"Have you reached a verdict?"
"Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty."
October 29: John H Watson began his nine year sentence for the murder of his flatmate, Sherlock Holmes, today. Watson's action shocked close friends, including his and Holmes's landlady, Martha Hudson. "He seemed like such a nice young man, and they were lovely together." The jury found the evidence conclusive, and the ex-soldier was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Three Months Earlier
"It is unusual, sir. Our analysts determined that he had a violent temper when we first observed him, but he has demonstrated a remarkable tolerance for your brother's idiosyncrasies."
"I'm not interested in that at the moment. Show me the footage again."
Mycroft's PA restarted the recording. It came from a traffic camera pointed towards a street corner. There were two figures near the edge of the frame. The shorter one was jogging to keep up with the taller, and he gesticulated wildly as they moved into view.
The taller figure waved his hand in a sign of dismissal, and then, just as they were about to walk out of sight, the shorter grabbed him by the collar and spun him around—evidently much to his surprise. (Mycroft could not hide a quick grin.) The shorter man raised his arm as if to strike, but then the other made a conciliatory gesture, and he dropped it. They continued on without further incident, though Mycroft noted some remaining tension in John Watson's shoulders.
"Sherlock's dedication to exasperating behavior has left me feeling positively murderous on more than one occasion, and I have an abundance of self-control, both by nature and practice. It is not unbelievable that a subliminally frustrated man whose temper has been tried by my brother might express his anger in violence.
"Upgrade his status, and inform me of any changes. I will be making a visit soon."
"So, how are you and Sherlock getting on these days? Still as happy as ever?"
"You know of my interest in my brother's welfare. I had hoped that, as one who shared that interest, you would understand."
"You do not share it, then?"
"At the moment I want to rip out the bloody ba—"
"John, you know that relations between my brother and me are rather strained, but I do try to maintain a façade of brotherly affection."
"Well, I'm not his brother."
Mycroft looked hard at him. "No. No, you're not." Or you would not have spoken... but then he is an infuriating little boy..."I am afraid I must leave you now. I would rather not meet my brother when he arrives within the next twenty minutes. Good day, John."
John walked into the kitchen before Mycroft exited the flat.
Mycroft reread the most recent psychiatric report.
John had been stable in the beginning. He acted as a buffer between Sherlock and Mycroft. His optimistic view of humanity neutralized Sherlock's cynicism.
Now he was volatile... depressive... and violent. It did not bode well for those around him.
Once again, his brother had put his faith in the wrong chemical-one more complex than the cocaine, but correspondingly more deadly-and Mycroft had encouraged it.
Sherlock was experimenting with the chemistry of John's brain, and his inept handling was about to lead to an explosion.
Mycroft would not see his brother destroy himself a second time.
He would visit him tomorrow.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…
Mycroft stared at the photographs:
1. A large black coat that had been weighted with pebbles and then thrown into the river
2. A smashed cellphone
3. Bloodstains on the road
4. Blood spatter on a leather jacket
5. A mug shot of Dr. John H Watson
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow…
He'd planned to warn his brother of the potential danger that lurked in the only man he seemed to trust... even (in his unique way) to care for. But day by day had passed and one international crisis after another had demanded his attention, and now it was too late.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death…
He stared back at the mug shot.
...It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Mycroft considered John Watson's fate.
On the one hand, John had eventually confessed to killing Sherlock in a moment of alcohol-enhanced fury, and though the body had not been found, he admitted to dumping it into the river. He would be convicted of his crime.
On the other, it had been an "accident" following provocation from the victim (not that that was unthinkable…), and John seemed reasonably penitent for his deed. Because of that, the judge was likely to give him a relatively light sentence.
On balance, it was probably best to leave everything in the hands of the law until the sentencing was over.
When John had had time to consider what he'd done-and Mycroft would be sure that he did consider-then he would do it. It would only heighten the bitter sweetness of revenge to know that Watson's name had been lambasted in the papers before Mycroft erased it from history altogether.
"You have a visitor."
John followed the guard down the hall to the visiting area. His shoulders slumped when he saw the man waiting for him.
"Hello, John. Pleasure as always." Mycroft's unnerving smile had never been quite so unnerving. John just stared back at him.
"Well, then. I'm here on a friendly mission—just a bit of advice."
"Don't settle in."
John wondered what minuscule muscle twitch had given him away when Mycroft's smile grew even more dangerous.
"You're being transferred very soon."
John's stomach roiled.
"It says here that Kingston offers university courses. Odd that you won't be taking any-an intelligent man like yourself. But then, higher education does not teach an individual everything, does it, Doctor Watson?"
John's mouth was too dry to swallow.
"Think about that, Dr. John H Watson-or do they revoke murderers' diplomas? See you soon."
"You have to do something!"
"I told you about Mycroft. He's dangerous!"
"He isn't that dangerous."
"John, listen to me! Keep me informed. Everything is under control. Enjoy yourself!"
"Enjoy!—This is not—"
John slammed the phone down.
I know this is going to be hard to believe. I confessed to killing Sherlock. But it was part of a plan
You know Sherlock, so you have to believe me when I say, this is not my fault
Killing Sherlock was part of a plan we made, but it's gone wrong
Dear Inspector Lestrade,
I need to talk to you. Please come to
John threw the crumpled paper to the corner of his cell and fell back onto his bed with a frustrated sigh. Greg wouldn't be able to do anything. There was only one person who could help him now, and that person was being distinctly unhelpful.
Maybe he could compose what he wanted to say on a piece of paper, and then read it off when he got a chance at the phone.
He shivered a little as he sat down to think...
"You want me to do WHAT?"
"I need you to kill me." Sherlock was standing in the middle of the living room in 221B Baker Street. John was staring at him, wondering how Sherlock managed to look put upon after repeating such an outrageous statement.
"What sort of rubbish is that? You can't..."
"Oh, keep up, and prove that you're not a total imbecile! I don't actually want you to kill me. Just pretend that you've killed me—I have the evidence ready—and be charged with my murder."
John couldn't speak.
"It's for a case."
John found his tongue. "Sherlock, you've been rude, selfish, conceited, and impossible to live with for the past few weeks, and now you want me to stand trial for your murder? For a case? Even if you hadn't been a complete git, I wouldn't do something that idiotic—shut it!—and now you think I'll do you a favor…"
"Oh, that was part of the plan. I was trying to make you angry." John nearly threw his steaming cup of tea at Sherlock before he remembered who did the cleaning up.
"Yes. We're closely monitored by my brother. We're seen together by London detectives several times a week. If you had been your usual amiable self, not even Anderson would believe that you had accidentally killed me in a fit of anger. Now that they've seen how volatile your temper is, and how bad a mood you've been in, they will."
"Might even congratulate me," John muttered.
"Oh, they'll all remember how much they love me when I'm dead-even Mycroft, I've no doubt. I've seen it at so many crime scenes. No, that won't help you."
"Thanks. So I'm just meant to accept a jail sentence for you."
"It won't come to that. A trial, maybe, but we'll end the charade before the case is concluded."
John stared at Sherlock. "I still won't do it."
Sherlock smiled. "That's because I haven't told you yet why I want you to do it."
John knew that he really was an idiot. He never should have agreed to this wild scheme, but Sherlock was always persuasive, and the cause was good.
Besides, he was never meant to be declared guilty.
And now Mycroft was going to destroy John if he did not prove his innocence.
"If he kills me I swear I'll…"
"You'll be dead."
"…Well you'll carry the guilt of it to your dying day."
"I really don't think I would."
John let his hand drop to his side while he breathed in and out. When he brought the receiver back up to his ear, he was able to speak in a normal voice, instead of the furious hiss of a few moments earlier.
"I'm going to go to the authorities and see if I can be protected from a transfer."
"You can't. They have no power over Mycroft."
"Thanks. I'll try anyway."
"It's no use, but you'll be out of there before he tries anything."
"How can you possibly know that? You don't know when you're going to be done, and I don't know when Mycroft is planning to get rid of me."
"Don't worry, John."
John heard the call cut off. "Easy for you to say."
He knew where he was going-or rather, where he wasn't going. He was never going to Kingston. As the van came to a stop, and the door opened, he braced himself.
He was escorted by one of the prison guards-one of Mycroft's minions, anyway-around the back of a large mansion. It was sufficiently dark outside for whatever Mycroft had planned. For a moment he wondered if this was the Holmes's country house, and whether a young Sherlock had dissected corpses in the garden shed they were approaching, and where the bastard was at this moment.
"A pleasure as always, John."
John didn't flinch when the voice came from behind him.
"You have admirable self-control. Shame you couldn't have used it on August 17th at 2:38 AM"
"I-" John wasn't sure that he wanted to appeal to Mycroft, as at that moment he knew exactly why Sherlock called his brother his arch-enemy.
"I'm not terribly interested, John. But let's see how well it serves you for the next few hours. I will begin by explaining what happens now. It is only slightly worse that what might have happened to you if you had not been my brother's self-professed friend and colleague. Better than what might have happened to you if I weren't such a busy man.
"You see, John, in my line of work-especially the 'freelance work,' as my dear brother used to call it-one learns about human beings. In particular, their limits. Sherlock was not the only member of the family to work closely with psychopathic minds."
Mycroft stopped talking, but never stopped smiling. John didn't move.
"I tend to prefer the neat end, though. Blood was more Sherlock's area. I procured this from a CIA agent."
He held up a small pill.
"Fascinating how much power it has, and it weighs less than a gram. When you are finished, my guards will do everything necessary to insure that your remains are not found, and my agents will do everything necessary to insure that your name is never spoken again."
"So unoriginal, Mycroft? You might be more intelligent than I am, but you must admit that I could have found a more creative way to top him if he'd murdered you."
Mycroft couldn't speak for about five seconds, which John supposed was the longest he'd ever been out of complete control of his faculties throughout his adult life. But then he managed a sneer at the man who had appeared out of the shadows of the garden. "My dear brother, what would you have done?"
"Well... nothing, if I'm honest. I can't say that I would want to waste my creativity in your honor."
"Thank you, Sherlock. And now, if you're done being petty, perhaps you could explain to us how it is you are here to interrupt these dull proceedings when you have been assumed dead for the past four months."
John realized that his legs were shaking now that he was no longer in immediate danger, but at that moment a look from Mycroft had sent one of his men scurrying over with a chair. John sank into it.
"I've been prosecuting justice—more literally than is usual for me. John appreciates that, don't you, John?"
John didn't think that Sherlock deserved an answer.
"About six months ago I received an anonymous tip concerning some foul play in Her Majesty's court system. A well-known crown prosecutor—David Neville—was taking bribes to throw cases. He is responsible for the release of at least thirty criminals to date, including child molesters, murderers, and gang leaders. I was contacted when one of the child molesters who had been allowed to walk free struck again. He was on trial, and my source feared the same prosecutor would take the case, and wished me to expose him."
"And why did your anonymous informant not go to the authorities?"
"He wanted everything to be kept quiet until we had hard evidence of Neville's guilt. This was where John came in."
John still refused to speak.
"John was going to pose as my murderer. I was going to arrange things so that Neville represented the Crown against him. My hope was that Neville would approach John with a deal to throw the case, and we would have our hard evidence. Unfortunately he ran the case against John very well, and John was convicted. Of course, I shouldn't give Neville toomuch credit. I placed the evidence in such a way that I knew the police, and any court in the land, would find him guilty.
"My secondary plan, if the first did not work out properly…"
"Which you were never bothered to tell me."
Sherlock didn't look at John—John hoped that meant he was a bit remorseful.
"The secondary plan was that I would insinuate myself into Neville's confidence and learn what I needed to know. Which I did. And since I'm here with enough evidence to convict Neville, as well as with my spirit still in my body, John can come home with me."
"Or John could stay somewhere else. You assume that he would want to stay with you after…"
"Be quiet, Mycroft. Stop being so bitter. You had no idea that I was alive, therefore I have outwitted you. Take care of John's record. Come on, John."
John sighed, stood up, and followed Sherlock out the door.
John was stretched out on his armchair. He'd pulled Sherlock's closer so he could put his feet up on it. Sherlock was lying on the sofa across the room with his eyes closed. There was nothing on the telly.
"You figured out who the anonymous informant was?"
"Of course. It was child's play."
"And you won't tell me."
"Because he clearly wanted it kept a secret."
"And you care about what he wanted..."
Sherlock jumped up and grinned.
"Of course. But more importantly, you want to know. Badly. Tea?"
"Ah, Sherlock! I'm glad you've finally decided to answer my calls."
"What is it?"
"I am your brother. I want to speak with you! Remember that I spent four months fully believing that you had been murdered. I suffered... exquisitely."
"Get on with it."
"It is my privilege to inform you that Her Majesty will be knighting you at her next birthday celebration."
"She bloody well will not."
"She will. John Watson as well. I leave you to inform him of the honor. Goodbye."