Chapter eight

John blinked for a moment, but his vision failed to clear.

"It's very dark," he whispered.

He could almost hear Sherlock roll his eyes.

"Fortunately," Sherlock whispered back, "I have excellent night vision. Yours, I imagine, has been permanently damaged through too much mood lighting."

"Technically, that should make it better," John said.

"Shut up, and come on."

He grasped John firmly by the wrist, and slowly and calmly led him through the house. The layout was slightly different to the other side of Baker Street, and John found he was quickly disoriented. He bit back questions about whether Sherlock was sure that the expected gunman wasn't here, and whether he was sure that he would be here at some point.

"Stairs up," Sherlock murmured.

John followed him up the stairs, his free hand using the balustrade for guidance.

Sherlock led him quietly to a room at the front of the house, and let go of his wrist. There was some light now, largely from the streetlights outside, and John could clearly see that the room was in use, or had been recently. There wasn't much there, but there was a chair, and several boxes, one of which was being used to hold a small, portable radio. There was bedding in the corner.

Sherlock walked through and stood by the window where he had a clear view of the front of 221B. He remained in the shadows.

John went to stand by him and he looked at the back of fake Sherlock's head. He moved suddenly and John jumped despite himself. He held his breath for a moment.

"She'll be safely out now," Sherlock whispered. "We'd better move."

"Aren't we staying here?"

"There's nowhere to hide. The repairs upstairs aren't quite finished yet, so we can stay there safely. It is a shame, but it'll have to do. Let's move now. My doppelganger will have been seen by now, and the word will be out for Moran to come."

"Moran?"

"Later. Let's go upstairs."

They walked quickly and quietly up the stairs and into another room, directly above the one where Moran appeared to be based. This one was cluttered with workmen's tools. There was a trestle table in the middle of the room, with pots of paint on it. There were no nets or curtains, and Sherlock quickly went to the window and squatted down by it. John joined him.

They looked again at the mannequin. The Baker Street room was still only dimly lit, but the silhouette was quite clear.

"I watched your performance from up here," Sherlock whispered.

"How did it look?"

Sherlock thought for a moment. "Well practised,"

John grinned.

"You appeared to find the whole thing thoroughly entertaining, anyway. I'm mildly insulted."

John frowned at him.

"No you're not."

"No. I'm not."

John grinned again and they both turned to look at Baker Street again. He shifted position slightly so that his legs didn't go to sleep when he wanted to move. After a while, he shifted again.

After about forty-five minutes, Sherlock started gnawing at his finger nails.

An hour later and John was beginning to wonder if they'd made some sort of mistake.

Sherlock was alert though, and he suddenly sat up. John sat up too, but didn't question him. He just watched his face.

Sherlock pointed to the ground and John closed his eyes to listen. He finally caught the sound of someone walking up the stairs to the first floor. He heard their footsteps walk across the room below, and the sound of things being moved. Eventually a window opened.

John looked back to Baker Street and saw the mannequin move again. Just slightly, but a clear move.

"Mrs H…" he started to whisper, but Sherlock shot him a warning look, and he fell silent again.

John suddenly became aware that Sherlock was holding onto his wrist tightly, and he could quite work out how long he'd been doing so. He didn't mention it.

They stared out of the window again and waited.

When it came, it was sudden.

A muffled gunshot, a breaking of glass, and Sherlock, leaping up and darting from the room.

John was after him quickly, but his foot snagged on a sheet of crumpled plastic on the floor. It only took him seconds to untangle himself, but he cursed as he ran downstairs.

When he got to the first floor, he found Sherlock, pale and eyes bulging, with his hands to his neck and an unknown man standing close behind him. John couldn't see it, but it took him a fraction of a second to deduce the presence of the garrotte. His gun was in his hand instantly.

"Drop him," he commanded, but the wire was tightened.

"…live," Sherlock croaked.

John spun the gun in his hand and using the butt, he delivered a swift blow to the garrotter's temple.

It was effective and dropped immediately, landing on top of Sherlock.

Sherlock was horribly still.

"No, no, no, no, no…" John muttered as he shoved his gun back in his waistband and dug Sherlock out.

Sherlock thrashed and choked suddenly and sat up.

John assessed the bleeding quickly and could relieved to see it was just an abrasion.

"Oh thank God," he muttered, breathing hard, and he pulled a surprised Sherlock into a firm hug, his arms wrapped clumsily around his neck.

"Oh thank God," he said again. "No, no, no. Could you please just stop dying, Sherlock? I've only just got you back from the first time."

"I didn't die," Sherlock said, somewhat hoarsely. "I'm fine, John. I'm fine."

John didn't let go.

There was the sound of more footsteps and shouting coming from downstairs, and Lestrade arrived along with Mycroft and a number of uniformed police.

"We're not alone," Sherlock mumbled to John.

"So?"

"People will talk."

"So? You don't care what people think."

"Actually, my neck's hurting a bit now."

"Oh. OK then." John released him.

Lestrade helped the both up, frowning and wincing at the wound on Sherlock's neck.

"Moran," Mycroft said.

"Apparently," Sherlock replied. "Either a very small network, or he just wanted the pleasure of killing me himself."

"Well, we might not have been able to crack Moriarty, but I'm fairly comfortable with the task of cracking him. Well done, Sherlock. And thank you."

He held out a hand, and Sherlock shook it, curtly.

"Wait, you still think he's got something?" John asked.

"Absolutely," Mycroft replied. "This is Moriarty's number two. The line of succession has always been quite clear. Inspector Lestrade, after you."

"Right, good, you can take over now," Sherlock snapped. "I need to go and check on Mrs Hudson."

He left briskly, still wiping blood from his neck as he went. John followed him.

oOo

Later that evening, they were all back in the living room of 221B. Mrs Hudson had lit a fire, and John had patched up Sherlock's neck and then tacked the emergency board back into the window. Lestrade had joined them for a drink as soon as Moran's arrest was completed.

"There's one thing I don't understand," Lestrade said. He was sitting in John's armchair, warming himself by the fire.

Sherlock groaned. "What, Lestrade? What could you possibly not understand?"

"Claudie."

"What?"

"Claudie. The little girl that was snatched. The one that screamed when she saw your face. Why did she do that?"

"Oh that would have been easy," John replied. "All Moriarty had to do was to convince them that they were being moved for their own good. They had to watch out for the bogeyman though, and he looked just like this, and then show them a picture of everyone's favourite detective. He then gave them a mountain of chocolate to show that he really was on their side, and went off to hunt the evil man himself."

Sherlock nodded. "The whole point of the kidnap was to discredit me with the force," Sherlock said. "He needn't have done anything elaborate or complicated. He just needed to do enough to make me look like the bad guy, and then watch how that seed grew."

"Huh," Lestrade replied. "Well, I was wrong. And once again, thank you for accepting my apology."

Sherlock nodded. "How was it with Briggs after John's little escapade?"

"A touch frosty, I have to admit. Only with him though. Most of the force loathes him too. John's a bit of a hero at the moment."

"Yes," Sherlock said.

"What will you do with our friend over there," he asked, nodding at the mannequin, which was sitting on the sofa next to Mrs Hudson.

"Oh, I don't know," Sherlock said. "Stick it in the attic for now, I suppose. John could always use it for his own entertainment." He took a drink of his wine, and as he lowered his glass he was aware of several stares that were fixed on him. "What?" he asked.

"For John's entertainment?" Lestrade asked, with a smirk.

"Yes," Sherlock said. He frowned. "I annoy John; sometimes he wants to thump me for a while. Now he can do that. I just thought it might be therapeutic or something."

Lestrade sniggered and even Mrs Hudson was trying to hide a smile.

"You honestly don't know what you sound like, do you?" John said.

"No! What? Oh, wait. Is this one of those... Well, if you could all get your minds out of the gutter, please!"

John laughed. "Nope, I think Greg's gone for the evening."

"That reminds me," Lestrade said, through his laughter. "I must get the tape of John moving it from Mycroft. I'm gutted that I missed that in the flesh, as it were." He laughed again.

"I think John did very well," Mrs Hudson said. "Now if you'll all excuse me, I think I've had more than enough entertainment for one evening." She stood up and headed downstairs.

"Yeah, me too," Lestrade said. "I'm up early tomorrow to start questioning Moran. We've definitely got him for attempted murder, but I'll need to see what Mycroft wants done with him. Goodnight now. Thanks for the beer."

He left too.

John moved around to his own armchair and watched Sherlock stare at the fire for a while.

"So," he said. "What next?"

Sherlock startled and looked up at him. After a moment he shrugged.

"Well I was thinking of going to bed, actually. Tomorrow we'll see. I think it will take a while to rebuild my case load for a while, but until then, there's always Cluedo."