Another Saturday night, another double murder. John shivered and huddled a little further into his coat, both from the chill of the night and the sheer amount of blood that was in front of him.
At least the Taliban left things like that as they were.
"Still nothing?" Lestrade asked after a while. Sherlock looked up from where he'd stopped five minutes ago and had been staring at the couple ever since. The look on his face said enough, and the DI nodded grimly. "Alright guys, let's get this cleaned up."
There had been quips the first few times, catcalls from those who took a little too much pleasure in seeing Sherlock Holmes stumped. John wasn't sure when that petered out, but he reckoned it was around about the time they got the letter. That and the fact that Sherlock had been with the police at the time of three of the four murders had destroyed Sally's theory that the reason for his cluelessness had been his culpability; now, all that was left was unease and a horror that mounted with the death toll.
Somewhere in the midst of the chaos of the murder scene, Sherlock vanished. John spared a moment to look for him, then went to flag down a cab.
He got back to Baker Street to find Sherlock lounging on the sofa, holding the letter over his head as though the light shining through it would reveal some deep secret. He'd been doing it all week. John rolled his eyes, and went to make the tea.
"Does it bother you?" Sherlock asked, when he put his mug on the coffee table.
"Does what bother me?"
"That I said no."
There was no need to ask for a further explanation. John had been there when he opened the letter, and when he made the decision not to reply, and he'd not said a word about it since then. Granted, at the time, he had still been fairly certain Sherlock would catch the bastard, but still.
He thought on it for a moment. Yes, he was disappointed. 8 people were lying dead that might otherwise have been saved by a quick phone call, and John couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt for not having argued the point, but at the end of the day, people like the Reaper needed to be caught. Letting him go would have been letting him win.
Sherlock regarded him for a moment, then tossed the letter back onto the table, the stark writing face-up:
IF YOU STOP HUNTING ME, I WILL STOP HUNTING THEM
FOR AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE
UNTIL DEATH DO US PART
IF YOU AGREE TO MY TERMS, TAKE OUT A PERSONAL AD
IN THE CAMDEN GAZETTE
Alongside it lay a crime scene photo, taken the night the next edition of the Gazette was published:
The next week, there was a survivor. George Foyet was rushed to North Middlesex Hospital, having been found with his girlfriend (dead) in their car down a back road. By the evening of the next day, he was conscious enough to answer some questions.
Yes, he had seen the Reaper. Yes, he could provide a description- and did- which the police artist could form into a sketch. No, he didn't know anything else, but as soon as he remembered anything more, he'd let them know.
Sherlock wasn't allowed to interrogate him. After a brief shouting match with Lestrade and some of the doctors, he left the hospital fuming. John could understand why they weren't letting him near Foyet- the poor bloke had enough to be getting on with as it was without having an increasingly impatient genius quizzing him- but he found himself half-wishing they had, just so that they could get on with the case. Knowing Sherlock, he'd likely have deduced a dozen more things than any police psychologist within seconds of stepping into the room, and it would've made John's life a lot easier. Sherlock's annoyance was palpable, and he was more than likely going to take it out on the violin until he got to see Foyet in person.
Still. It was a start.
As expected, Sherlock spent the better part of the night impersonating an alley cat on his violin. Lestrade's call woke John from what had been only a few hours' sleep at most; Foyet was expected to be released from hospital in approximately three days. Sherlock still wasn't allowed to talk to him, a fact about which he proceeded to sulk for several hours, but it made John feel a little better.
Again, it was a help, but for the next five days it was all they had, bar the report on his wounds. Sherlock took to pacing the living room, muttering about how something wasn't right, John listening with half an ear and almost looking forward to Saturday.
That came, went, and left behind another pair of corpses. An older couple this time, fewer wounds, which seemed to fit in with the pattern- the younger the woman, the more aggressive the attack.
Of course, Sherlock wasn't convinced.
"There's something we're missing here," he muttered, prowling around the crime scene, fingers steepled. "It's obvious. It will be. It's got to be."
He turned to Lestrade, who gave him a Look. "No."
"You don't even know what I was going to ask," Sherlock half-whined.
"Yes I do, and Foyet is still off-limits. I can't have you giving the man more mental issues than he's got already." And that was that. At least, until they were in the taxi, and Sherlock's eyes glittered.
John knew that look.
"What is it?"
"He said I'd give Foyet mental issues."
A grin. "He didn't say you would."
"Mr Foyet? I'm John Watson."
The man blinked, looked John over for several moments; understandable, for someone who'd escaped a serial killer. Then he nodded, now looking out into the street. "Come in."
The house was normal, if a little plain- all beige/brown shades, IKEA furniture- and neat. Foyet ushered him through to the kitchen and gestured to a chair. "You want a cup of tea?"
"Oh, yes please."
There was silence for a minute, broken only by the sound of the kettle. "Milk, sugar?"
"Er, milk, no sugar please. Thanks," a moment later, after the mug was set in front of him. Foyet eased himself into a chair.
"I'm guessing you're here about...?" He gestured to the bandages protruding from his shirt collar. John shifted in his chair, feeling intensely awkward.
"Yeah, 'fraid so."
"But you're not a policeman."
It wasn't a question. "No," John admitted, "I'm... a concerned party."
"A friend of Sherlock Holmes'?" John blinked.
"Yes, how did you...?"
Foyet smiled thinly and nodded towards the laptop on the counter. "His blog. 'The Science of Deduction'. Brilliant stuff. And I know who you are, of course, Doctor. You come up quite a bit."
"Yes, well. Flatmates tend to." Foyet raised an eyebrow but said nothing, and John decided that they'd said quite enough on that particular subject. "I'm sorry, we're getting off track."
"Indeed. Now, Doctor, what did you want to know?"
"Right. Well, thanks for your time. If anything comes up..."
"I'll let you know. Thanks." Foyet gave a weak smile. John nodded in return, and headed out the door. The talk had been as expected- Foyet had been hesitant, occasionally pausing to calm himself down, particularly when he'd talked about his girlfriend's death. And no wonder, really. Being shot once had been enough to get John psychosomatic pain, nightmares and whatever the opposite of PTSD was, so God knew what Foyet was going through right now.
But, he thought as he reached out a hand for a cab, something wasn't quite right...
"Do you know how long it takes to stab someone sixty-seven times?"
...and there it was.
'Lexical choice, John,' the voice of his sixth-form English teacher reprimanded him, 'tells us a lot about the narrator', and didn't it just.
There was no going to confront Foyet now- he'd have weapons, and John had left his gun at home. He grabbed his phone, punched in Sherlock's number. It took an agonisingly long time to connect, and as he waited, he glanced back at the house, where a lone silhouette stood at the window, watching him.
"Come on, Sherlock, pick up your phone-"
"Welcome to BT voicemail. If you'd like to leave a message, press 1."
"Fuck..." he hung up, called Lestrade. Still no reply. A cab pulled up and he jumped inside, grateful to get out of Foyet's eyesight for a while at least, though it occurred to him a moment later that keeping an eye on the man would have been a better idea.
Still, Sherlock had to know. "Baker Street, please."
"Oh, John dear, you've got a visitor."
"Not now, Mrs Hudson- have you seen Sherlock?"
"He's just gone out, dear, sorry about that. But your visitor's very insistent on seeing you, says it's urgent.
"His name's George, if that rings a bell?"
John lowered his voice. "Mrs Hudson, you need to get out of here right now."
"Is there something-"
"No, but call Sherlock, call the police- tell them the Reaper's here. Take my phone, go. Go!" He hurried her out the doorway, locking it behind her and sliding the key under the mat- if Foyet wanted blood, then he'd keep it at a minimum.
He considered not going upstairs for a moment but discarded the thought. If he wouldn't go up, then Foyet would come down, and the whole thing would be on his terms. Not like it wasn't anyway, but at least he would be a little closer to his gun if he were upstairs. It was in his room though, and that was on the upper floor...
He climbed the stairs.
"Answer your bloody phone, Sherlock, it might be important."
"As important as finding the Reaper? Your priorities are a little skewed, Detective Inspector- it's in the left pocket of my jacket."
Lestrade fished it out and held it towards Sherlock, who quirked a lip. "Did I say I was going to answer it?"
"Oh, for God's sake..." He flipped it open and held it to his ear. "John? Oh... right, of course. Yeah, he's here." He held it out again. "It's your landlady."
"Oh, never mind her. Say-" but no, Mrs Hudson never called him. Why now? Lestrade had said 'John' at first- why his phone, not the landline? She hated mobiles. Sherlock held out a hand.
Lestrade sighed. "Sherlock, I just hung up-"
"Call back. Now. Oh, forget it," he snatched the phone from his hand and dialled John's number. "Mrs Hudson?"
"Sherlock? John told me to call you, he told me to get outside, he says the Reaper's here..."
Implying he'd stayed inside, implying he was alone with the murderer, implying he'd found him first, tried to contact Sherlock and instead been met by him. Sherlock forced down the wave of panic that threatened to disrupt his thought patterns. "Calm down Mrs Hudson. Where are you?"
"I'm outside the flat, I left my travel pass inside and-" a gunshot- "oh my God. Sherlock?"
"I'm on my way. Stay exactly where you are, we'll be there in a few minutes. If anyone comes out the door, hide." He hung up, grabbing his jacket. "Lestrade, I need a lift."