It had been a busy few weeks for Sherlock, one of the most complex cases he had encountered yet, and he was glad that it was all over. However, as he was leaving the hospital he could not help feeling a tinge of sadness for he thought he would not have another case as mentally stimulating as this one for a long time. He was wrong.
He stepped out into the heavy rain and rushed across the car park towards the main road. He hailed a passing taxi which then stopped a few metres away.
"Where to?" Asked the driver as Sherlock clambered into the back seat.
"221B Baker Street"
He could not stop a sense of uneasiness running through him as he remembered his first case with Dr John Watson, 'A Study in Pink' as he called it. His thoughts drifted back to the case which he had so cunningly just solved and remained there until the taxi pulled up outside 221B Baker Street. He paid the driver and dashed to the front door, fumbling in his pocket for his key on the way. It wasn't until he was about to push his key into the lock that he noticed a small chip of paint missing from the doorframe, as if it had been forced open. He glanced behind him and saw that the taxi had not yet departed and the driver was watching him intently. He smiled at the driver as if nothing were amiss and turned back to the door, inserting the key into the lock and turning it slowly to prevent it from making a loud click and alerting anyone inside to his presence. He opened the door and went into the hallway as quietly as he could, closing the door softly.
His heart was racing as he glanced around, looking for any evidence of the unexpected visitor that had broken into the flat. He immediately noticed a single set of muddy footprints leading up the stairs into his and John's flat. John. Until that moment it had completely slipped his mind that his flatmate had returned hours earlier and may now be in danger.
"John" he murmured, as he peered up the staircase, listening intently for any sound that might reveal the intruder's whereabouts and, more importantly, if John was alright. He could hear two voices, both male. One he recognised as John, the other he had not heard before. He could not quite make out what they were saying but took reassurance from the fact that John was talking as it meant that he was not unconscious... or worse.
He twisted round and peered through the peep-hole in the door, the taxi was still waiting, the driver watching the door intently. He turned back to the stairs and slowly, silently crept up them, listening to the two men all the while. John and the intruder had suddenly stopped talking and Sherlock heard a thump followed by an agonising groan. He was becoming increasingly concerned towards the health of his friend as he crept ever closer to the door at the top of the stairs, leading into the flat.
He was halfway up the stairs when he spotted something lying on the step in front of him. It was an empty chewing gum packet. He picked it up and slipped it into his pocket, unsure of what it meant or of its relevance to the matter in hand but certain that he would, at some point, need it.
He quickly dashed up the last few steps and stood, silently beside the door, looking for anything that might give him a hint towards the intruder's identity.
"Come in Mr Holmes," the intruder called out brightly "we have been waiting for you to arrive for some time now."
Sherlock didn't reply and remained silent and unmoving beside the door.
"Mr Holmes, if you value you friend's life I suggest you show yourself." this time the voice was much more menacing and Sherlock had no doubt that the intruder would indeed kill John if he so wished. Instead of entering the flat, he called out "John?"
"Run!" was the reply, this time in John's voice, "Run Sherlock, Run! Don't worry about me, just get out of here!"
There was another thump and again John let out a cry of pain. Sherlock needed no more persuading, he reached out his hand and pushed open the door. It creaked on its hinges as it swung open and revealed the horrific sight that greeted him. Sherlock felt all his breath rush out of him as he took in the sight before him.
John sat, almost motionless, tied to his chair next to the fireplace with a thick length of rope. He had been badly beaten, his face was almost unrecognisable under the cuts and bruises. His left leg was bent at a strange angle and Sherlock could tell instantly that it was broken. The pain that he felt for his friend and an intense self-loathing consumed him briefly as he realised that this would not have happened had he allowed John to remain with him at the hospital instead of sending him home to get some rest.
He recovered from this brief lapse of self-control and proceeded to examine the intruder who now stood before him with a menacing smile upon his face and a long metal crow-bar in his hand. The last thing Sherlock saw was the cold, black eyes staring back at him as the crowbar struck his head and everything faded into darkness...