be interrupted again.
"I wasn't finished! Elizabeth's second husband had already been married and had a child. Bridget Bristow. Bridget lived with Elizabeth and her father until she was sixteen and they divorced. A year later, she was married for a third time, to Henry Claymore and Charles was born soon after."
He paused and Alex wanted to yell at him to continue. Even though he was technically speaking to Doctor Madison, she had learned more from him in the past five minutes than she had in the last month.
"It seemed unlikely that young Bridget Bristow would remain close to her ex-stepmother, but she did, didn't she?"
"Yes." Madison's voice was barely a whisper but his solemn answer seemed to ring in Alexandra's ears.
"So close in fact," Sherlock continued, "that she was a frequent visitor to the Claymore's home and at seventeen and a half years of age, an ideal babysitter for Charles. Perhaps even something of a surrogate mother to the boy. They remained close as he got older. He was even at her wedding. Your wedding. Bristow is your wife's original surname is it not? Now I believe she would be referred to as Bridget Madison nee Bristow, am I correct?"
Alex's left leg was beginning to cramp but she didn't dare rub it as she waited for Madison's answer.
"You can stop with the questions," Madison spoke angrily. "You bloody well know the answers! Just tell me what you know."
Another pause and Alex wished she could see something other than Sherlock's knees.
"Fine," the detective said tightly. "I know that you married Bridget when you were both in your mid-thirties, putting Charles around seventeen. I know from his parents financial records that they were struggling. When it came time to think of university he turned to his 'sister' and her wealthy doctor husband. What he didn't realize was you weren't doing very well yourself. You're practice had failed to take off and you still owed tens of thousands in loans to pay for your own education. But they wouldn't be dissuaded."
Sherlock fell silent again, just as an unpleasant tingling sensation began in Alex's foot. It wouldn't be long before the appendage fell asleep entirely. As carefully as possible, she tried to shift into a more comfortable position. As she did, a fresh spasm of pain raced up her leg and she jerked slightly, her head connecting with the underside of the desk with a soft thump.
Sherlock cleared his throat and began speaking immediately in an attempt to cover the small noise. Alex felt the toe of his shoe press firmly against her leg, urging her to be still.
"Whose idea was it to start selling prescription drugs? Yours or Charles'?"
"Neither, it was…"
"Your wife's, I know. At seventeen Mr. Claymore was far too young to be so enterprising and it would never have occurred to you to risk your medical license like that. Not until Bridget persuaded you at any rate. I imagine she can be very persuasive."
Doctor Madison sighed but made no comment as Sherlock continued.
"You would write the false prescriptions and Charles would sell them. He paid his way through university with the money he made. After giving you your share I'm sure. Eventually you were able to get out of debt and open a new practice. A rehab, ironically enough. Fast forward several years. Charles has graduated and thinks it time to expand the business. He approaches you and tells you of his friend's new venture, a shipping company. He's taken a job there and explains how, with the right resources, it could be used to move drugs into the country. A far cry from writing false prescriptions and you'd already had a number of close calls with that already. What was it you told the police? Your pad of script paper had been stolen? Never mind, it's irrelevant. The point is, you'd never put your own money into the company. That would jeopardize everything you'd struggled to build. But fate seemed to smile on you, didn't it Doctor Madison?"
"A troublesome patient, two in fact. The man's brother pays you a visit, offers you a small sum of money to grant the woman an early release. You agree but are still curious. You ask the brother how he plans on convincing the girl to leave. When you learn of the bribe everything seems to fall into place. You stay in touch with the woman. Direct her straight to Mr. Claymore. I imagine it was rather easy."
Silence fell over the room and Sherlock leaned back in the chair confidently. After a long moment, Madison began to clap slowly.
"That was quite the speech Sherlock."
"You're not denying it then?"
"What would be the point?" Madison replied quietly, sinking further into the armchair. "He was never supposed to get involved with her you know," he added after several seconds had passed. "Never supposed to marry her. That wasn't part of the plan. He was just supposed to convince her to invest. Bridget was furious when she found out he'd started dating her. You see, he had to hide all evidence of ever having known us."
"But arson Madison, really?" Sherlock's voice was filled with distaste. "It isn't very inspired."
"What on earth are you talking about now?" he asked and Alex was confused by the seemingly genuine befuddlement in his voice.
"The fires Doctor. You tried to have Alexandra killed." Sherlock leaned forward over the desk, knees crowding her even further in his enthusiasm. "What happened exactly? When Mr. Claymore died did the money stop coming in? Without him you had no direct connection to the company. Oh well, except for these I suppose."
The sound of papers rustling reached her ears and Alex remembered the file he'd pulled from Madison's safe when they'd first entered the office. For the first time, she wondered what was in it.
"It isn't what you think," Madison spoke quietly.
"No?" Sherlock turned his head to the side and regarded the other man evenly. "You mean it isn't a ledger of wireless transfers between a private Smythe Shipping account and your own?"
Madison's breath hitched. "That proves nothing."
"Oh it most certainly proves something. Tell me, where did you find it? You obviously broke into Claymore's office and his parents' home in search of it, with no luck."
"We… it was sent in the post."
This seemed to alarm Sherlock and his next comment died in his throat. "When?" he asked instead.
Madison opened his mouth to answer but the brisk clack of footsteps in the hall stopped him. Both men turned their attention to the closed office door and Sherlock cocked his head to the side in thought.
"Court shoes, four and a half inch heels, size five if I'm not mistaken… It appears your wife means to join us. No need to look so panicked Doctor Madison. I'm surprised it took this long."
"She really thought I'd just forgotten to set the alarm," he began quickly, with the air of a man defeated. "Sherlock, you need to know…"
Madison stopped abruptly as the door swung open.
"Richard, what is taking so long? You only said you were getting your checkbook…" The woman's haughty, feminine voice trailed off when she noticed her husband wasn't alone.
"Who is this man Richard? What is he doing in our home? Why haven't you called the police?" she asked hurriedly, her already high voice raising another octave.
"There's no need to play the innocent victim Mrs. Madison," Sherlock began calmly. "I've been having a lovely chat with your husband about your connection to Charles Claymore and your involvement in matters concerning his widow."
"What? Who are you? What are you talking about? I…"
"Bridgett stop," Madison spoke softly and Alex heard the woman's voice falter and then go silent. When she spoke again, the panic was gone from her voice and replaced with a cool even tone.
"Fine. Then call the police." She paused and the unmistakable sound of rummaging through a purse reached Alex through the wood of a desk. "I thought not," she said again when Sherlock didn't speak. "What real proof do you have?" The tell-tell noises of her search abruptly ended and Doctor Madison hissed through his teeth.
"Shut up Richard! He hasn't called anyone. What's to stop me from shooting him? He's an intruder!"
It took Alexandra's over stimulated brain longer than she cared to admit to put the rustling of the woman's hand in her bag together with the threat. When it finally clicked she gasped slightly and pushed at Sherlock's legs, but he didn't budge.
"I'd like to believe your overwhelming sense of morality would stop you, but after meeting you that doesn't seem likely," Sherlock answered sarcastically.
Mrs. Madison laughed; a high, melodious tinkling sound that got under Alex's skin. "You're probably right. Richard, call the police and tell them we were forced to shoot someone who was breaking into our home."
Alex felt the panic rise in her throat. Without thinking, she rammed her shoulder into Sherlock's knee and felt him give slightly. With her hands on his legs she was able to scoot the chair away from the desk, enough to force her way from beneath it.
Sherlock jumped to his feet at the same time, his expression one of vague surprise. But he wasn't her only concern. She turned quickly, putting herself between the detective and the Madison's. The shock on their faces was a matched pair and Alex almost laughed at the absurdity.
The shiny metal of the gun now leveled at her curbed the strange impulse.
She stared at them both. The tall, blonde woman looked the same as in her photographs, though perhaps a bit older. Time had not been as kind to Doctor Madison.
She felt Sherlock's hand on her arm, trying to pull her behind him, but she slapped it away without looking at him.
"Not that I don't appreciate the gesture," his deep voice issued from just behind her quietly, "but you are too small to be an effective shield."
Alex opened her mouth with every intention of telling him to be quiet but Bridgett's strange, manic laugh called her back to task.
"You? My brother's drug-addict, whore of a wife? Do you think I'd have any problem shooting you?"
Doctor Madison took a step towards his wife; hand raised as though to reason with her, and repeated what was fast becoming his mantra.
"Stay back Richard! She's the problem! The reason for the whole mess!"
The woman's arm was shaking with rage, or maybe nerves, Alex couldn't tell. Sherlock's eyes were all for the gun in the unsteady hand and moved closer, until his chest lightly brushed Alex's back, a long line of warmth from her shoulder to her waist. It was surprisingly comforting.
"I haven't done anything."
Mrs. Madison scoffed. "If you believe that you're a bigger fool than I thought. But it doesn't matter. I'm ending it now."
She took a shaking step forward, pointing the gun at Alex's chest and Sherlock's hands closed around each of her arms with enough pressure to bruise.
The room erupted into chaos as several things happened at once.
Bridgett's finger squeezed the trigger and the bullet ripped from the gun with a bang so loud Alex was momentarily deafened. At the same time, Sherlock flung them both to the side, but not before she saw Madison rush his wife, knocking her to the floor as well. When her hearing returned a few seconds later she was on her stomach behind the desk and could hear Madison shouting. The ringing in her ears made it hard to understand his exact words but it almost sounded like, "not supposed to kill her." She was too stunned to give them much thought, especially when she realized that the surprisingly heavy body covering her own hadn't moved since they'd hit the floor.
"Jesus… in here!"
A familiar voice called from just inside the door and Alex's head snapped up.
Before she could blink he was on his knees next to her, gingerly rolling Sherlock to his back. Alex quickly sat up as John looked him over.
"John, the Madison's…" As she began to speak she saw Lestrade hurry into the room, followed by the female sergeant whose name she could never remember and three uniformed officers.
"It's alright, the police will handle it. It's what they get paid for."
Alex turned back to the two men. "Sherlock, is he…?" She couldn't finish the question as she stared at his unmoving form.
"He's fine." John sighed and sat back on his legs. "He's just knocked himself out, the great bastard."
"I heard that."
The man in question stared up at them through one opened eye. Alex let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding and felt some of the pressure in her chest alleviate. But still…
"Are you sure? The gun…"
She attacked before he could stop her, hands frantically searching for the bullet wound she'd been convinced was there. When her hands travelled lower Sherlock caught them quickly and pulled them off.
"Get off, I'm fine!"
As though to illustrate his point, Sherlock jumped to his feet and began searching the wall behind the desk for the place where the bullet had pierced.
John smiled and turned to Alex. "What about you? Alright?"
"I think so. How did you know where we were?"
"Sherlock texted me." He stood and reached down to help her up.
"What? When?" she asked in surprised confusion.
"In the taxi."
Sherlock was suddenly standing next to them again but, even though he'd spoken, all his attention seemed focused on the opposite end of the room, where a sobbing, handcuffed Mrs. Madison was trying to explain why she had a recently fired, unregistered handgun in her possession. Doctor Madison looked on wearily, wringing his meaty, unbound hands.
He looked up suddenly and caught Sherlock's eye.
"Detective-Inspector," Doctor Madison began quietly, his gaze still fixed on Sherlock. "I will go with you willingly and make a full confession…"
"It's over Bridgett!" he snapped. "You would do well to realize that." He addressed Lestrade again. "As I said, I'm ready to confess… on one condition."
"And that is?"
"That you allow myself and Mister Holmes to speak privately before I do."
Lestrade looked at Sherlock questioningly but the other man only shrugged.
"I don't know…"
"I can take care of myself Lestrade."
"Oh I'm well aware of that Sherlock…"
Doctor Madison cleared his throat and put his wrists together in front of him. "If it would make you more comfortable Detective-Inspector then, by all means, restrain me. I won't resist."
After only a second's hesitation, Lestrade secured the handcuffs and ushered everyone but Sherlock and Madison out of the office. The door shut behind them loudly and Alex couldn't help but stare at the offending piece of wood, wondering what on earth Madison could be telling him. She barely registered the still sobbing Bridgett being led downstairs until only she, John and Lestrade remained in the hallway.
When Sherlock emerged a few minutes later he looked more austere than normal. When Alex asked repeatedly what Madison had said he would only shake his head. Whether he was unwilling or unable to answer, she couldn't tell. But whatever his news had been, he didn't look happy about it.
They were still at Scotland Yard two hours later.
Sherlock and Alexandra were separated almost immediately, each taken into their own interrogation rooms to recount the evening's events. But not before she had kissed him in full view of the entire yard. A passionate, wet snog that had gone on entirely too long for what was appropriate in public. Sherlock's face was still on fire and he imagined if he were to look in the mirror his cheeks would be tinged pink from blushing. It didn't help that the jeers and odd looks from the Yard's staff had already started. Even Lestrade wasn't above it, though his ribbing seemed more good natured than most. Sherlock couldn't help but suspect she'd done it partly as a punishment for not telling her what Madison had disclosed. But she didn't want to know, of that he was certain.
Sherlock was forced out of his reverie by a steaming cup of coffee being placed on the desk in front of him. He'd been deep in thought in Lestrade's office for the last forty-five minutes, waiting for someone to find him, and looked up sharply to see John taking the chair opposite him, his own Styrofoam cup in hand.
"You're more quiet than usual." John smiled mischievously. "If it's because of that kiss, don't worry. Everyone will forget… eventually."
Sherlock sniffed loudly and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Oh cheer up Sherlock! It's over. You've done it again. The Madison's are behind bars, Alex is safe and everything can go back to normal… well I say normal…"
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably and mumbled something under his breath.
"What was that?"
"I said it's not over."
"What do you mean?"
"Charles Claymore is alive."
John blinked at him and set his cup on the edge of the desk, all traces of his previous mirth gone.
"That's not possible. You must be…"
"That's what he said John. Madison. He told me Mr. Claymore is still alive. It makes sense."
"Uh, no Sherlock, it doesn't. We dug him up for christsakes! Now you're telling me that wasn't him? That he somehow faked his own death? Faked pancreatic cancer?" John's voice rose with every word until he was almost shouting. "I'm a doctor Sherlock. Do you know how hard that would be?"
"Anything can be faked, given the right resources. Even death. I never said it was easy."
John stared at him for a long moment.
Sherlock shrugged, a quick rise and fall of his shoulders that somehow managed to be elegant. "Perhaps he feared for his life. Maybe he knew Alexandra was going to try to kill him. Maybe he'd been attacked by the same people who attacked his business partner. Or he knew it was only a matter of time before the police caught on to his operation and he was looking for a way out. It could be any number of things."
John stared at him again, his face contorted in confusion.
"Okay, say that he did fake his death… Then why is he back now? Why try and kill Alex? Revenge, money… what?"
Sherlock uncrossed his arms and lifted the Styrofoam cup to his lips, wincing slightly as the hot liquid rushed down his throat.
"For a long time I thought she was just lucky," he began after a long moment, "to have survived so many attempts on her life. Now I wonder if Claymore ever had any intention of killing her."
"Think about it John. She was never where she was supposed to be. Those arsons were too elaborate, too contained to be of any real use. If he'd wanted her dead why not set fire to Thomas Wellington's entire home? Why seclude it to the bedroom? And the messages John, the words so painstakingly manufactured. If he intended her to die in the first fire then the entire message would have been there, not just one word. It sounds insane, but then everything points to the fact that Charles Claymore is insane. What if he was just trying to get her attention? To let her know he was alive? In his own disturbed way, he wants her back."
"If that's true, then what has Madison been confessing to for the last two hours?" John asked.
"To his part. The Madison's were sent a ledger of sorts in the post. It contained detailed accounts of his involvements in Smythe Shipping. The sort of information only Claymore would have access to. His way of letting them know he was alive and to elicit their help."
"How did they help?"
"The mental patient. Tim Cox. Doctor Madison had the resources needed to put him on the streets. He filled his head with false confessions to throw us off. He knew of our history with Brian Dannelly and tried to frame him. The Madison's killed him and Officer Carrow."
John was silent for several minutes as he tried to absorb this new, crazy information. He downed the rest of his coffee before speaking again.
"You have to tell Lestrade Sherlock. Hell, you have to tell Alex."
Sherlock shook his head. "She doesn't want to know."
"She said, and I quote, 'don't try to tell me he isn't dead.'"
"That's too literal Sherlock, even for you. She needs to know."
The door to Lestrade's office opened, revealing the DI himself. He looked tired and his suit was rumpled, tie loose around his neck. He stopped when he saw the two men at his desk.
"There you are. I was wondering where you'd got off too. Surprised you didn't insist on being in the room when Madison confessed."
"No need, I already know," Sherlock said, without his usual bravado.
"What did he say?" John asked.
Lestrade rubbed at his eyes and leaned against the desk. "He confessed that he and his wife killed Brian Dannelly and Carrow. And that he convinced Tim Cox to say he started the fires. But he refused to admit he had anything to do with the arson at Wellington's house and the flat Alex was staying at, or the abandoned home where the heroin addicts were killed.
Sherlock looked at John. "You see?"
The DI's head turned from one to the other. "See what?"
"Tell him Sherlock." John's tone left no room for argument.
"Fine," Sherlock sighed. "But first you should get Alexandra. I'd rather not have to repeat myself." Or tell her when we're alone, he added silently.
Lestrade frowned. "She's gone Sherlock. We've been done with her for an hour. She said to tell you she'd be at the flat."
Sherlock's eyes widened and he shot to his feet, followed closely by John.
"You sent her with police protection, yes?"
"Well no," he answered, confused by their reaction. "The threat was gone so…" He trailed off but it didn't matter.
He was already talking to an empty room.
Well I told you there'd be answers in the next chapter... now I just hope everything makes sense.
Thanks for reading!