A light rain threw spiderwebs of shadow over the brickwork of the alleyway, bathing Anderson in an eerie glow as he crouched beside the body, taking its temperature and checking for partial rigor mortis.
"Cause of death not clear, but it definitely wasn't exsanguinations or blunt force trauma. He definitely has a majority of his blood, as you can see by the postmortem stain already occurring. Judging by the algor mortis, I'd say this man has been dead for about four hours," he announced, carefully bringing the corpse's hand back to the pavement.
"So they have four hours' head start on us – damn! They could be past Cardiff by now, and from there back to Ireland. I don't think we can catch them this time, but this poor sod," she gestured to the body, "is invaluable right now."
"I have a tentative theory about the vampires, but I need more data from wild-types: that is, those who fail to be converted to vampirism. Examining the saliva from the wound and the deceased's blood will help me figure out why this man died instead of turning into a vampire."
Anderson nodded. "Care to share your hypothesis?"
"What are we looking at, Lestrade?" A booming baritone interrupted Sally's explanation, and its owner followed with a swish of his wool coat. Sherlock Holmes brusquely swept past the supernatural consultant and the forensics officer, kneeling beside the body and snapping on a pair of gloves.
"Why are you here?" Sally demanded, her brows shooting into her mess of black curls as she surveyed Sherlock busily checking the corpse's fingers. John ambled up with an apologetic smile and stood behind his partner.
"I called them in. Never hurts to have a second opinion." Lestrade arrived, his hands jammed deep in his pockets against the intermittent gusts of wind, and surveyed the scene with a low whistle. "I'd hate to be him."
"A second opinion hurts when it's bound to be wrong."
"Sally, Sally, Sally. Taking the night off from Anderson's bedroom?"
"Don't even start, Sherlock," Sally hissed, her fingers clenching around the hem of her coat, but the consulting detective merely offered an indulgent smile, his eyes glinting in the dark.
"Why are you even here, Donovan? Surely nothing needs scrubbing, and Anderson isn't in need of your services at the moment."
"Goddamnit, Sherlock, just one more word and I'll-"
"Both of you, stop," John and Lestrade interjected simultaneously, and an awkward silence descended as the five professionals surveyed one another in the dim blue glow of the patrol car lights.
"Sally is here because she and I were on patrol tonight when we came across the victim." Anderson's voice was frosty, laced with hateful restraint, and he shot a venomous glare at both Sherlock and John. "And for the last time, Donovan and I are nothing but friends. Both of us are happily married, and she doesn't exactly have my type in mind."
Sherlock's head shot up from its position beside the corpse's throat. "You're married?" he asked incredulously, examining Sally intently.
The consultant pulled her wedding ring, suspended from a silver chain, from underneath her jacket, dangling it in front of the man's face. "Yes, you dimwit. Been married for years now, and I have a seven year-old son. I've never even dreamed of cheating on my partner. Is that enough domesticity to prove my innocence or should I have my spouse come testify for you?"
"You have a son?"
Sally huffed, exasperated, and pulled out her wallet to show a picture of her smiling son. "Before you ask, yes, he's adopted. 'S name's Arthur. He's a lovely kid, loves mythology, just like his mum." She barely contained a proud grin before setting her sights back on the corpse. "Now that we've proved I'm not a philanderer, can you kindly shove off my crime scene?"
"Sally, I invited him for a reason." Lestrade's gruff voice interjected before another verbal altercation ensued. "You can both work on the case – it's not as if there's not enough to go around."
John stepped back as Sherlock drew himself up to his full height, pompously adjusting his scarf and straightening his coat on his shoulders. "I know exactly occurred here."
"We're all waiting," Anderson snorted.
"I've encountered a case nearly identical to this one, a few years ago in Sussex. A man had remarried a Peruvian woman; he had a son from a prior relationship, and the new wife soon bore him another. Soon after the husband found his wife sucking the blood of their child and grew alarmed, thinking she had lost her mind and was out to kill their son.
"I hypothesized that it was the wife's attempt to save her son from some sort of malaise brought onto him by the jealous stepson, and I was proved correct. The wife had brought native weapons with her from her homeland, including a set of arrows whose tips were dipped in a potent poison. The stepson had been poisoning his infant brother with the toxin from the arrows in order to frame his stepmother as a murderer and thus gain full access to his father's love and attention.
"The similarities are obvious: so-called 'vampirism', no clear motive for the injury, and mysterious wounds. Clearly he was killed by some sort of toxin, and someone attempted to flush it out by sucking on the wound, which is still a common misconception about venomous bites. Perhaps he was in contact with poisonous animals – tarantula, maybe, they're popular among youth as pets – drunk, playing around with it, it bit him, and a friend attempted to suck out the poison before realizing he was dead and fleeing the scene, fearing retribution." Sherlock finished his monologue with a flourish, smiling triumphantly.
"Yes, but who the hell would try to suck out the poison from a tarantula bite without calling for an ambulance?" As Sherlock was speaking, Sally murmured a prayer in Latin over the corpse, pulling a Charon's obol from her purse and pressing it into the man's palm. She now stood, her hands crossed over her chest, and scowled.
"Good Samaritan, though misguided."
"Who just leaves a dead body in the alleyway?"
"Bad Samaritan, though with good intentions."
A brief silence settled over the crime scene before Anderson and Donovan glanced at each other and burst out laughing, Sally nearly stepping on the body as she doubled over. Sherlock shot John a befuddled look, and the doctor merely shrugged helplessly, glancing from his partner to Lestrade with palpable unease.
"I've heard you spout off some pretty bullshit ideas, but Sherlock Holmes, this has to be the worst of them," Sally wheezed, catching her breath as her cackles died down. "First off, the man here has no sign of intoxication; Sniffer Dog here," she pointed to Anderson, who smirked, "would have been able to smell the alcohol on his breath when we first arrived, as would have I. There was none. Of course we need to wait for the tox screen but I'm certain he won't show any sign of impairment from alcohol. Second off, the bite marks look nothing like any known tarantula – they're spaced much too far apart to be from a tarantula, much less one sold as a pet like you're suggesting. And most pet tarantulas are New World species, which wouldn't deliver a lethal bite to a human. Even on the off-chance that he happened to come across a wild tarantula that delivered a lethal dose of venom, the marks don't match. That by itself blows your entire hypothesis out of the water."
Sherlock reared his head back, affixing her with an icy stare as the three other men looked on. His pink lips were set in a thin line, his nostrils flared and eyes narrowed; a lesser human would quiver at the site, by Sally stared back, her dark eyes wide and unrelenting. They glared at one another for what seemed an eternity before Sherlock lowered his chin, raking his gaze across the victim once more.
"Then what do you suggest?" the consulting detective finally spat.
"Vampire. Real vampire."
John chuckled. "You have to be kidding me."
"Dr. Watson, I've been studying vampires for ten years. Believe it or not, I do more than send faxes for Lestrade; I just happen to have a … sluggish case intake. It's rare that my expertise is needed, but when it is, I know what I'm looking at. And this is, without a doubt, vampirism."
The consulting detective and doctor shared an amused glance. "I didn't realize you allowed crackpots on the police force, Lestrade," Sherlock purred.
All traces of their grins flew from their faces, and John and Sherlock stared at the DI, shocked.
"That's why we keep her around, other than for her excellent organizational skills. Off-chance that this sort of thing crops up, we need her knowledge. Sally knows what she's doing."
"Then why did you bother calling me on?" Sherlock huffed angrily. "Waste of a perfectly good night, I could have been working on my mucosal necrosis study at Bart's."
Lestrade shifted his weight from foot to foot. "I figured it'd be good to have my two best minds working together on this case. You have the chemical knowledge to do analysis for Sally's samples, and Sally has the knowledge of cryptology necessary to figure out what the hell is going on here."
"Anderson can run the chemical analyses for me just fine, or I can ask my colleagues at Oxford," Sally shot back defensively.
"Anderson has his own work to do on other cases, and Sherlock has proven excellent at this sort of thing – the Carl Power case, remember."
With a sigh, Sally conceded, glancing up to fix Sherlock with a steely stare. "Fine. But it's still my case, and my word goes – regardless of what the hell you think."
Sherlock shot her a sarcastic smile. "Oh, of course, Donovan. Maybe we'll find that the victim's last meal was unicorn flank, and he rode a griffon to work this morning."
Before she could reply, Sally's phone buzzed, and she pulled it out, scowling.
Arthur's fever has gone up – complaining of a headache and says his teeth hurt. –H
"Just a handful of miseries tonight," she grumbled.
We just got a case on, babe. Consulting Asshole's working on it with me – I won't be home til late. Can you keep A happy til then? Sorry to cop out. –S
Of course, that's what wives are for. Don't worry about it. I'll get home some lemon ice, he loves that. Try not to kill John or Sherlock. Love you –H
I'll keep their injuries non-lethal, promise. Love you too. –S
"You can imagine whatever the hell you want, as long as you help me solve this," Sally spat. "We'll see how funny you think it is then."
"Oh, by all means. Wouldn't miss this for the world."