The cab drew up to the roadside outside the church. Emma was waiting just outside looking tired and tense. John found that he felt uncomfortable talking to her with Sherlock there. He didn't need to as Sherlock jumped in.
"What does Madame Brun teach at the school?"
She blinked for a second. "Er, literature and maths."
"No, she not musical, she's here because she's housemistress for the choir girls. She does some of the academic lessons during term time."
"How did she get a job at the school?"
"I don't know. That recruitment wasn't anything to do with me. What's happening? What's going on with Madame Brun?"
"She helped Pascal escape."
Emma's eyes widened and she leaned back against the wall.
"Did you know her long before you started work at the school?" Sherlock asked.
"No. I met her for the first time the day she started work."
"OK. Good. Do you know if she was known before by anyone at the school?"
"Wait, yes. She went to school with Patrick. I think she even knows his ex-wife."
"Yes, I think she does too." He smiled again. "Isn't this fun! It's just a matter of having the right conversations with the right person! What does Madame Brun say about the rumours about Pascal's mother."
"She doesn't say anything about it. She told us off when we were having a gossip once, and since then, people don't discuss it in front of her."
"Oh, this is marvellous! It was Patrick then, who insisted that the concert would go on tonight."
"Yes. I was surprised and I don't like it, but Patrick's like that. He doesn't focus on what people might be feeling; he just pushes everything onward. That's what he said to the choir this morning. 'Life can't push art aside.' It's awful, the children are tired and upset and worried about Pascal. I'm not allowed to tell them about Benoit. As far as they're concerned, he grabbed Pascal and ran away with him and he's with him still."
"Do the rest of the staff know?"
"No. I didn't tell anyone. John told me not to. They'll find out when they see news stories about a dead Frenchman who's connected to the disappearance of the boy though. So it wasn't Benoit then? He wasn't anything to do with it?"
"No, didn't I say? He just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. He followed Pascal, the kidnappers got rid of him. It wasn't in the original plan but they improvised."
"Kidnappers? So he was taken then?"
"Yes. Wait, there hasn't been a press release yet, why would the staff see it on the news?"
"Patrick is away now, making an appeal. And through all of that distraction, we're supposed to just sit tight and rehearse and perform. It shouldn't be happening. It's cruel." She blinked tears away for a moment.
"You don't want your choir to perform today?"
"No. Of course not!"
"Marvellous! So he's doing the appeal now is he? It's later than he might have hoped. What are you doing for a piano player?"
"Patrick's sorted it. There's been some intricate shuffling among the violins and one of them will now play piano."
"Who will choose Pascal's replacement?"
"Will Monsieur Chevalier have any input?"
"He doesn't need to. It'll be Alain. That's understood by everyone."
Sherlock nodded slowly. "Poor Alain."
Emma and John frowned at him, waiting for him to explain.
"When I was here yesterday, there were people rigging up recording equipment."
"Do you record every performance?"
"No. We're recording this one to release a CD and a DVD which we'll sell on tour."
Sherlock smiled at her. "I know where Pascal Chevalier is! Come with us. We'll go and find get him shall we?"
Emma looked surprised but nodded. "I'd better go and let them know I'm going."
"Madam Brun is about to be arrested. Do try not to give her any warning."
She nodded and disappeared. John turned urgently to Sherlock.
"Look, if Emma has anything to do with this disappearance, can you please let me know now? I know it makes no difference and I know you like your dramatic reveals, but please, I don't think I could handle it!"
Sherlock frowned. "No, of course she doesn't. I had a couple of suspicions early on, but she is as innocent as a rose. At the moment anyhow. I'm sure you can do something to change that quite soon though."
"Sherlock, this really isn't the time. But thank you. For letting me know, I mean." He frowned. "Then if it isn't her…" He broke off as Emma came back.
"Now, John, you wouldn't want to spoil my big reveal would you?" Sherlock spun around and hailed a cab.
John was surprised to find that Sherlock directed the Cabbie towards Scotland Yard rather than back to the Fighting Cock as he had suspected. Sherlock didn't pause to ask for help or directions from the desk Sergeant. He just led the confidently upwards to the large meeting room which was used for press releases. They walked in at the back.
"Please, please I implore you," Monseiur Chevalier was saying, "if anyone knows where my little boy is, I urge you to come forward. I miss him, he is important not only to me but to our school."
Greg Lestrade was stood at the back.
"Sherlock, John," he whispered and nodded at them in greeting. "Get all the fish off OK then, John?"
"Yes thank you. And I'm so pleased that story's already done the rounds."
"Sh! I'm listening," Sherlock said.
"In addition to my extreme gratitude, I am offering a reward of eighty-thousand Euros to anyone who provides information that directly leads to the return of my son, Pascal."
There was a murmur among the journalists and camera-men in the room.
"Damn it, I asked him not to do that," Lestrade said.
"You don't need to worry," Sherlock said. "He has no intention of paying anyone. On the other hand, I'd quite like to know if that statement might count as a verbal contract. That would be very useful information to me."
He grinned and strode forward to the desk where Patrick Chevalier was sitting.
"I thought you weren't interested in outside help," he said to him. "I thought you wanted the police to take complete control!"
Patrick stuttered for a moment. "I took advice! They said I should do this!"
"Oh, shit," Lestrade muttered at the back of the room.
"Well, I have some good news, Monsieur Chevalier! I can give you the name of the person who arranged to have Pascal Chevalier kidnapped. I can even give you the name of the kidnapper himself!"
Patrick's mouth opened and closed a few times. "Before, you said to me he left on his own! He ran away!"
"Yes, and I was right. The kidnapping I refer to happened outside the Fighting Cock public house. That's the crime that I'm here to solve. That and the murder of Benoit DuPaul."
"I hope he knows what he's doing!" Emma said quietly.
"He does," Lestrade told her.
"He's never wrong." John said. "Well, he's sometimes wrong, but when he's in front of a roomful of press and police he's never wrong."
"The murder…" Patrick started but then he shut down.
"Yes, murder, Monsieur Chevalier! That's what it is now. And misuse of police time, though God knows, they haven't exactly exerted themselves on this one as yet!" Patrick clamped his mouth shut and Sherlock sighed spun around to address the journalists. "Can anyone tell me if that offer of eighty thousand Euros constitutes a contract of any sort?"
"Sherlock!" Lestrade snapped.
Sherlock sighed and turned back to Chevalier.
"You were suspicious of Madame Brun, weren't you. You were worried that she might be in league with your wife and might be attempting to remove Pascal and send him to his mother. She was good, she worked quite hard to endear herself to you, didn't she? Certainly by the time she applied for the job at your school, she'd more or less convinced you that she was loyal to you, and not to Mrs Chevalier.
"But you weren't surprised when you found she'd been plotting to remove your son from you all along. I think you've probably suspected her for some time. Fortunately, other members of the Brun family were loyal to you, and not to her. So when Pierre Brun learned from his sister and wife that they were going to send Pascal back to his mother he ran to tell you. And you were so calm and calculating about it all. You'd already decided to let them hatch their plan and help Pascal away from the school.
"And then you arranged to have him picked up, and brought to you, didn't you?"
"Why would I do such a thing? He is my son! Why would I hurt him?"
"Pascal Chevalier, the little boy who would never quite live up to his father's expectations. But you thought you'd help him along a bit, didn't you. You thought that maybe he wouldn't need the perfect voice and the most confident stage presence as long as he's already captured the hearts and the imaginations of the public!
"So here you are now, pleading for the return of your little boy. What were you going to do? Have him released suddenly so that he can wander onto the streets and be picked up and returned by someone just in time to perform?"
"I didn't! I didn't!"
"Come on, Monsieur Chevalier!" Lestrade said, storming to the front of the room. "Where is he?"
"I will not answer. I want a lawyer."
Both Sherlock and Lestrade sighed and rolled their eyes.
"What do you think, hotel?" Lestrade asked Sherlock.
"No, it's too public. He'd never keep him hidden for long enough."
"The fighting Cock's closed and is being searched. If he's there, we'll find him."
"You're searching the pub?" Patrick asked.
"Yes. And Mister and Mrs Brown have been arrested. They're here. If they're supposed to be looking after your son, you need to know that he's alone right now! It would be a lot better for you if you just told us where he was!"
Patrick finally looked defeated. "Pierre has a flat in London. His wife doesn't know, he uses it for… well you don't need to know."
"The address!" Sherlock shouted.
"Sixteen Galveston Road, in Wandsworth."
Sherlock smiled and nodded. "There you are, someone arrest Chevalier and go and get Pascal."
There was an eruption of noise and camera flashes from the somewhat stunned room.
"Mister Holmes, can I ask…" a woman asked while she shoved a microphone into Sherlock's face.
"No. Go away!" Sherlock snapped pushing past her.
"Are you coming?" Lestrade asked him.
"No. It's all finished now. This bit's boring."
"Can I come?" Emma asked eagerly.
"Who's are you?"
"Oh, I forgot, this is Emma, she's Pascal's teacher. She's a good one and probably worth taking along if the kid's mother isn't in the country yet! John, are you staying with her? OK, come along then."
That afternoon, John walked downstairs after a nap.
"I think I should have that money," Sherlock said to him, by way of greeting. He was lying on the sofa, staring at the ceiling.
"Since when have you cared about money?"
"Since I've needed a new computer."
"What happened to yours?"
"I broke it a bit."
"Leave it on the cooker again?"
"No, I spilled acid on it. They're not yet designed to withstand that."
"Well use mine."
"I already do. I'd prefer one of my own that's not littered with your stupid stuff. Besides, he said he'd give it to anyone who solved the crime. I did, I should get the money."
John sat down and opened his own computer. "I keep thinking about it, you know, I keep thinking that so much stuff seemed to go on that was totally irrelevant."
"Yes, that was part of the problem. The bikes were irrelevant, all that stuff with the kids not liking Guilliame was irrelevant. Even Benoit Dupaul was irrelevant in the end. I should have cracked it sooner. I would have done it I'd have started out with the parents straight off. I must be getting arrogant in my old age."
"Shut up. You were supposed to comment that I'm not that old."
"Oh! Emma's mailed! Pascal's fine! Absolutely fine! And the concert is still going ahead! Apparently the children are relieved and happy and they want to sing about it. Oh that's nice!"
Sherlock sat up and looked at him. "John, can I ask a favour?"
"Sorry, I'll stop reading my email at you."
"No, that isn't it. Though yes, please stop doing that."
"With Emma, do you think… do you think maybe…"
John frowned. "What? Come on, out with it, man!"
"Do you think she'd let me play violin tonight? They have a space because one of the pianist dying. I just mean maybe second violin, nothing flashy or prominent."
John grinned. "There's no harm in asking I suppose."
He reached for his phone.
Gah, gah and a hundred time gah!
I have to admit, I don't like this one. I'm not saying that for a chorus of 'oh but it's fine!' I just really don't think it's one of my best, and I'm actually fine about that.
What I have learned:
Don't start anything that contains even a small amount of a language you don't speak.
Work out the plot in advance. Don't change your mind three times as you're going along.
There's a big amount of space between 'a nice idea' and 'a story that can and should be told'.
If you think the fic needs burying and starting again, then come clean and just say so. Don't drag it out when you're just not committed to it any more. Life's too short.
The good news is that I think it's salvageable, and it has enough parts that I like to make me want to do that. I'll re-write it substantially and republish, probably at some point after season 2.
The other good news is that I'm fairly sure I know what my next adventure is going to be. I'm intending to write it fully before I start publishing though!
Anyhow, this is done now, and thanks very much for reading. I'd very much appreciate feedback on it.