This may be read either as a standalone story or as a companion to the ficlets "Enclosed" and "Imagined."
This was originally written for the "Evil Moriarty, give me chills" prompt at the Sherlockbbc_fic community.
Approximately eighteen hours after the most important men in Sherlock's life disappeared, the first text arrived. It contained a link from which Sherlock downloaded a single audio file.
Each of the three screamed. Unsurprising, really. To use Moriarty's turn of phrase, that's what people do. Such a natural physical response could only be repressed for so long, even by the strongest of wills.
With concentration enhanced by adrenaline and desperation and multiple nicotine patches, Sherlock strained to listen. He identified the sound of various implements used on or in the human body: the impact of whips and canes and various blunt objects, the hiss of a blowtorch, the throb of naked electricity.
He noted the click of fingernails against readied hypodermic syringes. He imagined the smooth glide of depressed plungers forcing unknown substances into vulnerable veins.
From the acoustics of the facilities, Sherlock could glean little. No additional background noises provided further insights into the men's location.
Cataloguing the data, setting the information aside, he focused on the voices – at first mere grunts and gasps and hisses, but later, much more.
The audio clips, he determined, had been recorded over many hours.
There were growls, rumbling, guttural protests first swallowed, then torn from the depths of a chest. After a time, the sound degenerated into hoarse moans. His detective inspector.
There were shouts, inarticulate and angry, first bitten off, then granted whole fury. Eventually they crumbled into little more than the whistling rush of air in a shredded throat. His flatmate. His blogger.
There were muted howls, imprisoned behind teeth and lips, then escaping as full-fledged cries. As time passed the wails gained urgency and volume, rising in a tragic crescendo. This seemed to continue for a very long time indeed.
Then there came a harsh gasp, and stuttering, troubled breaths, and at last eloquent, vacant silence.
Of course his brother had possessed the concealed means of taking his own life; after all, he was the nation's secret-keeper. How clever he had been to frustrate Moriarty's undoubtedly thorough searches.
But not quite clever enough, it seemed. The recording ended with the echoes of an emergency resuscitation conducted by an efficient staff, followed by the rhythmic beeps of monitors and thrum of a ventilator machine.
Sherlock could deduce what had occurred as easily as if he'd watched the events unfold from inside the very room. Yes, he had resented Mycroft, even hated him at times, and yet envisioning the familiar frame trapped in unwanted limbo, emptied of that magnificent mind, left Sherlock folded over in his chair, shaking.
Such weakness as this was a key reason why Sherlock had sought to avoid personal attachments.
He had failed, however. How badly became obvious to him as he replayed the file and listened again and again to the involuntary sounds of suffering.
Moriarty's instructions were clear. If Sherlock left the building for any reason, Mrs Hudson would vanish – and reappear one piece at a time, along with rather vital bits carved from the three captive men.
Sherlock was certain that every method of communication he possessed was now monitored. If he so much as attempted to conduct a simple internet search or text his recommendations to others or summon anyone to 221B to make plans, his actions would only assist Moriarty, mapping for the man the path of his pursuers.
He forwarded the audio file to Sally Donovan and the woman he knew as Anthea, but that was the full extent of his interactions with them. The search had to be theirs alone. Once they had listened to Moriarty's orders, he knew they would understand.
Just as Moriarty understood that helplessness for Sherlock was the cruelest torture of all.
Trapped as he was, Sherlock was dumb and blind. If only he were deaf, as well. But he wasn't.
Another text arrived, announcing a new recording.
CONTINUED IN PART 2