"No!" John grasped the doorknob so hard that his knuckles turned white. "Hold on Sherlock, I'll get you out-"
Then Molly's small hands were pulling him back and the looming bulk of Mr. Coulter was slamming into the door, over and over, shaking the walls until plaster flakes settled in their hair like snow.
John counted away the seconds. After one minute without oxygen, brain cells begin to die. After three, irreversible damage was likely. After five... He glanced at Molly. He could tell she was thinking it too.
Forty seconds. Had it been, or more? The average man could hold his breath for thirty seconds before inhaling water, but Sherlock smoked (on and off, discreetly, a carelessly guarded secret)... It happens fast, drowning, John thought. Faster than most are aware.
With a roar of effort, Mr. Coulter hit the door like a Pamplona bull and the wood began to buckle. John pushed Molly aside and joined Coulter. Two more charges at the door and finally it gave. Weak from being broken in on the morning of Mortimus Ravensdale's death, the great door groaned and surrendered it's hinges. It crashed inwards and hit the floorboards with a dull thud.
The study was wet as a cave. The cold green stink of the lake filled John's throat as he staggered with the momentum of his efforts, almost falling into the room. Molly flitted past him into the murky darkness, and the yellowed light bulbs flickered back to life, buzzing numbly.
Sherlock was slumped over the desk. Water dripped steadily from his hair and the hem of his coat, his limp fingertips. There was a stillness to him that frightened John. He helped Molly manhandle Sherlock out of the chair and lay him on the floor. Mr. Coulter hovered over them as the two doctors went through the motions, checking for pulse, breathing, tipping Sherlock's head back. They worked in silence. Molly bent to cover Sherlock's lips with her own. Cold, she thought. A morbid replay of their kiss. One strong breath, then she turned to look at John. Two fingers on Sherlock's wrist, he shook his head. Molly tucked her hair behind her ear and bent to Sherlock's mouth again, his lips like ice.
"One more try then we'll go for CPR." John said quietly. Molly took a deep breath and exhaled hard into Sherlock's mouth. Abruptly, he began to choke, and Molly tasted lake water.
"Oh thank god!" John maneuvered Sherlock onto his side as an impossible amount of water spilled silently from his mouth. Molly held his head.
"He's not waking up," she said nervously.
"There's a pulse. He's alive." John reached out to touch Molly lightly on the shoulder. "We need to get him to a hospital, but he'll be alright." He reached for his phone and swore when the screen showed no signal.
"Let's get him to the car."
"I'll take him." Coulter crouched beside Sherlock and lifted him with surprising gentleness and unsurprising ease. One of his arms hung loose. Molly reached out to grasp his wrist and followed Coulter out into the hall, Sherlock's weak pulse fluttering at her fingertips. John limped ahead, holding his phone out like a beacon, searching for a bar of signal.
Something eerily familiar in the atmosphere of the hallway made Molly draw closer to Coulter.
"John," she called, "Stay back. Stay close."
John turned to answer, his phone still held aloft, when a moving shadow detached from the gloom in the corner of the landing and reared silently up behind him.
"John!" Molly screamed, dropping Sherlock's wrist and darting towards the doctor. His bemused expression turned sour as tendrils of darkness spilled over his shoulders. He swore as the mobile phone was wrenched from his grip and thrown with immeasurable force back down the hallway. Molly ducked as it flew past and heard it smash behind her. The carpet runner jerked hard as if pulled by an unseen hand and Molly lost her balance, falling onto her knees. She saw John go down too, and felt Coulter hit the ground beside her. She scrambled forward as the carpet slid back on the polished boards, taking them with it. The sound of water rushing from the direction of the study made Molly take a deep, instinctive breath and hold it, just in time. The roar overtook them and a deluge of greenish water thundered over their heads, pulling them back again like a tide.
"Get to the stairs!" Molly heard John shout over the barrage. She struck out, desperately trying to find purchase on something, anything, the lake slime slipping under her hands. Someone grabbed her collar and lifted her bodily out of the water. Coulter, waist deep in the swirling flood, still holding Sherlock with one arm, began to drag her towards the stairs.
John was holding onto the balustrade ten feet away. The water had swept them back further than she thought. Coulter pushed her towards John as they neared and they half fell, half stumbled down the stairs. At the bottom, the water eddying around their ankles, Molly looked back. There was something at the top of the stairs. That dark figure, shifting and flickering like a dirty reel of film. It watched them go, its face cast in shadow. Molly's head began to swim. A crash from downstairs brought her back to her senses and she followed Coulter and John as they raced towards the next flight of stairs.
A portrait ripped itself from its hanging and caught John in the shoulder hard enough to spin him off balance. Hampered by his limp, he was falling behind. Molly fell back to grab his arm.
"Jesus Christ!" He gasped, "Why the fuck did we stay here? We're all going to fucking die!"
"Shut up," Molly ordered breathlessly. "Shut up and run."
A howling wind full of half heard whispers whipped Molly's hair around her face. The lights flashed and dimmed, strobing their movements. With a well of panic pressing a lump into her throat and her heart pounding in her chest and stomach, Molly realised that tears were streaming down her cheeks. Coulter bounded ahead of her, Sherlock's ragdoll form held easily against his chest. They ran blindly, weaving as objects flew at them, statues sliding from their plinths and crashing into their path, making the floor shake with the impact of stone.
They reached the main staircase. The front door was open, and Molly let out a ragged sob of relief. She broke ahead of the others, her legs beginning to give in, her fingertips spread towards the open door, towards freedom and the still, clear night air. Ten steps, five steps, three… The warm air blessed her face and Molly caught herself a moment before it happened, because really she knew that it would, it was too cruel, the open door not an invitation but a taunt, and she was right. She was two steps from the door when the freezing, whispering wind moved past her and slammed it in her face. Her momentum carried her forward and she fell against the door and heard the key turn in the lock.
John stopped in his tracks as Molly screamed in almost animal frustration. Suddenly she was running past him across the hall. She grabbed a heavy mahogany chair, and with more strength than John would have given her credit for, she lunged at the stained glass panelling beside the door with the chair raised over her head. She brought it down hard enough to break the glass, but the chair hit a force inches away from the window and spun out of her hands, crashing into the tiles and sliding away from her with a blood curdling screech.
She allowed herself to fall, shaking. The wind fell and the house was quiet. Only Molly's sobbing and the sound of John's own breath catching in his throat disturbed the silence. Then Coulter spoke.
"Nowt to do but wait," he said darkly. "Best thing to do with him is keep him warm."
Sherlock lay still in his arms. Through the water, the wind and the chase, he hadn't shown any sign of waking.
Climbing the stairs again with his arm around Molly, John could feel the tension in her thin shoulders. Her fists were clenched and her lips pale. Fear, he thought at first, but examining the set of her mouth he realised that she was angry. John was terrified but Molly… Molly was livid.
The house felt full, an audience on the edge of some happening, sprung with anticipation. John could sense movement in every shadow, unseen eyes watching them walk. A low hum pervaded the hallway, making his eardrums pound. In the East wing they heard footsteps upstairs, pattering back and forth, distant, then drawing closer, directly over their heads. John closed his eyes, overwhelmed by a sick shudder of fear.
They reached Sherlock's room. Coulter shouldered the door open, and with a grinding noise that made John start and pull Molly closer, the carved standing mirror lurched away from the wall and revolved, showing it's stained back to the room. Coulter laid Sherlock on the bed and stepped back, shaking his head.
"I'll fetch blankets from the other bedrooms," he volunteered. "He's that bloody cold my hands are frozen from liftin' him."
A smaller mirror by the window cracked spontaneously as Coulter shut the door behind him, and John felt Molly duck out from under his arm. She bent over Sherlock's unconscious form and touched his cheek.
"Please," she said. He looked alabaster, unmoving. Molly tried to push the thought away but it lingered: Sherlock looked dead. She moved her open palm in front of his mouth, felt the faintness of his breath, weak but steady.
"Please," she whispered it this time. "You have to wake up, Sherlock. If you can hear me, please, please wake up…"
A low laugh, modulated as though relayed through a poor frequency... Molly clamped her hands over her ears and spun around. She could tell by John's face that he'd heard it too. When it came again it was closer, behind her left shoulder. She turned as a white-hot rush of anger overtook her panic.
"Is this a warning you twisted bastard?" Molly hissed into the empty darkness behind her.
"One strike. One strike, but you're not going to stop him. He'll never stop. This is his reason, his lifeblood and he had you, didn't he? He will finish this. You failed. He's alive."
"Molly, don't," John warned.
The shutters flew back against the wall, flooding the room with moonlight.
"Enough of your platform-magic spirit-knocking intimidation!" Molly screamed. "Come and talk to me!"
The heavy velvet curtains surrounding the bed tore and dropped to the carpet, heavy as a snake.
"Molly..." Sherlock's voice was hoarse, barely a whisper.
Molly turned, breathless, and darted to the bed.
"Molly." Then something so quiet that Molly had to bend close to hear.
John had moved to the bedside with her; two fingers on Sherlock's wrist, he looked into his ashen face. Sherlock's eyes were open.
"Molly," John spoke urgently. Something was wrong. "What's he saying?"
Molly looked up at him slowly, perturbed.
"He said... Tie me down."
"Oh god." John saw a cloudy film move across Sherlock's irises as his eyes rolled back in his head.
"Mr Coulter," he called. "Molly, step back. Mr. Coulter!"
Sherlock's arm shot up to grab a handful of Molly's hair. She screamed in pain and shock as he pulled her closer, staring blind and sloe-eyed into her terrified face.
"Hello, sweet girl," he said flatly. Then, in a cruel mimicry of Molly's voice-
"Talk to me."
Molly was only vaguely aware of John struggling to pull Sherlock away from her. She watched, eyes wide and transfixed as a sadistic smile contorted the detective's face. Pain ripped through her scalp as she disengaged, strands of her hair still locked in Sherlock's fist.
Mr. Coulter burst through the door in time to see Sherlock sit up and send John flying with an easy sweep of his arm. Without a moment's hesitation, Coulter cast his weight onto Sherlock's body, pressing his wrists into the mattress with huge, spadelike hands.
"Rope," he said to John, who was struggling to his feet half dazed. "Broom closet on the ground floor, good man."
He craned to look at Molly, sitting on the floor by the bed, hugging her knees and trembling.
"It's the father," she muttered. "He's taken him."
"Aye, I can see that." Coulter struggled to contain Sherlock as he twisted under his grip. A low growl rose in Sherlock's throat as he managed to free one hand and claw at Coulter's face. The bigger man swore and lifted Sherlock's body clean off the bed by the lapels.
"I'm awful sorry about this, but until Mr Watson's back with the rope I'm going to have to put your detective out for a while."
Coulter landed a heavy right hook to Sherlock's jaw and he went limp. Molly dropped to her knees by the bed and brushed Sherlock's damp hair back from his forehead. A fresh thread of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. It looked black in the moonlight.
"He's not my detective," Molly said quietly. "I'm just his pathologist."