This is a little shorter then normal, but this is for conveniences sake. A big chapter is coming mid-week next week.
Sherlock arrived back in Baker Street to find John sat at his laptop, looking engrossed. It was only as Sherlock closed the door behind him that John seemed to realise he was there.
"Oh, hi." He said, sitting up straighter.
"Hi. Anything interesting?" Sherlock asked.
"Hm?" John glanced at his laptop. "Oh, yeah. I asked Lestrade if it would be OK to send the pictures and CCTV footage over so you could take a look too. He sent it over about ten minutes ago, and I was just... thinking about it."
Sherlock didn't need to ask why John thought it was a good idea he looked at the photos, because he could see why. He could, after all, tell more about a person from a glance then the police would be able to.
He held out his hand for the laptop, and John handed it over without a word. Sherlock sat down and began to flick through. He didn't need an explanation of the events that had unfolded. He ran the sequence of photos through twice, in silence.
"They were waiting outside..." He was talking more to himself then to John, but John spoke anyway.
"Donovan said that they were stood outside for a while. That when you came out, they saw you but didn't try to follow."
"It was when you came out. But why...?" Sherlock's brow was furrowed. He glanced up at John. "Is there video?"
"Yeah, in the same folder as the photos."
Sherlock quickly found it, and played the video. It played like a silent film, with all the CCTV from the different cameras cut together. Despite himself, Sherlock felt a grudging respect for Donovan's speed with getting this done. Again, he played it through twice. His only show of emotion was the showing of the actual assault taking place. John saw his eyes narrow, his hand clench into a fist beside the laptop. He glanced away. He hadn't seen the footage himself, but could imagine it wasn't very pleasant.
"I see." He closed the video and the pictures. Then he closed the laptop, and handed it back over to John.
"So?" John asked.
"I rather think Lestrade needs to hear this as well, don't you?" Sherlock got his phone out of his pocket and called Lestrade. He didn't even pause to say hello before starting to talk.
"Do you have a pen and paper to hand? Because i'm about to give you a lot of crucial information about our CCTV friend, i'd suggest you write it all down so you don't forget. Yes, fine, i'll wait." He sighed, obviously waiting for Lestrade to grab a pen and paper.
"What-?" John began, but Sherlock held up a hand to forestall him.
"He looks in his middle 40's, but I would put him at early 50's with good genes. His demeanour, sense of clothing and the neatness of his hair and beard tell me he was military, but his age and his current area of employment tell me that ended a few years ago." A question from Lestrade caused a tone of impatience. "Only military men carry themselves in that manner, John's an example of that. Can I continue?"
John raised his eyebrows at the tone of voice Sherlock was using. Even by normal standards, he was being rude. Sherlock cast him an impatient look, before continuing to talk.
"I don't know enough to be able to say for certain what happened, but I do know one thing. This man was involved in what happened to John. For one thing, John has had nightmares involving him. For another, during the footage the man tells his partner 'let me deal with him; i'm the one he'll remember, i'm the one who did it'." At this, John gave him a half startled, half frightened look. Sherlock gave him another look, before Lestrade's next question had him thinking again.
"His partner is younger. Late 30's. The blonde man is obviously the leader, he was in the lead and seemed to give orders to the younger man. Also..." Sherlock paused, then said to John. "I'd suggest not listening to this, John." John, guessing the subject matter, turned away and did his best to shut out the next part. He noted, gratefully, that Sherlock lowered his voice. He's not completely unaware of people's reactions then... "During the assault, the blonde man took charge. The younger man kept John from running, but it was the other who actually... yes. Whatever his role in John's disappearance was, he knew seeing him would be the catalyst."
They carried on talking for another few minutes, Sherlock answering questions Lestrade was putting to him; John, however, had tuned out of the conversation. His mind was back in that street, when the men had cornered him. The blonde man had been ahead of the other, and the smile on his face had been... knowing, cunning. He'd known the effect he was about to have over John. Had been told about it. John closed his eyes. I behaved just like he thought I would...
"Alright. I..." A glance from John made Sherlock correct himself. "We will come tomorrow afternoon. Good night." He ended the call. There was a few seconds pause.
"John, I have to ask you... how did he-"
"I don't know." John's voice was quiet. He closed his eyes, tried to visualise. "He... that other man grabbed me, and then... he came close and said something. A sentence."
"Do you remember what it was?" Sherlock's voice was slightly sharper. John shook his head, his face still in his hands.
"It's like that's been wiped away." He raised his head in time to see the fleeting troubled look on Sherlock's face. "That's not right, I know."
"It's not. But there's a reason why."
"What do you...?" John started, but Sherlock quickly shook his head.
"There's no reason to think that way yet. For now, i'd suggest you rest. You look like death warmed up."
John gave a slight laugh.
"Charming as ever..."