I suppose you can say I feel guilty about the previous chapter, because I'm uploading this one not long after. The quicker we can get past the ugly bit, the better. I promise from now on it will be good old fashioned human murders. I also desperately need to get some humour in here to lighten it up. Anyway, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I STILL own nothing.


Chapter III - 260708

Mark Albany was a difficult man to see in tears. He towered over even Sherlock, at a startling 6'5" and possessing a very strong build. But right now he looked rather small, seated in a chair with his head in his hands as he struggled to collect himself. His hair, an age-revealing mixture of white and brown was strewn about his head in random directions, stressed by his thick fingers constantly running through them. The discovery of his poor dog had been made the previous morning, and he was obviously still quite shaken by it. When anyone so much as alluded to anything remotely canine, his body would give a shudder.

He was co-operative, however, when Sherlock claimed Lestrade's office as their work area and began a whirlwind of file searching and sporadic questioning. And, since the detective was not exactly sensitive when relating to the grieving, John had to sit opposite to the large man and delicately reword the questions. Lestrade, still looking like he wanted to mainline pure caffeine and nicotine, was at his (now disastrously organized) desk and reading through prison reports from where Mark worked right before his retirement.

"No, no," Sherlock hissed to himself as he laid the photos of the footprints flat on the desk. He sounded rather angry, but it was fleeting. "These are brand new shoes. Look at the crisp lines in the sole patterns, not a single hint of wear! He must have bought them just for this."

John, having not slept all night, rubbed his eyes and yawned. He had no idea how his flatmate was still so energetic after playing the violin and pacing the house until sunrise. "Maybe he got rid of them after the fact?"

"Not anywhere in the area, he's too smart for that. But we can get something off this." There was a great amount of focus in the detective, and his eyes were shifting from annoyance, to determination to buzzing excitement. Certainly not decent in the presence of the owner of the murdered dog, but John knew better than to cut in at that moment. "Size 12 men's shoe. Tall man with long legs, going by the stride. They were not a perfect fit, though. One of the prints is a little smudged, like the shoe was big enough to shift around his foot."

"Any hint on what kind?" John asked.

"Cheap, store-brand sneakers." There was a dismissive tone in Sherlock's voice, as if he was pleading for John to stop distracting him. The doctor sighed sharply and slumped in his chair. His eyes traveled the office, going from Sherlock, to Lestrade, to Mark Albany. This was a case he really did not want to be a part of; the whole idea of it was just upsetting to him. Hearing Mark talk about Victoria, and how she was sweeter and gentler than any Labrador, was especially difficult. He even showed John a wallet picture; she had been a beautiful dog in life. She really was the only family he had, with his parents deceased and having never gotten married, himself.

"Um, how was your dog outside so late last night?" John ventured, deciding that Sherlock was too enveloped in his out thoughts at the moment.

Mark rubbed his hands down the length of his broad, square face, clearly attempting to keep himself composed. "I always kept the dog-door open so she could go out whenever she wanted. She sometimes went out into the garden when her pups were getting too needy. But I didn't even hear her bark - she would have barked if she saw someone on the property."

"The twine." Sherlock cut in. "He blindsided the dog and clamped her muzzle shut. Then he attacked before she could fight against him."

"Sherlock," John hissed, utterly exasperated. Mark was a rigid man, but the waver in him was unmistakable when hearing such things. As his companion simply shook his head and returned to his own task, John turned back to the owner. "We do know that she didn't suffer." he tried to remind him. The man simply nodded, refusing to look at anyone.

"July twenty-sixth, two-thousand and eight." Lestrade piped up, shoving one paper over to Sherlock. "Whitemoor Maximum Security Prison, where Mark worked, had a small riot that day. Two inmates were killed."

Mark grew just a little more pale, as if the resurfacing memory threatened to make him ill. "I never bothered to remember what day that was, but I can recall that." He ran his fingers through his hair again, looking like he was ready to rip it out of his scalp. "I was one of the guards taking some of the DSPD's into the yard for their hour."

"Sorry, what?" John hated to interrupt, but he was of no use if lost.

"Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder." Mark elaborated. "These men weren't right. They had anger problems, or didn't feel anything at all. The slightest thing could set them off. It was like trying to keep control over a pack of wild dogs, but we tried to give them dignity."

"They broke into a fight, didn't they? On the way to the yard?" There was not much of a questioning tone in Sherlock's voice. "One of them snapped."

"Yes." Mark nodded. "He turned on the others out of the blue. Mustn't have thought it through at all. Before we knew it, he had a shank and was stabbing one of the younger men - over and over in the chest - until we put the taser on him. The victim was just a kid. Barely twenty-two."

"But they were all set off, weren't they? Another died."

"By the time we broke it up, there was another badly injured. He died in the hospital that night. But that kid, though, he never caused trouble. He was one of the quiet ones, polite and seemed normal until you really got talking to him."

"Benjamin Hale." Sherlock was reading from the record. "Four stab wounds, died within minutes, the weapon was crafted from a turkey bone. It seemed he was serving a life sentence for murder, and was placed in DSPD due to his apparent lack of remorse and care for human life."

The room gained a heavy silence, and John had to turn his head away a little. Something between a quiet laugh and an uncomfortable cough sat in his throat, but he dared not let it out. In the corner of his vision, he saw Sherlock look at all of them and settle his eyes on Lestrade.

"What?" It was the first time he ever heard Sherlock Holmes sound... defensive?

"Nothing." Lestrade leaned back in his chair with a sigh. "I suppose you'll be wanting Hale's full prison record."

"As well as the court case files, and any record on Benjamin Hale's family. Call me as soon as you have those. John and I have some errands to run." Sherlock spoke quickly and was headed for the door before John could make any sort of protest or throw any questions at him. But just as the detective was heading out, the door opened abruptly and just missed smashing him in the nose. Sergeant Donovan gave him a sideways glance (that almost looked disappointed about the lack of harm done) before her attention returned to the Inspector.

"We just got a call about a body found in the Soho area. From the sounds of it, we've got some similarities. It's human this time." she informed the room, unable to hide her anxiety. It went without saying that everyone had hopes that they would never see such a brutal murder again, on an animal or human being. Of course, Sherlock was exempt from that general opinion.

"Another? A repeated murder?" The detective's annoyance quickly faded into unashamed enthusiasm. "John, come quickly. No sense sitting and chatting when there's a serial killer waiting for the chase!" Then, he was gone. Just gone. Dashing past desks and leaving a whirlwind of confusion in his wake. John simply sat there, somehow still amazed when this sort of thing happened. With a sense of defeat, he hauled himself up. There Sherlock went, taking off to a crime scene that he did not know the location of, with all the glee of a child on Christmas morning. As he left with an awkward, apologetic smile to everyone else, he watched as Mark Albany turned to Lestrade with unbridled amazement.

"That heartless sod? That is the 'Ace Card' you've always told me about?"