"So… Ms. Braithwaite… Rosa… Can I call you Rosa?"
"I'd rather you didn't, Mr. …?"
"Watson. Dr. John Watson."
"Yeah. So how can I help you?"
"Oh. I don't need anything. I'm just… waiting… for my colleague."
The receptionist continued typing. John coughed nervously.
"Sorry… erm, Ms. Braithwaite, you haven't heard anything about that case from a few days ago?"
"Mr. Weston, this is New Scotland Yard. I hear about cases all day long."
"This one involved a taxi driver."
"Who led the investigation?"
"Detective Inspector Lestrade."
"Well, you're going to have to ask him. You need clearance to see records like that."
"Yes, yes, of course. Should've thought of that…"
The receptionist snorted and answered her phone. John crossed his arms and stared at his feet until she ended the call.
"Ms. Braithwaite, I'm with Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Maybe I could see the files?"
"Sherlock Holmes? Do you know him?"
"Yes, he's my flatmate actually. Do you know him?"
"He's in here all the time. Gorgeous man! But he's too focused… needs companionship, so he don't work himself to death. Lonely, I said to Elaine the other day, and…"
"Yes… er… I'm sure, yes… but could I see the files?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Weston, but you'll have to get permission from someone else, I can't just…"
"John! Come on! Leaving!" And Sherlock swept by in a whirlwind of coat.
"Yes. I'm…" But just as he was about to leave, he felt a piece of paper shoved into his hand.
"It's my number, Mr. Weston. You couldn't just give it to Sherlock, could you?"
John made a non-committal noise and rolled his eyes as he trotted to catch up to Sherlock.
"You can throw the number away, John. I don't want it, and clearly Mr. Weston didn't make much of an impression."
"Yeah, thanks. Where are we going now?"
Sherlock had begun texting, and didn't look up as he answered. "I'm going home to continue the experiment I was working on before Lestrade interrupted with that ridiculously simple murder. If he were halfway intelligent he would have texted me all the information I needed to solve it, and saved us a cab fare. But by now I suppose I should expect to do everything myself."
"You are going to stop off at Tesco's. We need milk, more pasta sauce, bread, some of that tea that you like…"
"We have a whole tin of it."
"What did you…?"
"We also need beans. That's the last thing that you moaned about this morning before we left. Oh, and I'd like some dark chocolate hobnobs. Do be sure to get dark, not milk."
"Are you sure that's all?"
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you, John. And you can get anything else you think you need."
John just snorted and stared out the window, while Sherlock continued texting. About ten minutes later John ventured, "Sherlock…"
"No, no one at the Yard suspects you, John. Lestrade is brighter than some, and the wheels in his head have been turning, but I don't think he'd say anything, even if he could make up his mind one way or the other."
"Are you going to tell me how you did that?"
"Simple. I could tell from your body language and snatches of the conversation that I overheard that your concern was the reason you were trying to chat up the secretary—that and your overactive libido. Even your irritation with me for telling you what shopping we need hasn't taken your mind off it. You are perfectly convinced that you were right in what you did, but you are still afraid of the repercussions. You really should trust me, though. There is not enough evidence for them to deduce that it was you, despite obvious signs, and I am not going to enlighten them. Not to mention the fact that the Met is unlikely to waste their precious resources on tracking down and prosecuting the man who saved my life."
"Just because Donovan and Anderson…"
"And Mason and O'Malley and Edmunds and Reilly…"
"I've never even heard of those people. How do you know them?"
"Because I talked to them while you were busy shoving past. It's no wonder they hate you."
"Well, they don't want me dead. They know they need me."
"I wouldn't be so sure…"
"Stop here!… We're at Tesco's, John. Do you think you can remember everything?"
"I'm sure I can…"
"I'm sending you the list. And don't forget—dark chocolate!"
John sighed and got out of the car.
He'd only been living with Sherlock Holmes for two weeks, and already the whatever-it-was that went on between Sherlock and Molly at Bart's morgue was getting to him. John had been startled by Sherlock's rudeness to Molly the first time he met him, but he had completely forgotten about it until the next week when she gave them access to a dead body for another case, and Sherlock had been just as rude, if not cruel.
At the moment he was trying to decide who he was more annoyed with—Sherlock for being… Sherlock, or Molly for doing her level best to make him even more… Sherlocky than ever.
"Well, I… I got into… well the super wasn't very… He…" Molly finally looked up at Sherlock. "He was very angry when I gave you those eyeballs."
"Oh, Molly, you should have said something. I'm so sorry. I would never have asked if I thought it would be a bother for you." Point to Sherlock—the smarmy git!
"No! No, it's no bother. I… I just…"
"So you won't mind if I take this liver home, then?"
"It could be our little secret, Molly. I'll bring it back personally tomorrow." How did Sherlock make that sound like a pickup line?
"I… I really can't…"
Sherlock's charm evaporated. "This is rubbish. I'll just examine the liver here." And match, Sherlock!
Molly stared at Sherlock and then rushed out of the room, mumbling something about coffee. For a few moments, John wondered if he shouldn't lecture Sherlock about the way he treated Molly. On the one hand they were only flatmates and hadn't even known each other for a month. On the other, no one else was going to say anything. Of course, saying something probably wouldn't make that much of a difference anyway…
"Er… I'll get some coffee too, then. Okay?"
He caught up to Molly, who was walking down the hall.
"So… seen anything interesting since that cab driver—Jefferson Hope?"
"Which was that?" When Molly turned, her nose looked a bit red.
"Oh a week or two back, now. Gunshot wound to the heart and brain aneurism, I think."
"I'm not sure which you mean. We've had several gunshot wounds, but no brain aneurisms for months."
"Are you sure?"
"I… I think so."
"But he told Sherlock! You're absolutely positive there wasn't…"
Molly stopped walking and turned to face him. "Look, Dr.…"
"Dr. Watson, You'll probably have to go ask Maggie at the desk to check." And she stepped into her office and closed the door.
John walked back to the morgue where Sherlock was pouring something onto the liver.
"Sherlock? Did you see the results of the autopsy for Hope?"
"What? No! Why should I have? I saw him die."
"Yeah, but Molly just said something about no aneurism cases coming through here."
"Did she do the autopsy?"
"I don't know."
"Well, he died from a gunshot wound, so I don't see the problem. I'm going to be here for two hours at least."
"Will you be back in time for tea?"
"I don't know! Now will you let me get on with this experiment?"
Sherlock was no help at all. John decided to try Mike before he went home.
"Mike! I need to have a look at a coroner's report. Do you think you could get it for me?"
"When was it?"
"Just two weeks ago. 'Jefferson Hope' is the name."
"Well, let me see. I should be able to access it in my office. Come with me. Why do you need to see it anyway?"
"You read that entry on my blog, right? About Sherlock?"
"Yes. One of the wildest stories I've ever heard. If I didn't know both of you, I don't know if I'd believe it."
"Well, it's the serial killer. I want to know how he died."
"Just give me a minute. I'll pull it up. Hope, you said?"
"Let's see—single gunshot to the heart. Would have died within seconds."
"Does it say anything else, though? About a brain aneurism?"
"No. Should it?"
"You read the blog post. Hope told Sherlock that he had a brain aneurism!"
"John, there was no indication of any abnormality of that sort. None at all."
"Maybe they missed it?"
"I know Ron—Ron Whitefield, who did the autopsy. Do you know him? Can't remember his year… Anyway, he's good at what he does, and he's very thorough. I can promise you he wouldn't overlook something like that."
"Well, thanks, Mike. I should be getting home. Give my best to the wife."
"And you give my best to your landlady, whoever she is. She's a brave woman."
When John got home he boiled some water for pasta, considered making enough for two, remembered Sherlock's behavior at the lab an hour earlier and made just enough for himself, and then started boiling the water again to make some for his flatmate.
He took his meal to his armchair and scanned through the television channels, but even the rare (now that he shared a flat with Sherlock) pleasure of watching what he wanted without any snide commentary was not enough to stop his worry. Why would Hope say he was dying of an aneurism if he wasn't? Could Sherlock be wrong? Sherlock certainly wouldn't think so. John laughed to himself at the thought of even suggesting that Sherlock had deduced the cab driver's motivation incorrectly. But if Sherlock was as infallible as he seemed to think, then Hope must have believed he had an aneurism… and that was a bit suspicious—more than a bit suspicious. He would have to look into it further. And should probably bring it up to his flatmate, and live with the consequences…
…his flatmate who had just stormed into the flat…
"There is no rational argument against my taking that liver home! I might have made some progress on my research into the correlation between cirrhosis and acute alcohol poisoning, but now it's sure to be completely ruined. The dolt who booted me out of the morgue promised to take observations, but since he hasn't even noticed that his son regularly steals small sums of money from him, he is unlikely to be of any use!" He shoved his coat and scarf onto the hook with enough force to send the door flying shut. "I mean, why can't people be content to be idiots on their own time? Allow the genius in their midst to accomplish something!"
Not in a good mood, then. "I made you some pasta. It's in the pot on the stove. Should still be warm."
"And in the end, why all this care with dead bodies, anyway? They are completely useless except to science… or maybe fertilizer." John grimaced, but Sherlock didn't seem to notice. "Between my brother running the government and idiots running everything else, it's a wonder we're still alive."
"You're welcome," John muttered as Sherlock swept past with his bowl of food, and grabbed the remote. They watched the telly in silence (excluding Sherlock's huffs of annoyance every time he became bored with a channel) for about half an hour before John worked up the nerve to say something.
"I checked with Mike about Hope and he confirmed that there was no aneurism."
"They must have missed it."
"He also told me that he's friends with the bloke who did the autopsy and he couldn't have missed it."
"It's his friend. Of course he'd say he couldn't have missed it."
"Maybe there was no aneurism. He might have been misdiagnosed. He's dead now."
"People are not told that they might die any moment of a cerebral aneurism, unless the surgeon is sure. I don't like it."
"The aneurism was the reason he became a serial killer."
"He became a serial killer because he was a would-be genius with a over-inflated ego."
"Sherlock, this doesn't make sense. If you won't look into this, I'll take it to someone who might not find it too boring!"
"Who will you take it to? The Met? Do you really want Lestrade to examine the details of the shooting more closely?"
"So let it be."
John stared after the shapely figure of the woman who had nearly run him over when he opened the door to 221 Baker Street, and then started up the stairs to the flat where she must have left Sherlock a moment before.
"Lucky sod," he muttered.
He found Sherlock at the table with his laptop.
"Who was that?"
"Client. Theresa Brewer. Blackmail. Boring."
The man had all the luck, and none of the sense to take advantage of it… Ah well. John had other things to worry about.
"You have to look into this, Sherlock. I was able to get some of Hope's medical records through Mike, and there's something very fishy about it. Doctor Ralph Prinz, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, diagnosed him. He wouldn't have made that mistake."
"And once again, John Watson is misled by his charmingly naive altruism. People make mistakes, John."
"Yes. Everyone but you makes mistakes. I know that. But could you just turn off your computer for a moment and listen to me? Do you know how many doctors it takes to diagnose a brain aneurism? Three doctors, Sherlock! You need a neurologist, a neurosurgeon and a neuro-radiologist. All three of them would have to be mistaken—they would have had to see something that wasn't there. You know as well as I do that that isn't likely."
"Which takes us back to the coroner."
"No. I talked to him personally. He showed me photographs. There was no aneurism."
"Your harping on the matter is making my already painfully dull day even duller. Are you almost finished?"
"No, I'm not. Someone went to a lot of trouble, Sherlock! Do you have any idea how hard it would be to falsify these reports?"
"Malpractice happens all the time." Sherlock still hadn't taken his eyes off his laptop.
"By three respected specialists?"
"It is possible…"
"Oh, come on! What are the odds of that?"
John walked over and shut Sherlock's laptop nearly on his hands. "Sherlock!"
"All right, I'll take a look at it, if only to shut you up. What do you have?"
"I told you what I have. Hope did not have an aneurism. He was convinced by three well-respected doctors that he had an untreatable one. So he decided to become a serial killer. That's a very odd chain of events."
"Well, if you would allow me to open my computer again, I could start looking into his computer records."
"How will you do that?"
"I log the IP address of each person who visits my website. He said he'd been on it 'loads of times.' Shouldn't be too hard for me to track him back.'
"Can't you just talk to Lestrade?"
"I'm going to need more than your hunch to convince him. We may as well get some real work done before we invite tedious bureaucracy."
Several hours later John was looking over Sherlock's shoulder as he explained the data on Hope's internet usage.
"Here, you see? This is when his wife left him and got custody of the two kids."
"There's a lot of activity in early 2000 on these online games… Tetris, Javanoid, Mindsweeper… He calls himself a "proper genius" and he spends countless hours on this frivolity, just because his wife moved out! Idiot."
John chose to ignore the final sentence, and try and get Sherlock into a better mood. "I remember that Mindsweeper game. Only played it once or twice, though. Some of the guys were pretty addicted, but I thought it was boring."
"The only reason you thought it was boring is that you couldn't get past the first level."
"Or maybe there wasn't a lot of down-time in Kosovo."
On second thought, humoring Sherlock probably just made him worse…
"Anyway. I can deduce a lot about him from the internet records I have accessed. I've already shown you how I can see the trajectory of his life. But I'll need access to more. I could call in a favor from the Home Secretary. It would save time, but there is no urgency here. I suppose I'll have to call on Lestrade, instead."
"That wouldn't be that bad, would it?"
"Yes, it will, so you'd better be grateful."
John meandered back towards Lestrade's office. He had been watching Sherlock argue, wheedle, pout, threaten, and otherwise try to convince Lestrade to help them with the taxi driver investigation for about thirty minutes, when Sherlock sent him off to get a cup of coffee "or at least stop gaping." If he interpreted the sounds coming from the office correctly, Lestrade still hadn't budged. John decided not to enter that particular war zone, and dropped into a seat near the slightly opened door instead. He might not have psychosomatic pain in his right leg anymore, but his left was still sore from the months of limping on it.
He was just about to take another sip of his coffee, when he realized that Lestrade and Sherlock were discussing him, not Jefferson Hope.
"… making a point by bringing this doctor around, and all, but he's not that bright, is he? Don't look at me like that, Sherlock. I mean… maybe you're right. I shouldn't say that—injured war hero, ex-surgeon. That's not what I mean… But why do you keep bringing him here? He's not a detective, and I don't see that his obsession with the Hope case matters that much."
"You know, Lestrade, sometimes your stupidity amazes even me. But I should've expected it. You're too blind to see the simplest details on a corpse, so I couldn't really expect you to properly observe a living person… You should be able to see that John is an excellent medical man. And I suppose it never occurred to you that his having been a doctor in active duty makes him particularly qualified to deal with dead bodies? Hm?"
John heard Lestrade sigh.
"No, I didn't think so. Not to mention the fact that he has an intuitive grasp of detective work that none of you lot could hope to have in a million years. His contributions have been invaluable to me over the past two weeks, so if you want me to keep helping you, you are going to stop insulting my friend, and trust my judgment."
There was complete silence from the office for a few minutes, and John tried very hard not to breathe too loudly. He knew he wasn't supposed to have overheard that, and if Sherlock found out—and the chances that he wouldn't were slim—he would be in deep trouble.
He heard Lestrade let out a long slow hiss of breath before he said, "Okay. Here: You help me with this witness protection case I've got on, and then I'll see what I can do. Will you do that, Sherlock?"
"Fine. Give me the files. I have two hours before tea. I'll have it sorted by then."
"Since when do you have a set tea time?"
John snorted to himself at this. Since when, indeed! Sherlock hadn't eaten at a decent time even once in the three weeks since they'd moved into the flat at Baker Street.
"Since my doc—John!"
Sherlock stopped in the doorway for a second to stare. John was in trouble now, but there was nothing for it. "So, Lestrade is going to help you?"
"You know perfectly well that he is, as you just heard him say as much. Why must people be so obsessed with repeating obvious facts?"
"We can't all be as intelligent as you are."
"It's fortunate for you at least that you aren't. If your brain ever ran at the speed of mine you would have a headache, and go mad."
"That doesn't even make sense."
"Do be quiet, John. I have to look over these files, and I can't have more people than absolutely necessary blundering around in their own thoughts while I'm trying to think, so you should go home."
He couldn't think of anything to say to that. Maybe in a few months he'd be quicker on his feet. But for now he was tired and he did want to go home.
"I'm ordering Chinese. Can I get anything for you?"
"I never eat when I'm working. Don't be an idiot, John."
He'd order an extra king prawn fried rice just in case.