Prologue: The First Case (Collab with The Troll)

Disclaimer: I do not own BBC Sherlock, nor any of the characters therein. Lyrics referenced in the course of this fic are property of Lady GaGa and are used merely as a framework.

London: May 16, 2004

There was a knock on the door, loud and persistent.

"What is it?"

Detective Inspector Lestrade sighed, rubbing his eyes in exhaustion. Whatever cause this person had to rouse him, it was sure to be urgent. He glanced over at Aster, smiling gently as she stirred in her sleep. He was grateful that his young wife was such a sound sleeper.

The knock again.

He groaned, climbing out of bed and pulling his shirt on, buttoning it as he opened the door.

The young officer looking at him seemed shaken. He searched his head for the lad's name. Walters? Yes. Walters. He was new to Homicide.

"Yes, what is it?" he repeated.

"Sir. There's been. . . There's been a murder."

Lestrade sighed once more. "Where?"

"West End. In the Globe Theatre. It's. .. it's terrible, sir."

"Yes, well, I suppose it is. Murders generally are."

He grabbed his coat, following the young man to his car.

They made the ride to the scene in relative silence. The young officer clearly was having trouble processing. Lestrade wondered if it was his first homicide. Probably was. Lestrade's reasons were slightly different.

He had seen this before.

When they arrived at the Globe, the first thing Lestrade noticed was the smell. It was not the usual reek of blood and fear that accompanied a violent death. No, something new. Oil, perhaps? He shook his head. Something wasn't right about this.

The scene itself was grizzly to a fault. The deceased was lying on centre stage, a fencing foil piercing his heart. Strangely enough, there was little blood on the body or the stage, as though he had been drained first. His body was naked, covered with intricate carvings of what appeared to be flowers which just barely marred the skin. The man's eyes were wide with terror. His left hand was resting on a human skull that seemed to grin sickeningly at the officers who patrolled the scene.

Lestrade turned to the young forensics officer.

"Anderson. What do you make of this?"

The young man stared solemnly at him. "Well, sir, we've identified the man as John Fox. He was starring in Hamlet. And, well, it would appear he still is. We think the cause of death was actually poisoning. There was residue of nightshade on the blade of the foil."

There was a faint snicker. Lestrade turned to look, but could see no one. It was probably his imagination.

"I think, sir, that whoever did this was jealous of Fox's success. This looks like the work of an understudy, perhaps? We're still looking for fingerprints."

That snicker again.

Lestrade looked up at the box seats. There, just near the top, crouched a man in black. And he was grinning.

He bounded up the steps after the man, shouting to the others to cover the exits. But it was too late. The man was gone.

Suddenly, his phone beeped. He pulled it out. A text. The number was withheld.

It wasn't jealousy. I will contact you again when you are ready to hear me out.. -SH

May 18, 2004

Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade rubbed his bloodshot eyes with the palm of his hand, sighing in frustration. 3 AM already, and what had he accomplished? Bloody nothing. No leads whatsoever. Not that there was a lack of evidence. Frankly, there was too much. The Globe was a high-traffic area: thousands of people must have passed through each day, and nearly all of them left behind fingerprints, saliva, hair. . . He had to face it. Forensics was going to get him nowhere.

He stared down at the folder he'd compiled on the homicide: John Fox, an accomplished Shakespearean actor, had been found by a rather traumatized young usheress before the evening performance of Hamlet in the historic Globe Theatre. In its second week, the production was slated to be a hit, with Fox in the title role. And with his death, it was sure to be remembered.

The murderer had flair, he'd give them that much. He stared at the crime scene photographs, the carved naked flesh, the lack of blood. . . Whoever had done this had a lot of time on their hands.

Lestrade sipped at his coffee, which had long since gone cold, and grimaced at the bitter taste. He was accustomed to cream in his coffee, but his last carton, like his optimism, had turned sour.

He hated this. Every minute that he let the killer run free through the streets of London, his city, more people were at risk. And every murder was his responsibility. It didn't matter how many criminals he pulled from the streets. More cropped up all the time like heads from a hydra. Keeping order in the city was a losing battle. He knew it. His men knew it. Worse, the citizens under his protection knew it. And there was nothing he could do about it.

"What the hell am I supposed to do now?" he muttered to himself.

Soft footfalls replied to his query as Aster stepped groggily into the kitchen, yawning. Her long dark hair was mussed by restless sleep, curling about the shoulders of her pale blue nightgown like a raven waterfall. She smiled worriedly at her husband, green eyes soft with sympathy and concern.

"You're still working? Greg, you need to sleep."

"I need to finish this. I have to understand. . . I have to catch this -" he was cut off by his own yawn.

She shook her head, kissing him affectionately on the top of his head, ruffling his silvering hair like that of a schoolboy.

"You will. I have faith in you, Greg. And so do the people of London. But if you run yourself ragged, you'll be of no use to anyone. You know that. Please, come back to bed. You can get back to work with a fresh eye tomorrow."

He smiled up at her, smiling warmly. She was right, of course. She always was. That was one of the many reasons why he had married her in the first place.

"I'll be right there."

He watched her stalk out of the room, sighing softly. She may be right. But he still couldn't shake the feeling that. . .

His phone beeped, startling him out of his reverie. It was a text message.

Ready yet? -SH