Well basically, Argentina had two dictatorships. One while Peron was in exile and another after he died.
The first was a military junta that was anti-communist, anti-education and anti-Semitic. It caused a lot of protests and riots by lay people as well as kidnappings and murders by opposition groups and government supporters/groups.
The second one was called the National Reorganization Process and they set up concentration camps to send any opponents to or just killed them.
They also set up the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, a death squad to take out their enemies and combat the Communist Peronists, the Montoneros, who kidnapped people and bombed the Nationalist Peronists.
The guy, José López Rega, who set up the AAA was a Freemason that was part of the secret group of Freemasons apparently ruled Italy from the 40's to the 70's, as well as other Latin American countries, called Propaganda Due or P2.
Rega was also an occultist. Occultism, Germanic Paganism, and the Hindu Caste System have also been adopted religiously by those who worship Hitler as a god and claim that the Aryan race was originally aliens from another planet, separate from humans.
On such woman was named Maximiani Portas a spy for the Nazis in India who wrote under the penname Savitri Devi Mukherji who believed that Hitler was an Avatar of Vishnu. Despite wanting to kill most or all humans on earth (since, they're aliens and not humans) she was a strong proponent of animal rights.
Fascists are very anti-communist and so the CIA asked for their help during the Cold War to kill communists, suspected communists and keep communist leaders like Fidel Castro, and the overthrown João Goulart of Brazil and Salvador Allende of Chile.
John Alexander McCone was CIA director during many of these coups and assassination attempts. He later went to work for ITT Corporation(—more on that corporation next chapter).
McCone was part of the Knights of Malta, some kind of European Catholic military order started in the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne.
(Remember the Paladins? They were knights of Charlemagne, too.)
Another Knight of Malta was Joseph Peter Grace Sr., son of the mayor of New York and head of a huge company in South America based in Peru called W. R. Grace and Company.
W. R. Grace and Company produces chemicals used to refine crude oil (more on oil next chapter).
It also does shipping and owned Pan American-Grace Airways until American Airlines bought it.
Joseph Peter Grace Jr. inherited the company and also worked for the Kennedy administration to improve US trading and communication with South America.
What do the Knights of Malta do?
They're a branch of the Catholic Church and they attend various meetings and organizations like the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Latin Union, and the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, as well as have diplomatic relations with various countries, including Argentina.
So the largest centralized church in the world and high up members of corporations attend world government meetings.
That's basically the background relevantesque to these few chapters.
You can't make this stuff up, guys. It's hilarious.
I never want to be a teacher ever but if I had to be I'd definitely want to teach a class about all this drama all over the world with conspiracies.
I hope you like this chapter!
The streets in Buenos Aires were wide (having been built after industrialization and the 'necessity' of cars) and over six lanes of the city's main avenue separated the highrise hotel building from the highrise apartment building across.
Luckily, Sebastian Moran had very good eyesight and was a very good shot.
He'd been set up on the roof of the apartment building since the darkness before dawn but just as the sun began to rise, that ex-cop Lestrade was up there with a yawn and a cup of coffee to 'spot' for him.
('Spot', in this particular situation meant 'supervise' (and 'supervise' was Anthea's polite way of implying Watson's directly stated "make sure we don't have a repeat of Afghanistan", 'Afghanistan' meaning shooting innocent civilians.)
Moran had very good eyesight and was a very good shot, and so did not need a 'spotter' (or a supervisor, either—he could control himself and knew how to follow orders) but there Lestrade was, standing behind where he crouched by the roof's ledge and casting a shadow that darkened Moran's view.
"So…you're already in position, I see…" Lestrade began, awkwardly (and cautious, too, trying to conceal his fear—and his disgust—of the military-trained killer), "…and you're just going to wait there until we see Moriarty…?"
"Yes." Moran affirmed, not turning around to look at him—not even moving.
His eye was hovering over the scope of the sniper-rifle and his finger was hovering over the trigger.
"That could take hours." Lestrade reminded, evenly (now concealing the surprise—and the taunt—in his voice).
"Yes." Moran repeated, still not turning around to look at him and still not even moving.
And so all was still.
For the rest of the sunrise, Lestrade sipped coffee from a styrofoam cup and surveyed the cityscape below him (the tall hotel, then restaurants to each side, and some more apartment buildings down the street) as Moran kept his gaze focused on the front of the hotel, currently only attended-to by a single doorman.
Further down the sidewalk, a blond tourist (wearing sunglasses despite it only being early morning and a jacket despite it being warm out) sat on a bench, 'reading' a newspaper printed in Spanish. In the other direction, a brunette businesswoman typed on her smartphone while waiting for a cab that would never come.
Minutes felt like hours (due to inactivity as well as anticipation) and once Lestrade had finished his morning beverage, he began to get bored.
He pulled the binoculars he'd been given out of the pocket of his gray-uniform pants and put them up to his eyes. First he looked down at Anthea and then he looked over at John who was tapping his foot impatiently.
Lestrade turned his attention back to the Victorian stories of the hotel, starting from the bottom and continuing level by level to the top. All of the rectangular windows had black bars across them and most of them had their curtains closed.
He was glancing at each of the un-curtained windows in turn (all of them unoccupied) when he saw the curtains of a formerly-curtained window fly apart.
"Ah, good morning Buenos Aires!" Jim declared as he forced apart the deep-purple curtains violently to force violent orange sunlight into hotel room to startle the still-jetlagged Molly awake.
She flew up into a seated position at the sound of his shout, eyes opening wide to be accosted by this sunlight.
The black bars on the window cast long black shadows into the hotel room, painting it like a prison, like it was the light trapped in the dark—except it was the light that wasbreaking into this dark room.
Squinting at the sudden bright light, it took Molly a few moments to (fully wake up and then) notice that Jim naked and so exposing himself to a city that was hopefully still asleep at this hour.
"Jim, what are you doing?" she asked, groggily as she rubbed her eyes then offering, "…Come back to bed…" selflessly to spare the poor citizens of Buenos Aires such a sight.
"…And good morning, Molly." Jim added, snide but suggestive, spinning around to face her but not closing the curtains.
"Good morning…" Molly muttered unenthusiastically in return, then glancing over at the clock on the bedside table with eyes adjusting and re-adjusting to the contrasting amounts of light, "…it's not even eight yet. Have we really got to get up now?"
It was 7:48 AM on July 16th 2012 and by that date, Molly's sleep-schedule had been so disturbed that it was not even a schedule anymore.
"Well, maybe not just yet..." Jim considered, strolling back towards the bed and Molly.
"…Nevermind," she conceded distractedly, first looking at Jim then past him at the uncurtained window from out of which she could see the windows of the building across the street—and that could also see her, "I can get up now."
Jim stalled and so did Molly.
She wanted get out of bed to get ready, but didn't want to get out of bed until the curtains were drawn and she couldn't get out of bed to draw the curtains for the same reason she didn't want to get out of bed to close them.
Molly knew that most likely nobody would be awake and up high enough to peer into this particular hotel room…
…but because so many other impossibly improbable things had occurred in her life in the past two years, she didn't want to take the chance.
Molly eyed the uncurtained but barred window and then at Jim expectantly.
He simply shrugged, seemingly oblivious.
"I'll be in the shower, then." Jim said, continuing past the bed and her towards the bathroom.
Molly watched him go and then sighed, falling back to lying down and trying to sleep—this time with a pillow over her face to block out the light.
The increasing traffic sounds outside and the constant shrill of the shower were white noises…but when Jim began to sing (badly) 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' (she recognized it from the cover on 'Glee'), Molly gave up and got up.
Using the blankets (tucked tightly under the bed and so difficult to pull off of it) as robes, she went from the bed over to the barred window.
Briefly, she gazed outside now risen sun. Due to its brightness, she could only see the silhouettes of construction workers on the taller building across the wide avenue and was glad that she'd trusted her habitual caution to cover herself.
Then she closed the curtains.
Discarding the blankets and starting towards the bathroom, Molly thought she might try to quiet Jim down…
Silently and slowly, Lestrade lowered the binoculars from his eyes, still open but now staring blankly into space as he tried to erase snapshots from the scrapbook of his mind the way Sherlock had said he could 'delete' unnecessary information from his 'hard-drive'.
It wasn't working.
Moran remained motionless, still staring through the scope at the quadrupledoors of the hotel across the street and down tens of stories and waiting patiently.
Every so often a car would drive down the avenue and the amount of cars on the road—as well as the amount of pedestrians on the sidewalk—was ever-increasing as it got later in the weekday morning.
It was going to be a crowded, busy, long day.
Floor and tabletop lamps all turned on, the little room was now well-lit despite the window curtains being closed.
Jim tossed through the bag with his packed clothing, rejected items shooting across the room and landing on the floor or on the furniture as 'decoration', trying to find something "halfway decent" (as he had put it) to wear.
Still in her towel, Molly examined the clothes in her bag before taking out the pieces she wanted and making sure everything else was properly folded in her bag before travelling around the little hotel room, picking up Jim's discarded clothing and folding that to.
By the time she had replaced Jim's re-folded clothes into his, Jim had finally chosen what to wear and was adding the 'finishing touches' to his outfit while admiring himself in the floor-length mirror across from the bed where the bags lay open.
In the reflection, Jim could see Molly standing there, staring at him with the usual dismay on her face.
He smirked at her.
Her widened eyes narrowed and her widened mouth moved to form words.
"What the…Jim, that is not funny." Molly exclaimed, "You can't go out wearing that!"
"Why not?" Jim laughed, turning around to face her and exaggeratedly shrugging his arms—one of which sported a makeshift armband with an infamous (and formerly religious) insignia overt the rolled-up sleeve, "If your Prince Harry can do it, why can't I?...The Durandos'll appreciate it."
"Well, I don't." Molly groaned, shaking her head. "Please…just take it off."
She wondered where Jim had gotten such an 'accessory' until deciding from the symbols shaky appearance that he'd drawn it himself on a napkin stolen from the restaurant they'd eaten in last night.
How long had Jim been planning this joke (which was meant for her, not Alois or the mysterious Durandos, since he must have realized she'd never let him leave the hotel room with the armband on)?
…and, because it was still only the morning, what else (worse) did he have planned for the rest of the day?
Jim obliged Molly's request, discarding the item of offense in the trashbin and then leaning against the dresser beside it to watch Molly as she dressed.
"This is a business trip, remember?" he reminded, scoffing at her attire, "Do try to look nice."
Molly sighed, exchanging her jeans for a teal skirt that it was warm enough to wear enough to wear (while much of the rest of the country was having winter) and matched well enough with her square-collared blouse.
Now that Jim and Molly had both approved eachother's outfits, it was time to head out.
Downstairs in the chapel-like hotel lobby, Jim stopped and caught Molly by the hand as they passed the front desk, pulling her from walking any further.
"We're going out for breakfast before our meeting with the 'Axis Powers'." Jim told her, "Go out and get us a cab while I get directions to a good place."
"Okay." Molly agreed, then continuing past the front desk and out one of the many front doors.
"Here we go…" Moran muttered, mostly to himself.
Upon hearing the quiet words, Lestrade quickly returned his binoculars to his eyes and stared down at the distant hotel entrance.
The lone doorman had been joined by fellow doormen in matching red uniforms, as well as the continuous herd of pedestrians passing them on the sidewalk and the continuous swarm of bee-colored taxis, picking up and returning passengers to their hive, the hotel.
Amongst this mass of moving people, Molly emerged from the third door, glancing around at the motion as if intimidated before finally approaching a doorman once he was finished helping other hotel guests into a taxi.
"Wait, it's just Molly!" Lestrade exclaimed, "Don't shoot!"
"I wasn't going to." Moran responded, again in a mutter.
Lestrade didn't reply, instead continuing to watch Molly (every so often glancing back at the doors to the hotel) converse with the doorman who then signaled to a cab that was pulling up to the curb. The doorman said something to Molly, who nodded and then went back into the hotel.
Molly found Jim still chatting with the now laughing concierge at the desk, in broken and silly-sounding Spanglish. She had to step around the short (but growing) line of slightly annoyed families waiting to talk to the uniformed woman, murmuring hurried apologies she didn't know if they could understand.
She waited, fidgeting, for a few moments before finally tapping Jim on shoulder. Without turning to look at her, he held up a finger to tell her to wait.
Molly glanced back at the people behind her apologetically, then looked back at Jim.
"Please, Jim, hurry up." she urged, frustrated, "The cab's waiting for us."
Jim thanked the concierge for the directions and complementary map of Buenos Aires that he'd been provided before turning away from the desk and starting towards Molly, opening and examining the smooth folded paper.
Once she saw that he was coming, she brisked ahead, back in the direction of the doors and the taxi waiting outside. Jim followed her, face hidden behind the map, at a very leisurely pace and so Molly again stopped to wait for him, halfway through the door she was holding open.
The doorman soon leaped over to do that task for her, causing Molly to step out his way and out the doorway, leaving it empty for Jim to pass through.
Through it, Jim could see the taxi stalling outside in front of another couple also waiting for a cab but unable to take that one because it was already assigned to him and Molly.
Luckily for that couple, a second cab pulled up next to the first and a second doorman jogged up to open its doors, releasing the current passengers so that new ones could enter.
As those passengers started towards the hotel, multiple doormen appeared to help carry their suitcases on metal trollies.
Meanwhile, the other couple, escorted by a third doorman, strode towards that cab past the one meant for Jim and Molly.
Jim walked through the door.
Through binoculars, Lestrade saw Molly again, now with a figure (he guessed was Moriarty) whose features were obscured by a huge square piece of paper (he guessed was a map).
The two maneuvered amongst the complex and chaotic dance of people in front of the hotel, all moving at different speeds and in different directions, some alone and some in groups of two, three or four.
The doorman was in front of them, leading them, towards the open door of a taxi.
And when Moriarty finally half-lowered and half-refolded the paper, when Molly pushed it down so she could see his face, he pulled her uncomfortably—to Lestrade, at least—close to (and also slightly in front of) him as they approached the vehicle.
Lestrade didn't care how good Moran's eyesight or aim was, there was no way anyone would be able to locate Jim and shoot him—and only him—without firing more than one bullet and without hitting any innocent bystanders (or Molly).
"Don't do it, Moran." Lestrade cautioned, binoculars still up to his eyes and eyes still trained on the hotel doors across the street, "You don't have a clear line of sight."
"I'll be the judge of that." Moran stated, eye still up to the rifle scope and scope still trained on the hotel doors across the street.
"Actually, I think Anthea made me the judge of that." Lestrade recalled.
"You don't have any experience with this." Moran countered, "Just let me do my job—"
"You can't take the shot!" Lestrade declared, finally turning to him, "There are too many people down there and Moriarty's moving around too much. I'm telling you, if you shoot you won't hit him."
"I won't hit him if you keep distracting me!" Moran barked, "Shut up and let me concentrate!"
The doorman had stopped to allow pedestrians and hotel guests to pass, but Moriarty was pushing through the family of four, the doormen and their trollies of luggage. Molly had also stopped and seemed to be addressing (apologizing to?) these people but Moriarty once again
"Moriarty must be on to us," Lestrade continued, looking back down at the hotel and then back over at Moran again, "He must've figured out we're up here somehow and so left at the busiest time."
"It doesn't matter." Moran insisted, calmly, "I can hit him."
"Look at him!" Lestrade shouted, "He's using Molly and those people as human shields! If you shoot now, you'll hit one of them!"
Moran opened his mouth to disagree but Lestrade moved towards him as if he was either going to pull him away from the gun or the gun away from him—both of which would be very difficult to do; the gun being secured on tripod and Moran being Moran.
"Don't come any closer." Moran warned, rising to preempt whatever Lestrade might've taken and giving him a threatening look.
Lestrade stopped moving but kept talking, "This is just what Moriarty wants. You shooting at him and hitting some random person instead—he'll escape in the confusion like he always does."
"He'll escape if I don't shoot him now." Moran returned, then slowly returning to his rifle, still watching Lestrade for any sudden movements.
He looked through the scope and Lestrade looked through his binoculars.
…just in time to see Moriarty and Molly get into the waiting taxi which drove away from the hotel curb to join the dense traffic flow of the avenue.
"Damn it." Moran growled through gritted teeth, shaking his head and then standing back up to add, "This is your fault, Lestrade."
Lestrade was still gazing through the binoculars—until Moran knocked them out of his hands in anger.
(Well, why the hell not? Neither his father, nor his military commanders, nor Porlock, nor James, nor Mycroft, nor Anthea were around to see. Some situations—and some people (usually Jim but this time Lestrade)—didn't deserve composure.)
"What's wrong with you!?" Lestrade shouted, reaching for his gun to defend himself but not actually raising it.
The binoculars clattered down to the concrete rooftop which John stared up at from the sidewalk as he got up from the bench, opening his arms in a confused and angry gesture that meant 'what the hell just happened here?!'.
Thinking the exact same thing, Anthea was already typing her texts to Moran and Lestrade.
Molly was confused when the taxi driver didn't take them to the restaurant that Jim had taken ten minutes to get directions to from the pretty hotel concierge in the red uniform and instead took his two passengers straight to the National Museum of Fine Arts.
"I wasn't hungry." was Jim's only explanation as they exited the vehicle in front of the same large building that they'd visited the afternoon before.
Molly was, but she didn't say so and just followed Jim up the steps until they stood under the pillars, larger than treetrunks, by the locked doors of the museum.
"It's not even open yet." Molly said, already sitting down (ankles crossed since she was in a skirt) on the stone steps, "Are we just going to wait here?"
"Patience, love." Jim chided, to which Molly rolled her eyes and hugged her growling stomach.
"…what if this doesn't work?" she inquired, "what if they don't want to talk to us, or they don't let us see the old man or he doesn't have the painting you need?"
"Then we'll have to call 'Tony' Ricoletti and his lovely wife." Jim suggested, "Get them to forge me another 'Lost Vermeer'
"But didn't you, um, shoot him?" Molly recalled, "He and four other men threatened me in the morgue. They were looking for you."
"Yeah…sorry 'bout that…." Jim apologized, nonchalantly, shoving his hands into his pockets and starting to pace.
"Why does almost everyone you work with end up wanting to kill you?" Molly asked, more rhetorically than anything because she already knew the answer.
(Because Jim was Jim.)
"Dunno, actually…" Jim answered, shrugging as he moved to stand on the other side of her, "but so far none of them have succeeded."
"So far…" Molly repeated, sighing morbidly and holding her chin in her hands, "…How can we be sure it's safe, anyway, seeing the Durandos? You said they have guns and both your friends said that they were angry at you yesterday."
"It'll be fine." Jim dismissed, stopping as he pulled his hand out of his pocket to wave away her concern and a gun along with it.
Molly quickly scooted away from him (and the gun, which had been waved in her direction) along the stone.
"Oh." She accepted, taking a breath, then adding, "So…when'd you get that?" as conversationally as she could.
She didn't remember a gun as one of the 'accessories' Jim had put on while they were getting dressed earlier that morning.
"You smuggled into the country for me." Jim chuckled, returning the weapon to his pocket, "Thanks for that, by the way."
So the gun was in her bag the whole time? Then maybe Jim's Nazi armband joke had really just been a distraction from that so he could leave the hotel room with it.
"You're welcome…" Molly grumbled, folding her arms as Jim continued to laugh at her, then asking, "…where is your fr—the tour guide from yesterday, Eloise?" (She rephrased as she doubted, from their previous behavior, that Jim and Alois were still 'friends'.)
"Alois." Jim corrected, "Although, not anymore."
"Well, he said to meet him here today but he didn't say when." Molly recounted, "And he didn't say what would happen with the Durandos when we got here. How do we know he even talked to them?"
"You saw how scared of me he was." Jim recounted, with a snort, "Of course he did what I asked him to. And if he didn't, I'll make him the moment he shows up for work. He can be our guide at gunpoint and take us through the jungle to locate his elusive and mysterious parents."
And seeing Molly's frown Jim added, "…Oh don't look at me like that. Sometimes means to an end are, well, mean. Besides, it's not like I hurt him. You're scared of me, too, Molly. Is it really allthatbad?"
"Sometimes." Molly admitted, almost snarkily.
Jim rolled his eyes amusedly then went back to wandering the area around the museum entrance.
At 8:32 a black remis (remises being the equivalent of the towncars (although not an actual brand) for hire (or expropriated for government use) driving around London) pulled up in front of them and the teenager in the backseat got out, holding open the door.
He was more formally dressed than Jim (in khakis and shirt not tucked-in) was today, but his black clothing resembled a military uniform (without any sort of emblem, though) more than a suit and clashed strikingly with his red mohawk.
"Jim Moriarty." He said, pronouncing the 'J' as an 'H', "Come with me."
Jim and Molly exchanged a glance (amused on Jim's part and bemused on Molly's) and then looked back at the strange-looking teenager.
Jim started down the stone steps towards the vehicle, Molly stood up and started to follow him.
"No." the teenager restricted, raising a hand to Molly and then pointing to Jim, "Only him."
"Why?" Molly demanded.
"Los Durandos only want Jim Moriarty." The teenager stated, "No extran—um…strange?"
A laugh burst out of Jim at the incorrect English vocabulary causing both Molly and the teenager to turn to him in question.
"He means 'strangers'." Jim explained to Molly, "The Durandos don't like strangers…but I'm sure they wouldn't mind some strange every once in a while, though, who doesn't?"
"Come now." The teenager instructed, gesturing to the open door of the black car.
Through that door and from the angle she stood, Molly was able to see two other young men (about the same age of the teenager) in the front seat wearing matching unofficial uniforms and sporting matching bald heads—one of which was tattooed down to the neck continuing beneath clothing, as well.
She was too far away from the other teenagers and it was too dark in the vehicle to tell what the tattoos were of but even Molly was able to 'deduce' that all three of these boys were probably skinheads or Neo-Nazis.
"Do you even know who these people are?" Molly asked Jim, nervously glancing back and forth at Jim and the teenager, "Don't go with them."
"I told you, it'll be fine." Jim consoled, unworried but excited as ever, casually placing a hand inside a particular pants pockets.
But Molly was not consoled.
"Jim, I really don't think you should be—" she cautioned but was silenced with an abrupt kiss Jim had leaped over to her to give.
When Jim's lips released hers, he turned and trotted down towards the teenager.
Molly stood there and watched from the top of the steps as her boyfriend got into the back of the black car with the shady looking teenagers. When they were gone, she noticed the complementary map blowing in the traffic-generated wind along the pavement.
She trotted down the stairs and then bent to pick it up before it waltzed into the road.
After arguing the entire car ride over (John blamed Moran for not shooting Jim, Moran blamed Lestrade, Lestrade blamed Moriarty for knowing they were there)…
…Anthea (driving so the men wouldn't argue over who was going to drive), Moran (next to her because he was angry at Lestrade and John was angry at him), John and Lestrade (in the back seats)…
…arrived across the street from the art museum only to witness Jim Moriarty riding away in a limo, leaving Molly behind.
Anthea had used her smartphone to trace Molly's mobilephone to this location, and now that Molly and Jim had separated the reluctant allies no way to track Jim without physically following him.
"Moriarty definitely knows we're after him." Lestrade asserted, watching the black vehicle merge from the curbside into the heavy traffic.
"It doesn't matter." John declared, "We've got to follow him."
"We will." Anthea agreed, already turning the steering-wheel back towards the street in the direction Jim had been taken.
"Not you." Moran decided, looking back at Lestrade, "You messed me up the first time. If you care so much about the Hooper woman, you can stay here and follow her."
Opening his mouth in offense, Lestrade looked over to Anthea and John for support, but the two's expressions offered allegiance to Moran instead, and so he scoffed in grudging concession.
"Fine, then. I think I will. "
Lestrade unbuckled his seatbelt, opened the door beside him and got out of the rental car that he then watched drive away.
Once it was gone, he shoved his hands into his bulky jacket pockets and then crossed the many-laned street, walking straight towards Molly.
The roads got smaller and smaller until they were made only out of dirt that soon became mud, while the dense concentration of buildings and people were replaced by dense forest and isolation.
In the distance there was the redbrown estuary that bled out into the Uruguay and Parana rivers and branched inland into the smaller ones that ran across the landscape like veins.
Closer was the fenced compound (almost invisible through all the trees) risen up out of the grassy marsh by long wooden poles, white-painted strong and finished logs made up the structures (most of them average-sized cabins, then some smaller for storage, and finally one large house in the center) that rested ontop of a boardwalk.
The black car stopped while the ground was still solid, letting Jim and his teenaged escort out.
In front of him, Jim could see the gun half-inside the belted waistband of the teenager's black pants, bouncing up and down as they moved.
(Tsk, tsk stupid boy—the gun was visible and accessible to the stranger he let walk behind him.)
Jim shook his head, lamenting the state of the criminal youth.
The teenager escorted Jim across the grassland which, after a while, started to sink beneath their feet as they approached the small lake of runoff from the connected river.
Along that river was the wooden skeleton of a watermill, either long decommission or never completed and put to use in the first place. It revolved slowly in the all-but still water, moaning in the otherwise silent forest.
Later, when they reached the water's edge, he asked, "Are there sharks in the moat?" and then, "There a drawbridge to the castle or something?" (both of which received no response).
Jim forgave the boy for his the lack of laughter, attributing it to a language-barrier, and followed him onto the boardwalk bridge that led to the rest of the compound.
They stopped in front of the gate where a fourth teenager in black uniform stood guard, gun in hand, by the pointy-log fence.
He conversed with his mohawked friend quickly in Spanish before opening the gate and allowing him and Jim to enter.
The boards were old, some starting to rot and some already having been rotting for a long time.
They creaked under Jim's footsteps but the teenager seemed to know which sections of wood to avoid and so Jim soon mimicked his path exactly (but not before having a bit more fun with the creaking boards) on their way to the largest cabin.
The cabins were as old as the boards, decaying as their once prestige and bright white paint browned and chipped with age.
The teenager knocked on the door which was immediately opened by a late middle-aged couple with silvering blond hair dressed simply and traditionally in old (or handmade) clothing.
They stepped out, forcing Jim and the teenager to step backwards, and closed the dark wooden doubledoors behind them.
"Gracias, Francisco." The woman addressed the teenager, who nodded and walked back down the boardwalk to continue his conversation with his friend at the front gates.
Jim was left eyeing the man and woman wryly, noting the features in both of them that had cooperated to create their son Alois (or whatever he'd changed his name to now), the disobedient and dissenting purebred.
(Of course, Alois still wasn't 'perfect'—he hadn't grown as tall as either of his parents, due to poor early childhood nutrition.)
"Mr. Moriarty," the man began, carefully, "We know why you are here and I'll tell you now that the so called 'old man' that you're looking for is dead and has been for many years. You've come here for nothing."
Both the woman and man had ambiguous accents but spoke fluent English, like Alois.
"And you sent a car to pick me up and bring me here to your secret hideout in the swamp...to tell me that?" Jim tested, raising an eyebrow, "You must be very lonely and very bored. Perhaps you do need some strange…"
"You're the fourth person who's come here to confront us, you people won't leave us alone and just let this issue die."The man declared, sharply, "Tell me who told you the 'old man' was alive. Was it that stupid American, Amberley? Or the Czech woman he spread his ridiculous conspiracies to? Whatever they told you was a lie.
"Ben!" The woman hissed at her husband, in an attempt to calm him.
"They didn't tell me anything." he said, "But thank you for telling me that they 'know too much'—care to share about what?"
The man opened his mouth to retort, however his wife spoke first.
"We'll tell you whatever you want to know—give you whatever you want," she promised, urgently, "…if you tell us where our son is!"
Jim blinked in surprised but then continued his laughter.
"You mean you don't know?" he questioned.
"How can we?" the woman returned, "He could be anywhere in the world with that art group."
"But obviously you got in contact with him so you know where he is." The man added.
"Wait, so you thought—" Jim paused to snicker, "You've got friends in the government and the Hitler Youth running around and none of you figured out that your prodigal son never even left the city?"
"Alois is in Buenos Aires?!" the woman exclaimed, "Where?!"
"I tell you what you want to know—when you give me what I want." Jim conditioned, paraphrasing her earlier promise, "The old man dead but art doesn't die and I want the art he was copying from. I don't care if they're buried with him, you're digging them up them for me."
"We don't have the originals, we never did." The man informed, "Some of them were sold, some of them were given to various aristocrats or government and military leaders, some of them were donated to museums—"
"Who was the one distributing them, then?" Jim asked, "Who was the one in possession of them in the first place?"
"Many people." The woman answered, unspecifically, "Our grandparents, parents and others like them traded the paintings and other artifacts for safe passage into this country. The 'old man', the painter, was one of them. At first he only copied the paintings to replace the ones they had to give up, so we could preserve our culture and retain ownership of it."
Jim had to smirk at that unintentionally-ironic explanation.
Much of Nazi had been stolen, so it wasn't their culture to begin with, and trading it in order to leave their homeland wasn't retaining ownership of it, either.
Still, it was the perfect metaphor: old European art forged in South America, just like defeated Nazi society copied in Argentina.
And Jim had never understood having pride in one's culture, rather than one's own accomplishments—except, of course, for the fact that he liked to remind the world he was Irish on a daily basis.
(Jim had never understood why hypocrisy should apply to him, instead of just everyone else.)
"We only started selling the paintings after he died," the woman concluded "out of respect to him—and our own parents. He died in the 1980's when Alois was a little boy, so anyone who told you he was alive—or that others of his generation are here—is a liar."
"And we only ever sold the forgeries because we needed the money." The man followed-up, "The farms failed and the government that had been supporting us lost power. Life is hard here and very expensive. So many of our people finally left—including our son. My wife and I are the only ones who still live here now, and we live the life of a monk."
"And that's a disgrace." The woman spat, "Despite having so many enemies, our ancestors built this community with their own sweat as a testament to the purity and endurance of our great people," she gestured around at the surrounding compound and its surrounding swamp, all mud and decay, "And now their children have abandoned it! All except us."
Her husband scoffed, caustic and in disgust.
"Don't try to show off for this outsider." He countered, speaking first to his wife (who folded her arms in protest) and then turning to explain to Jim, "'Our great people' were kept here as a living diorama—an experiment of a model Aryan community that failed. They owned us, owned the old man. They wanted to maintain an ideal history but that past was already gone and it was never perfect."
"And 'they' are?" Jim ventured.
"That we cannot tell you." The man stated, matter-of-factly and almost smiling, "They may be dead but they have friends still living."
"Ooh, so a secret society, then?" Jim intrigued, in exaggerated shock, "But which one..? I'm assuming not the Zionists."
The man snorted.
"That sounds like more of Amberley's imaginative suspicions." He said, "Don't tell me you're as much of a fool as he is. It's because of Amberley that we had to give the forgery to that Czech woman. She came here three years ago to seek revenge for something we're not even responsible for."
"Her giant monstrosity attacked the guard we had at the time—and my son." The woman added, "We've had to increase security ever since. You were right to punish her for forcing herself into our operation but you should have exposed him as well. He was the one who told her about this place and told her that we were the descendants of Nazi leaders, that some of those leaders were still alive here—that was not true."
"You know, I really don't care about something as trivial as 'truth'." Jim snorted, "But what I do care about is the painting and all these stories aren't helping me get that. No more excuses, Senores Durandos. You send your prematurely-bald boys to wherever real Lost Vermeer's stashed and have them fetch it for me, now, or else I'll send the Israelis a travel brochure for a scenic swamp resort in Argentina."
"'Lost Vermeer'?" the woman repeated in surprise, "You want that?"
"Yes, what else would I want?" Jim stated the obvious, impatiently, "Didn't Alois tell you that when he called you?"
"Alois never called us." The woman said, "He couldn't have. There are no lines out this far."
"Um, mobiles…" Jim condescended, brandishing his cellphone from his pocket for the confused Durandos to see.
They stared at the strange black device, blankly. The top provided a dark reflection, perhaps it was some kind of mirror…
Jim sighed, rolling his eyes and returning the phone to his other pocket.
"We were told by our guards that a former guard had been contacted by Alois." The woman continued, "That's how the message was delivered."
"How efficient." Jim deadpanned, "...Now why were you surprised about the Lost Vermeer?"
"Follow us and see." The man replied, cordially.
Molly continued to stand in front of the art museum, on the top step, waiting for Alois to arrive for work so she could ask him what was going on.
And if Alois never arrived, or if Jim never returned, within the hour then Molly would have to (despite the awkwardness and embarrassment) call Sherlock and ask him for help.
But before any of those things occurred, Molly's eyes widened in shock when she saw someone who was supposed to be a hemisphere away stomping across the busy street (cars honking and swerving around him) towards her.
What the heck was he doing here?!
...there, of course, was only one answer to that question.
Molly gulped, considered making a run for it while Lestrade was still in the road, but then walked down the steps to meet him on the sidewalk when he reached it.
"Molly." He greeted, evenly.
"Greg." She returned, matching his tone.
They eyed each other during a short (and definitely awkward) silence, unsure of what to say next. At the same moment, they both opened their mouths to talk but Molly shut hers first, politely allowing Lestrade to speak.
He sighed instead, before then beginning.
"No more lies, Molly. I know you're here with Moriarty and I know your…with him. I'm not going to judge you for that and I doubt I convince you to leave him. I just…I just want to know why. Why would you throw your life away for that—I just want an explanation. Can you give me that at least?"
Now Molly sighed, shaking her head ashamedly.
"…I know you won't believe me and it's not an excuse but I was—I am—trying to stop him. And it's working too, a bit, I got him to stop killing and he did…as far as I know…"
Lestrade raised an eyebrow.
"'As far as you know'? Really, do you honestly think he would ever—could ever stop? That you'd be able to stop him?"
His words were skeptical but watered-down, as if Molly wouldn't be able to handle their true implications and meanings if spoken directly—and as if she wouldn't be able to understand them if not spoken directly.
But she was, and she did.
Molly was so weak, so unimportant, so stupid…what could she possibly do to influence the evil criminal mastermind Moriarty? She was just such a naïve little girl that she'd been taken in by his spell and actually believed she was as powerful to him as he was to her, to the whole world.
…and for the first time, Molly didn't care.
She really, truly, totally just didn't care.
If it was the truth, and Molly was unable to stop Jim, then she would die trying to change it.
(After all, if she was already in danger of getting killed by Jim and everything between them was a lie, then trying to stop him wouldn't make things any worse.)
And if it wasn't the truth…well, then, Molly was right and it didn't matter what anyone else said.
Either way, she was just going to keep doing what she was doing.
"Yes." Molly said, with renewed resolve, "I do."
And while Lestrade contemplated how to respond to that, Molly continued.
"So now that we've, um, settled that, I'll tell you what I know. I know that you wouldn't have come all the way here alone, that you were working with John back in London, since he started working at that hospital to spy on me, so he's probably here with you, and the uniform you're wearing is from that security firm so they're probably the ones who told you everything and brought you here. How many more of them are here and why are they chasing Jim?"
Molly's 'deduction' was only partially correct, but Lestrade decided against correcting her as telling her that there were actually only four people pursuing Moriarty instead of an entire private military company would only strengthen her already surprisingly high level of confidence.
"If you surrender now I can guarantee your safety—and your freedom." Lestrade offered, "We're going to catch Moriarty this time and when we do I don't want you to get caught in the middle. You have to stop helping him or I won't be able to protect you and you might get hurt."
His voice sounded concerned and cautionary, but his words were as much a threat as they were 'friendly advice'.
It reminded Molly of the way Mycroft and Anthea spoke to everyone—and the way Sherlock had spoken to her the night he'd come to her flat instead of Jim.
Everyone was so much more alike than they realized…
"Jim isn't here to hurt anyone or cause any trouble." Molly stated, "You're coming after him for no reason!"
Lestrade snorted at her statement, but then returned to seriousness.
"Even if that was true, Moriarty still has to answer for what he's done." He countered, "He's harmed so many and he will never stop until he's in prison—or in the ground."
"But you don't understand!" Molly insisted, "The only reason Jim is even here is because—"
She paused when she remembered that Lestrade and John (presumably) didn't know that Sherlock was actually alive and so explaining that Sherlock was the one who'd hired Jim to go to Argentina would reveal that information.
Sherlock had wanted to protect them by keep his survival a secret but Molly knew that both Lestrade and John were very capable of protecting themselves, especially if they'd traveled to a foreign country to track down a dangerous criminal—who might just die if Molly didn't explain that he was working on behalf of Sherlock now.
"Because why?" Lestrade demanded, expectantly.
"Because Sherlock asked him to." Molly told him.
"I'm not stupid, Molly, that Richard Brook bullshit isn't going to fool me." Lestrade dismissed, "And if you actually believe that—"
"No, I don't, that's not what I meant!" Molly countered, "I'm trying to tell you that Sherlock's alive. He faked his death and now he and Jim are working together—"
"Hold on, what?!"
"Sherlock faked his death. He's the one who hired Jim—"
"No. No way. I don't believe you."
"I wouldn't lie about this, Greg!"
"I don't think there's anything you wouldn't lie about to save that insane killer who brainwashed you. You've been lying to me, and John for months! Sherlock too and he died in part because of it."
"I'm telling the truth, I swear! And Jim didn't brainwash me! I know that the things he's done are wrong—"
"Then why are you f—sleeping with him?! And don't tell me it's because you think you can 'change' him."
"I don't, I just…Why are we arguing about this now? Where's John and whoever else you came here with?"
"They went after your 'boyfriend'. Hopefully they've caught him by now…"
Lestrade trailed off when he suddenly remembered John's plan to kill Moriarty on sight which would mostly likely get him killed by Anthea and Moran who wanted to capture him alive.
The failed shooting, its following argument and then Molly had all temporarily distracted him from that possibility—which could have been occurring at that very moment!
"Do you know where Moriarty went?" Lestrade asked, "Why didn't you go with him?"
He wondered if leaving Molly behind was supposed have been a diversion for the entire team.
"He went to get the real Lost Vermeer from an old man because Sherlock asked him to." Molly answered.
"Where?" Lestrade insisted.
"…I don't know." Molly admitted, "The people just sent a car for him and only him—they didn't want strangers coming to their house. All I know is that it's somewhere by the River Plate."
"We have to find it." Lestrade decided, "Now."
"…why?" Molly inquired, nervously, because she knew that if Lestrade suddenly wanted to work with her right after being so angry at and disgusted with her then he must have had a very good reason—and that very good reason was probably not very good.
'Not very good' in this situation (and in most) meant Jim Moriarty.
"Because Moran and that woman from the government want to bring Moriarty in alive…" Lestrade explained, in a regretful sigh, "…but John doesn't."
So Anthea and Moran were in Buenos Aires too?!
Molly wasn't surprised that they'd followed Jim and her, but the fact that they were working with Lestrade and John as well as the same private military firm that had fired Moran and stormed Mycroft's secret prison only three weeks before.
If the government suddenly wanted to work with that company right after being robbed and becoming enemies with it then it must have had a very good reason—and that very good reason was probably not very good.
And again, that reason was Jim Moriarty.
"That's…not good." was all Molly could comment in response, sensing and then absorbing the deadly implications of the statement.
(And then imagining the impending shootout that left everyone involved dead.)
Lestrade nodded, solemnly, in agreement.
"So you understand why we need to find out where they are and get there." He reiterated.
"If we work together, maybe we can save them both." Molly agreed.
And then they saw Alois, dressed in his light blue uniform and on his way to work, walking down the sidewalk towards the museum.
The Durandos led Jim back down the boardwalk, to one of the sheds with peeling paint.
Inside, under the faint light of a single flickering bulb, they showed Jim the rows of unframed canvases leaning against eachother like fallen dominos.
The ones in the back were blank, but the ones in the front all looked very familiar.
(Or, exactly like to the forged 'Lost Vermeer' back in London. )
Jim squatted to flip through the first three before standing back up and saying, "I didn't realize you Durandos had been mass producing. Welcome to the modern age."
"When the Czech woman came, she demanded reparations for the damage done to her people during what you call the Second World War." The man recounted, "My son told her we didn't have any money but I told her she could a have a forgery to sell so she would leave."
"Yes, I remember dear Ally was the one who referred Mrs. Wenceslas to my Consulting Criminal services." Jim confirmed, "I did wonder how he knew the Bohemian babe."
The Durandos were suddenly made uncomfortable by Jim calling a woman who was roughly their age (late fifties) a 'babe'.
They stood in awkward silence as Jim, smirking, continued, "She bought a failing modern art gallery and held the auction in a private showing of the painting there. I sent a few associates over to bid high and drive up the price."
"We know." The man agreed, "…once the painting was sold, Mrs. Wenceslas was going to hire someone to steal it from the buyer who's information she'd have on file. Then we'd be able to sell all these identical forgeries on the black market for the same amount that original forgery sold for—or more. Our financial troubles would've ceased."
"You know, I really don't appreciate you all going behind my back like that." Jim commented, "What good is a consulting criminal if you don't consult him?…Still, I do have to admire the deviousness of that plan. Runs in the family, doesn't it?"
"It was Alois's idea, actually." The woman informed, "You may have treated him like he was stupid, but my son is brilliant when he chooses to be."
"Oh, well." Jim shrugged, "He was prettier when he was blond."
"So you have seen him recently!" The woman cried, "Where is he?!"
"Ah-ah-ah." Jim prevented, wagging a finger, "I told you, I won't tell you where your son is until you give me what I want."
"What you want is right there," the man reminded, pointing at the forgeries in storage, "Just take one—take them all, if you want! We have no use for them now."
"Don't mind if I do…" Jim began, reaching for the nearest forgery.
"No." the woman countered, slapping his hand away, "First you tell me where my son is."
Jim retracted his hand into a wave of mock deference and smiled.
Anthea stopped the rental car (which had been following the black remis for miles, now at a long distance as they were the only two vehicles on the rural road) when the pavement beneath its tires dissolved to muddy dirt.
"Why did we stop?" John asked from the backseat, the annoyance still audible in his voice despite the neutral question.
"Because we don't know where that road leads." Anthea explained, turning of the engine with a turn of the key, "…or what's waiting for us at the end of it."
Before them stood thousands of towering trees, shoulder to shoulder like soldiers but organically dispersed and hidden amongst themselves and other plants like insurgents in a crowded city.
Anthea stepped out of the rental car first, followed by Moran and John. The muggy air greeted them and they could smell the nearby water even though they couldn't see it.
"We should've drove past them and then cut them off." Moran suggested—after the fact, in reference to the black limo that had disappeared into the woods.
"That never works." John dismissed, "As soon as they see us behind them, they turn around and start shooting. Then it's a game of chicken, either you get shot or you crash. Sometimes both."
Grass, tall as if it was practicing to be trees, surrounded them with the forest in the distance on one side and the city in the distance on the other.
"We need a new plan then." Moran stated the obvious.
"I'm hacking into the computer system of car service that limo belonged to." Anthea informed, speaking to John and Moran but looking at her phone, "Assuming isn't stolen, I can look up who hired it as well as its GPS coordinates."
"Okay." John and Moran accepted.
"…the car wasn't stolen, it was bought." Anthea told them, a minute later, lowering the smartphone, "And the anonymous buyer must've disabled the chip."
She sighed in complaint.
"Looks like we might not need that after all." Moran said, staring down the dirt road that the black remis was now driving back towards them on.
"Why would it be coming back so soon?" Anthea commented, "Either Jim figured out we followed him or he's not inside."
"So?" Moran replied, pulling out a handgun from the pocket of his uncomfortably thick (especially in the subtropical climate) jacket, "If he's not in there, the people who are can take us to him."
"…or they can take us to the wrong place while Moriarty escapes." John evaluated, "Again."
"Well, do you have any other ideas then, John?" Anthea questioned urgently, then glancing quickly and demonstratively over at the limo getting closer.
"Actually," John said, almost smiling, "I do."
Alois spun on his heels and hurried back the way he'd come the moment that he saw Jim Moriarty(or whatever that insane criminal's real name was)'s girlfriend(?) stand up from the steps in front of the Museum of Fine Arts where she'd been apparently been sitting and waiting for him.
He would've thought that it would be whoever his parents—no, the Durandos—had sent to pick up Jim would be the ones waiting there (probably in some kind of fancy car they couldn't afford) for Jim to arrive, but since they were not and only that British woman was here, he guessed that the meeting between the Durandos and Jim was already taking place.
The woman (what was her name, again?...oh yeah, Molly) was walking towards him and so Alois was walking away. He wasn't trying to be rude, he just honestly didn't want to be involved with anyone who was involved with Jim anymore.
The sidewalk was crowded now, and Alois had to maneuver past the people (mostly on their way to work at 9:00AM like him, but some out for breakfast or a morning jog or an early visit to the museum) at an impolite and pushy speed.
"Lo siento." he apologized in Spanish, upon bumping into a gray-haired man in an equally gray jacket that was unsuited to the temperature.
"Stop." The man said in English.
A tourist, maybe…
…or another one of Jim Moriarty's 'friends'?
"What?" Alois responded, suspiciously, "Why?"
"Because we need to talk to you." The female voice from yesterday answered.
Alois spun around once again to see Molly behind him, while passersby on the pavement glared in annoyance as they were forced to step around the three who'd stopped.
"I have nothing to say to you." He said.
"We just need to know where The Durandos live." Molly stated, "…and if you sent Jim into a trap."
"How many people they do have there, how many weapons?" the gray man added.
"You work for him too?" Alois questioned him.
"What—no! Never!" The man declared in offense, "I'm with the British police. I'm here to arrest that criminal for everything he's done."
(In his indignation at being mistaken for Moriarty's employee, Lestrade had forgotten that he wasn't technically a Detective Inspector at the moment.)
"I don't know, I haven't been there for years! I don't know who's there or what they have!" Alois dismissed, annoyedly, "And I have no idea if it's a trap for Jim or not. All I did was deliver the message like Jim asked. Now leave me alone!"
"Please, just give us directions to where your parents live!" Molly begged, pulling the map of Buenos Aires and a pen from her purse (small cloth shoulder bag) and handing them (a bit forcefully—especially for her) to him, "Here, use this map."
Alois groaned but took the materials and attempted to draw a line down the roads that one would have to take if one were to visit the Durandos. However, the ink from the pen smudged and ran off the sleek paper, causing Alois to push the map back into Molly's hands in frustration.
"This isn't going to work." He decided, then taking off and opening his backpack to retrieve a sketchbook, "I'll do it here."
He walked over to the steps leading up to the art museum and sat down on the middle one next to his backpack, then drawing on the first blank page of the sketchbook.
Molly and Lestrade followed him, standing in front of him while he worked.
When Alois had finished, he ripped the now illustrated page out of the book and handed it to Molly.
"This will show you where to go." He assured, "…but you have to promise to get rid of it once you're done. You can't show this anyone else. Nobody is supposed to know where this place is."
"Okay." Molly promised, nodding, "Thank you."
After nodding, she glanced down at the hand-drawn map. Although created very quickly and only from memory, it was surprisingly detailed and (in comparison to the complementary map from the hotel in her other hand) accurate.
Molly had never been much of an artist, but even she could tell that the quality quick sketch was well above the capabilities of the average person—perhaps even the average artist.
(After all, Molly was very used to dealing with people with above-average capabilities.)
Lestrade leaned over to get a look at the map himself, and with a glance at Alois and then Molly, concurred with her 'professional opinion'.
"Well take a cab as far as that road." Lestrade stated, pointing at a line of the paper, "Then we'll walk."
"It's a dirt road, anyway." Alois informed, standing up to join the two around the new map in Molly's hands, "Watch out for the mud once you get into the woods. The ground isn't as solid as it looks."
"Thanks, got it." Lestrade accepted, nodding at Alois and then turning to Molly, "Let's go."
He started towards the edge of the sidewalk, holding up hand to single to the next passing taxi.
Molly gave Alois one last thankful look, before following Lestrade.
"…Good luck…" Alois told them, quietly, although they were getting into the black and yellow car that had pulled up to the curb.
But as it drove away, Alois saw the black remis arrive from the other direction and cut across traffic to take the place of taxi which had already disappeared in to the stream of vehicles.
Once again unable to run away from his problems, Alois could not escape from the two bald and one-mohawked teenagers dressed in black that forced him into their limo.
From the backseat, he stared at the hint of tattoo on the back of the driver's neck, remembering how the image continued into an almost Egyptian-looking black eagle (although the species was called 'golden') and how he'd been the one to tattoo it there.
The teenagers told Alois he was being taken to see his parents but knowing that Jim must have been the one to reveal where he was, Alois wondered if it wasn't really Jim having him brought back to the swamp compound for some sick reason that made sense only to him.
He also wondered if they'd run into Molly and her gray-haired friend along the way.
Through the tinted window beside him (he wasn't going to look at the red mohawked teenager sitting next to him) Alois watched the traffic and city disperse until they were once again on that familiar rural road surrounded by grassland.
But before the remis made the turn onto the dirt road, it stopped.
Instead of asking why, Alois craned his neck to watch as the three boys exited the black limo and approached a woman standing next to her broken down car.
She waved her phone as if to indicate that it was dead, and then pointed to the open hood of her vehicle, shrugging and shaking her head as if she had no idea how to fix it.
The mohawked teenaged bent to look at the engine and a man appeared from the tall grass to slam it down on him, knocking him out. Just then another man jumped out of the grass, shouting an angry something in English at the first man and then checking to see if the boy was alright.
The boy's two teenaged companions gaped in shock for a moment before rolling up the sleeves of their black uniformed to attack the two gray-jacketed men.
The gray-jacketed woman folded her arms in amusement, looking on as the adult men subdued two skinny teenage boys.
Once all three black-uniformed boys were sleeping soundly in the woman's car, Alois sat frozen in fear because the three attackers were heading straight towards the limo he was inside.
When they opened the doors (the woman and the first man the driver's side and passenger's side, respectively and then the second man the backseat door), the three blinked confusedly at Alois's presence.
Alois raised his arms in surrender.
"Knock him out, too." Moran told John, who was the closest to Alois.
"He's not one of them." John told Moran, gesturing at Alois's light blue uniform.
"So?" Moran shrugged, for the second time that day, "He's a witness."
"He's their hostage." John countered.
"He's older than them and better dressed." Moran disagreed, "He could be their leader."
"I know he's not their leader because I saw Moriarty arguing with him yesterday in the art museum." John explained.
"That doesn't mean anything." Moran dismissed, "He could've been the one to order them to pick up Jim earlier."
Alois looked back and forth at the 'former' soldiers arguing back in forth (heads leaning into the car but bodies outside), opening his mouth to speak but unable to get a word in.
Anthea sighed, turning to Alois.
"Hello," she greet (in Spanish, assuming that Alois didn't understand English and that's why he was silent and watching confusedly as Moran and John argued), "Would you be able to give us directions to the nearest Jim Moriarty?"
Jim Moriarty was tapping the canvas he held in one hand impatiently against his leg as he leaned against the faded white wall of the wooden shed.
Across from him stood the two remaining Durandos, rigid, uncomfortable and also very impatient.
"What's taking them so long?" Jim complained, finally, "The museum's less than an hour away."
"If our son is not there, then you're not leaving with that painting." The man stated.
"It's not my fault if he skips a shift." Jim countered, "Besides, you've got a gallery of these 'Lost Vermeers', you won't miss just one."
"You're not treating it very well." The woman commented, glaring at the way Jim was handling the forged artwork.
"It's fake." Jim scoffed, "Who cares?" he shrugged, then added, "You said the old forger died in the 80's, didn't you? So why do you have so many of these now when Al only came up with his steal and resale plan a couple years ago?"
"They were just left there." The woman said, "The old man must have painted them all before he died."
"But that doesn't make any sense…" Jim continued, voice feigning confusion but smirk alluding conjecture, "Now, why would he do that? Are you sure it was him?—Not that it actually matters, of course, as long as I get this one aged and in the gallery where it belongs."
Both Durandos stood silently.
Jim chuckled for a while, but after that died down the silence continued, interrupted only by small animals (bugs, toads, fish)…and then something else.
The shouts of different voices and in different languages, the splash of someone falling into the swampwater, and finally the crash of someone kicking down the front gate to the compound.
All three whipped their heads towards the entrance to see three more stomping across the boardwalk towards them.
Recognizing John, Moran and Anthea, Jim turned to the Durandos.
"Well, at least it's not the Red Army…" He said.
"There he is!" John shouted.
Jim looked to see John pointing at him, glaring communally with Anthea and Moran at him as well. He looked back at the Durandos.
"Thank you for your time and painting, Senores." He thanked, "And as a token of my gratitude I probably won't kill you—I'm not supposed to be doing that anymore anyway and I've brought you a doctor so you probably won't die."
"What?" was all the man and woman were able to say before they saw Jim pull out a gun from his pocket with his free hand.
"Plus, I'll shoot you somewhere nonfatal." Jim added, then waved the gun at both of them, muttering, "Now which one of you... 'ladies first' or 'take it like a man'?—oh, whatever, 'age before beauty'."
Jim pointed the gun at the man who was most likely older than his wife and more likely to survive a gunshot wound than a woman.
"No—!" man and wife cried.
…only to be cut off by the thunder of a bullet leaving a gun and landing in the man's lower leg (probably not a fatal spot, right?).
Jim was a very charitable criminal.
The man yelled in pain, falling instantly to the board floor and clutching his leg, the woman dropping to kneel beside him and screaming in horror.
"The man needs a doctor! STAT!" Jim called over to the British invaders of the secret Nazi compound.
Then, he turned and ran (dropping the fake Vermeer behind him).
Moran and John started chasing him but, as predicted, John stopped to tend to the man who'd been shot, leaving Moran to chase Jim alone.
Anthea would have been helping to chase Jim, however, she was wearing high heels and could not take them off to run because she would've gotten splinters from the boardwalk.
She walked as quickly as she could in the direction that Jim and then Moran had run.
After fighting a war in which words were thrown at each other from behind two language barriers…
(…or, after the taxi driver had attempted to take them the long way to their destination, despite the detailed map…)
….Molly and Lestrade paid the cab fare (she had insisted upon splitting it when he tried to pay for it in full and he, not really feeling like being a gentleman today (or to her) didn't insist otherwise) and exited the cab in front of the dirt road they'd seen on the map.
They saw the three uniformed teenagers asleep on the ground by the side of the road, tall grass acting as their beds and blankets. They decided to pass by silently, so as not to wake them.
The marsh was difficult to walk through, once the dirt path had turned completely to mud and then ended, making them travel unsteadily across the soggy grass. Finally, they reached the wooden bridge over a murky pond that led to the tall wooden fence surrounding the structure detailed on the hand-drawn map still in Molly's hands.
As they stepped onto the bridge, a fourth teenage boy pulled himself out of the water, coughing and gasping for breath, onto its boards. He stood up, took one look at Lestrade and Molly standing there, staring at him in confusion, and then dived back into the water.
Molly and Lestrade watched, still staring in confusion, as the boy swam away from the wooden structure through the still waters of the stream towards the Rio de la Plata.
Then they crossed the bridge into the open compound.
First they saw John kneeling beside a bleeding man and a crying woman, applying pressure to the wound on the man's leg.
"Take the bullet out!" the man ordered, "I'll get lead poisoning!"
"It's 2012, we don't use lead bullets anymore." John refused, "The bullet is what's stopping most of the blood from escaping."
Lestrade and Molly rushed towards the scene, causing John (and the man and woman) to look up and them in surprise.
"How did you—why is she—You know what? Nevermind." John started and stopped, "Molly, you help this man! Greg, we've get after Moriarty! He and Moran went that way!"
He jumped up and hurried off in the direction he'd indicated, Lestrade quickly following him, leaving Molly to do what she'd been told.
"Do something!" the woman begged of Molly, "My husband's dying!"
(That was an exaggeration, but her husband was injured and in extreme pain.)
"Okay!" Molly agreed, "…um, do you have a First Aid kit?"
"A what?" the woman asked.
"Nevermind…" Molly muttered, then glancing around for something to bandage the man's wounds.
She saw a painting that look suspiciously like the forged 'Lost Vermeer' (the real one, maybe?) just lying there on the wooden floor.
Then, she noticed a dimly-lit shed behind it in which she found rows of frameless paintings and then blank canvases. She grabbed one of the blank ones and brought it over to the man and woman.
"What are you doing?!" the man demanded, through gritted teeth.
Struggling, Molly eventually managed to rip the canvas skin from its wooden bones and then tear it into strips that she used to bandage his wounds.
"Who did this to you?" Molly questioned, already suspecting the answer.
"The criminal Jim Moriarty." The man stated, "The one you and your friends are here to apprehend."
"I'm not—" Molly began, then deciding that telling this older couple (the Durandos?) that she was actually the girlfriend of the one who'd just shot the husband instead of with the team that had come to arrest him wasn't the best idea.
And if Jim wasn't here to be apprehended, Molly would've already pulled out her phone and dialed whatever number they use in Buenos Aires to call an ambulance.
She wanted to get up and go look for him too but she knew she couldn't leave the wounded man. And even if she and his wife were able to drag him all the way out to the paved road, there would be no vehicle there to drive him to a hospital with.
Now, all she could do was hope that Jim either escaped the compound or was captured without being shot to death by John (who would get shot to death by Moran and Anthea as would Lestrade if he attempted to intervene).
And what would happen to her when this particular situation had been 'resolved' (or whatever passed for resolution in situations concerning Jim Moriarty)….? Molly could only guess.
She looked over at the woman, who was shaking her head down at the floorboards, when she heard her murmuring to herself in language that wasn't English or Spanish.
Despite his pain, her husband coughed a cracking bitter laugh, causing Molly to turn back to him.
"She's saying were being punished for the 'sins of our fathers' and for driving our son away." He informed, in disgusted amusement.
Molly couldn't think of how to respond to that statement or the man, so just smiled at him, weakly and sympathetically.
His wife paused to glare at him, but then returned to her words in what Molly assumed was German.
The man laughed again ( to which Molly shivered uncomfortably, despite the muggy heat) and added, "Listen, now she's praying."
"You can't run forever!" Moran shouted as he ran after Jim, down the boardwalk towards the biggest cabin, the painted building growing as they grew closer to it.
"As long as there's someone to chase me, I can!" Jim shouted back, turning his head to grin at the glowering Moran, "…and I will!"
He pushed open the front door to the cabin once he reached it, slamming and locking it behind him.
Moran, right behind him, kicked it down and rushed into the entry room (sparsely furnished, and walls unpainted on the inside), glancing around before rushing up the stairs.
Only after checking the entire (so many empty rooms…) cabin did Moran realize that Jim had probably just gone out a back door or a window. He exited the way he'd entered, to see John and Lestrade (how did he get here?) jump back as the door swung open and then fell off its hinges after slamming against the outside walls.
"Where is he?!" Lestrade demanded, scanning his white and wooden surroundings.
"I don't know." Moran grumbled under his breath.
"You lost him!?" John accused, in disbelief, "I knew we couldn't trust you, you probably let Moriarty get away!"
"You mean like your friend did this morning?!" Moran redirected, gesturing at Lestrade.
"Not this again!" Lestrade complained, "We can't waste our time arguing, we've got to find him!
"Split up." John suggested, to which the other two nodded.
With that, he three sprinted off in separate directions like debris bursting from an explosion.
Meanwhile, Anthea (who had been walking briskly rather than running) quickly hid behind a smaller cabin as she saw Jim and then Moran run into the large one.
As predicted, she saw Jim sneak out of a side window without Moran on his trail.
Jim continued past the huge central house and Anthea followed him (walking on her tip-toes so her heels wouldn't click) as he crept around the compound.
It was a maze of mostly empty structures, covered in peeling white paint now faded and translucent like the color of ghosts.
Suddenly, a board creaked under Anthea's foot causing Jim to whirl around to see her and then, of course, start running.
Anthea attempted to run after him this time (heels be damned), but the board broke beneath her and she tripped forwards, landing on her face with her foot trapped in a whole.
Ear to the boardwalk, she could hear Jim's running feet (and, she was sure of it, his laughter).
Jim moved forward until he reached the edge of the compound, a tall fence of logs with sharped tips like pencils (or spears (same thing)).
From there he ran along that fence, circling the compound and stopping to hide behind a shed that stepping out from behind would make him visible to John.
John, luckily, seemed very occupied with the man in pain and woman in hysterics (who both also seemed very occupied at the moment).
Jim reasoned that if he was quick and quiet enough, he could slip past the three and out the front gates of the compound.
And he was about to do just that when he saw two more familiar people pass through said gates.
Molly Hooper and Gregory Lestrade.
Jim was confused when Lestrade didn't burst into the compound along with Moran, Anthea and John, as he had seen him stalking Molly like he always did (the creeper!) in the art museum yesterday.
But Molly was not supposed to be here.
('Here' being where Jim had shot an unarmed and reasonably innocent man (albeit in the lower leg) which Molly would probably whine about for a while or sigh to herself sadly without telling him anything was wrong or what the problem was when they both knew it was this (or silly just as silly and inconsequential.))
And what the hell was she doing with Lestrade?!
(Lestrade being that creepy stalker who came to her apartment and where she worked almost every other day and wouldn't leave her alone. Had she finally given in to his aggressive and unrelenting advances? Had he given her no choice?)
Jim watched as Molly obeyed John's orders while John and Lestrade ran away down the boardwalk in the direction he had just come.
Molly then used canvas strips she tore from a canvas to bandage Mr. Durando's bullet wound.
So resourceful and yet still such a follower…
Jim considered leaving her behind and escaping quickly and quietly like he'd planned...but the thought of either Mycroft getting his hands on her—metaphorically—(as Molly would inevitably be captured by Anthea, who'd bring her back to her employer) or Lestrade getting his hands on her—literally—(by redeeming the poor victim who'd finally been abandoned by her evil criminal captor), stopped him.
He continued to watch Molly until she was finishing bandaging the man (which would have to be good enough for her because now they had to go) and then slunk stealthily out from the shadows.
Jim was going to sneak up on Molly, but the woman pointed at him and hissed "You!"
Molly's gaze followed the woman's finger until it set upon Jim who shrugged, "Me?"
Molly jumped up.
"Jim, did you shoot him?" she inquired, careful to keep her voice steady.
"Obviously." Jim answered, rolling his eyes.
"Why would you do that for no reason?!" Molly then exclaimed, losing all composure.
"I did have a reason." Jim sighed, "We can fight about this and have make-up sex later. First, let's get out of here before our 'old friends' come back."
"They were your 'old friend' you were talking about on the plane?" Molly asked, taken aback, "But I thought—"
"Well, John was, anyway." Jim explained, "I never said he was my 'old friend' and yes, I was being sarcastic. I'd noticed how your 'friend' Johnny-boy started working at that other hospital just to spy on you and thought it was kind of cute. I didn't know your 'boyfriend' 'Greg' would be able to tag along on this South American expedition, though. I thought he'd be home, you know, with his wife and kids."
"So you knew they'd be coming after us the whole time." Molly evaluated.
"I knew it was a possibility." Jim admitted, shrugging, "The other one was they all shoot each other."
"Let's just go. You can figure it all out later if you're smart enough."
"Nobody's going anywhere."
Looking away from Molly, Jim saw that a pack of wolves was closing in around him from all sides.
Moran blocked the gates to the compound, gun in hand, while Anthea (wearing only one shoe) blocked his path to its central cabin. Lestrade and John stood to either side of him and the various wooden buildings beside them completed the circle.
Despite being outnumbered and cornered, Jim pulled out his gun.
"Put it down." Anthea warned.
"Make me." Jim baited, sticking out his tongue at her.
"I'll make him." Moran decided, stomping towards him from the gates.
"Oh, hello there, Mr. Sebastian Moran, sir." Jim turned and greeted him docilely, "How's that new government job working out for you? Did you tell your bosslady that it was you who freed me on that island 'resort' the allies are storing missiles to shoot at North Africa from?"
"The only reason I helped you escaped is so I could track you down and kill you myself." Moran explained, "I knew I'd never be able to do it if you were in custody or your brother was around."
"And now you can't do it because she is." Jim concluded, gesturing at Anthea, "I wonder if she and Mycroft have figured out that you're not James's spy but Porlock's."
"You'll say anything to try and save your own skin." Moran scoffed, "But everybody knows you're a liar nobody's stupid enough to believe you."
"I'll say anything?" Jim repeated, with a laugh, "Then how about this?" he turned to John and said, "Sherlock's alive. And he's the one who hired me to fly all the way to Argentina just to pick up a piece of cloth with some paint on it."
"Don't you dare say his name." John growled, pulling out the gun from his bulky jacket's pocket.
"Whose name? You mean Sherlock's?" Jim dared, "I've been saying that name so much longer and louder than you ever have—and ever will. Sherlock is mine. We have history, decades of it, and little children who weren't around for it will never know what it's like to be a part of our war, our Game."
The statement made John clench his fists but also made Molly tense, as it applied just as much to her as it did to him (if not more).
"You're the child." John countered, "Sherlock didn't pay attention to you and so you went on murder spree, ruined his reputation and killed him. You threw a tantrum."
"I didn't kill him—"
"Yes you did. You may not have pushed him off the roof of the hospital, but you killed him. You must have said something to him, threatened to blow up another building or kill his brother, if he didn't jump…And maybe you had Molly up there on the rooftop with you. Maybe you held a gun to her head, saying you'd shoot her if Sherlock didn't kill himself and it didn't matter if he knew she was faking because he knew you weren't. You'd have killed them both."
Molly's breath caught at John's untrue implication that she was working with Jim against Sherlock—and his very true declaration that Jim was (more than) willing to kill both her and Sherlock.
She wanted to speak, but her voice was cowering somewhere in her throat, under her caught breath.
There was no point in denial or trying to defend herself, anyway. Now that she was known as a 'liar' (just like Jim) nobody would ever believe her (just like Jim).
"I'd have killed myself." Jim corrected John's words, "Myself and Sherlock, and I did—except Molly had to go and bring me back from the dead. She wasn't supposed to, she's supposed to cut them up and let them rest in pieces. But look at her now, saving lives…"
Jim gestured at the wounded man lying down on the boardwalk and bandaged with blank paint canvas, who was now wheezing out laughter (probably delirious, everything had become funny to him after he was shot) as his wife glared at everyone who had intruded into her home.
"…but look at you, 'Doctor' Watson." Jim continued, "You were always a life saver. A doctor first, soldier second—until you met Sherlock Holmes. He didn't make you into a killer, but he's made you want to kill. He's made you like it."
"No, I think I have to give you the credit for that, Moriarty." John returned, anger controlled and civil.
"So what are you waiting for, then?" Jim asked, "I've insulted your 'dead' best friend, insulted your honor, I've already given you a reason and now I've given you an excuse. Kill me! You know you wanna…"
"I do want to and I don't need an excuse." John confirmed, "…But Mycroft needs you alive and so I'll just have to wait."
"Mycroft?" Jim repeated, groaning, "What does he want this time?"
"Surrender and find out." Anthea instructed.
"No, thanks." Jim refused, with mock manners.
"Just give up!" Molly begged, "We can explain everything to them later. Sherlock can—"
"Sherlock's dead." John interrupted.
"I know you won't believe me, but no he's really not." Molly insisted, "…here, I'll prove it."
She reached into her purse, causing everyone with a gun to point said guns at her (except for Jim who pointed his gun at all of them in turn, causing them to point their guns back at him).
Instead of a gun, of course, Molly pulled out a phone.
Everyone was silent as it rang but when Sherlock Holmes did not answer, everyone returned to their previous state of arguing with and insulting each other.
"It's over, Moriarty!" John shouted.
"Put down the gun right now!" Lestrade added.
"Please, Jim, just do what they say!" Molly cried, "There's nothing else you can do!"
"Oh yeah?" Jim tested, "How about this?" he moved to grab her, pressing his gun to the side of her head, "Ladies, Gentlemen, and Sebastian Moran, drop your weapons or I'll shoot the girl."
Molly was too shocked to scream, but her eyes widened to look at Jim confusedly and pleadingly.
John, Lestrade, Anthea and Moran also looked at Jim, and then at each other (rolling their eyes). They burst into restrained and dismissive laughter to which Jim frowned.
"Just give up already," Anthea scoffed, "You're embarrassing yourself."
Jim lowered the gun and stepped away from Molly, "It worked when Sherlock did it…" he grumbled.
"This how you let him treat you?" Lestrade asked Molly, who then decided it was time to check on the man who'd been shot and so kneeled to do so.
He and his wife were conversing in whispered German, no doubt trying to figure out what to do (what, if anything, they could do). The Durandos were just as trapped in this situation as she was.
"Enough of this." Moran declared, then immediately raising his gun and pulling the trigger.
Jim yelped, falling to the boardwalk and clutching his knee. His shouts and curses were muffled by the echoing explosion and the ringing in everyone's ears it caused.
Now Mr. Durando was laughing at Jim and Mrs. Durando was smiling appreciatively as if justice had finally been done.
Molly leapt from their side to Jim's, frantically exclaiming "where did it hit?!"
"Kneecap." Moran answered for Jim (whose voice was very audible but whose words might as well have been gibberish), "He won't be running away ever again—"
Moran was interrupted by another booming gunshot, and he too fell down to the boardwalk, clutching the area just under his knee.
However, being a manly man he clenched his teeth instead of screaming in pain, then telling someone to "get the gun away from" Jim.
Jim sat on the wooden floor, attempting to laugh.
Anthea hopped towards him on the foot she had a shoe for.
"You've had your fun, Jim." She said, "Now give me the gun."
She extended an open hand and Jim lifted his gun towards her open hand only to aim it at her midway.
"Don't think I won't shoot a woman." He warned, wincing, "Hop away slowly."
Anthea narrowed her eyes and retracted her open hand, replacing it with a gun pointed at Jim's forced-grinning face.
"This is crazy, just surrender!" Molly exclaimed, throwing up her hands in frustration, "You need to go to a hospital and so do they!" she gestured to the two other men who'd been shot that afternoon, then muttering "Sometimes you really don't know when to quit."
"I hate quitters." Jim commented, "Don't become one now or I really will shoot you." He turned his gun back towards her momentarily in demonstration.
"That's it." John decided, "This is ending right now."
He aimed his gun at Jim who aimed his gun at John.
"Wait!" Anthea called, "We need him alive!"
"I'm sorry, but there is nothing that justifies keeping him alive any longer." John disagreed.
"Don't to do it, John—" Anthea warned, pointing her gun at him, but it was too late.
As soon as she saw John pull the trigger on his gun, she pulled the trigger on hers. Hit in the chest, John fell backwards and his bullet shot up towards the sky. At that same moment Jim also shot at John but Lestrade jumped between the two, shooting a bullet that lodged Jim's arm, before too falling backwards after being hit in the chest.
When John and Lestrade had joined Jim, Moran and Mr. Durando in lying shot on the boardwalk and everyone thought it was over, Moran lifted his gun and shot Anthea in the chest, causing her to hit the wooden floor as well.
"Why?" Anthea managed to choke out.
"You should have let Jim get killed." He stated, plainly.
Jim, laughing and coughing, was now unable to move his left arm and so his gun fell from his lip fingers. Before he could pick it up with his other hand, Molly snatched (pointing it at the floor in case it somehow went off).
"Look what you've done!" she sobbed, dry and in disbelief.
Jim continued to cackle (and cough).
The woman sitting next to Molly, next to her shot significant other (who had also been coughing and laughing but was now sleeping), suddenly leaned over and took the gun from Molly's hands.
"No!" Molly screamed.
But instead of shooting anyone with the weapon, the woman simply smacked Jim on the head, hard, causing him to slump down onto Molly's lap unconscious.
"Despite what you may think, we're not all killers." The woman told Molly.
Molly glanced at the half torn blank canvas, but was unable to reach it without moving Jim. He was bleeding onto the nice clothing she'd warn for this meeting with the Durandos and the 'old friend'.
John, Lestrade, and Anthea all lay on the boardwalk nearby, seemingly dead.
It doesn't get any less ambiguous than that, does it?
Ya'll know I'd never kill them so I knew writing as if they died probably wouldn't fly, and be a rude and unnecessary cliffhanger.
(Hey, that rhymes!)
I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter and I hopefully will right the next one soon as I am about to go on break the week after next.