"The first place Moran will look for me is... here," Sherlock stated with surety, stabbing the map with an index finger.
John and Greg both leaned in over the table to see where Sherlock was pointing.
"Baker Street?" John asked incredulously. "That's the last place I would look for you. Why wouldn't he come here? Or to my flat?"
"Because he doesn't think I'm that stupid," spat Sherlock. He removed his finger from the map and clasped his hands behind his back. "He'll go to Baker Street, and he'll wait, because he knows I'm hunting him too. Even if I'm not there, I'll go looking for him there eventually."
Greg straightened and ran a hand through his hair, regarding Sherlock sceptically. "You're sure?"
"He wants to be found, Lestrade. He's not hiding from me, nor I from him. We're simply... biding our time."
"So you can kill each other," John chimed in, bitterly.
"So... now what?" John asked, shrugging.
Sherlock only stared at John uncomprehendingly.
"Well," Greg interjected, "we kill him first, I imagine."
"Oh, brilliant, yes - let's kill him." Shaking his head, John directed a cool gaze at Greg. "You're the police, can't you do something that doesn't involve murder?"
Greg slid an uneasy glance in Sherlock's direction before meeting John's stare. "Well... no," he said slowly. "Fact of the matter is, we don't have any hard evidence linking him to anything illegal. And on top of it, he has a glowing reputation. He's a decorated officer, a war veteran. I've got nothing to bring him in on."
John sighed. "Then we need to come up with a plan. Lure him out of hiding in such a way that you can bring him in - on assault charges or something."
"You mean use me as bait," Sherlock concluded.
Lestrade's hand sliced the air between Sherlock and John. "No," he said firmly. "Out of the question."
Sherlock went on as though he hadn't heard. "It's not a bad plan, if we're careful about it. He'll be preoccupied with me, and you two can apprehend him when the time is right. No doubt he'll have some men with him, and with the proper application of force they might be convinced to betray potentially incriminating information. But my way is simpler."
"No more killing," John said coldly, his eyes locked on Sherlock's.
"He is a murderer, you know." A dark brow arched upward.
"So are you," John shot back.
"That's different - "
"Enough, the pair of you!" Greg stepped between them and folded up the map, flipping it into one of the vacant dining chairs. "You're both thick. It won't work either way. You can't kill a man in broad daylight in the middle of Baker Street - especially if he's bound to have friends with him. And Sherlock's certainly not going to play bait. That's just inviting disaster. We'll have to come up with another plan."
John and Sherlock, however, were considering each other carefully, their minds working in tandem toward the same conclusion - a conclusion they both knew wasn't going to go over well with Lestrade, but which was by far the most effective plan yet.
"What if I do it?" John spoke up, tearing his eyes from Sherlock's to peer up at Greg. "I can hold my own in a fight just as well as Sherlock - maybe better, at the moment. Suppose I go to Baker Street. I can go in the back way, and with the drapes drawn the only thing Moran will see from across the street is that someone is in the flat. He'll assume it's Sherlock."
"Oh for God's sake..." Greg whined, dropping down into one of the chairs.
Sherlock watched John across the top of the DI's head. "His men will be stationed at several points - one of them will see you going in."
"I'll wear your coat and scarf, and a hat. They won't be close to me, so they'll have no reason to think I'm not you. If I move quickly, under the cover of darkness, they'll be none the wiser."
"Unless they're smart enough to carry binoculars," Greg grumbled. "Or suppose they just snipe you from afar."
"They won't," Sherlock said at once. The detective's brow wrinkled in thought. "Moran himself is a sharpshooter. He won't have brought along an extra. And he wants me for himself, so they'll notify him of my - John's - arrival and secure the exits. John will show himself at the window just long enough for Moran to see him, and then he'll be careful to stay out of his line of fire. Without a clear shot, Moran won't risk scaring him away, so he'll come across and break into the flat. Once he's inside, Lestrade, you and I can take out his men - there will only be two or three of them - and apprehend Moran before he attacks John. The element of surprise will be enough to give us a second or two to act, and you'll have him on minor charges. That will buy us some time to dig up his past. It's almost perfect."
"It's as far from perfect as it could be," the DI stated harshly. His head whipped round to look at John. "You can't possibly think this is a good idea."
"No, but I do think it could work."
"And get you - or all of us - killed in the process! Did you not just get done saying this man is a sharpshooter?"
Sherlock pressed his palms together and rested his fingers against his chin. "Yes, and he will certainly be armed."
"Are you hearing yourself right now?"
John set a heavy hand on Greg's shoulder. "It's a solid plan, Greg. As long as I'm careful, I should be able to keep myself out of harm's way long enough for you two to come up, and between the three of us we'll have no problem taking him down. As Sherlock said, we'll have the element of surprise on our side."
Lestrade's head dropped down onto the table, and he gripped his hair with both hands. "You're daft, both of you. What about his people?"
"We'll do our research first, of course," Sherlock snapped out, as though this should have been obvious from the start. "We'll know in advance how many people he's got with him, and what they're carrying. We'll have a plan in place for how to deal with them. If we aren't stupid about this, it's practically foolproof."
"Now you sound like your old self," said Lestrade, but it was not a compliment. He groaned into the table. "Is it any use for me to say I don't like this?"
"I imagine not," John replied thoughtfully. "We'll need to do some recon first, to figure out what we're up against."
"Quite right," agreed Sherlock. The spark in his eye was reminiscent of Before, but not in a way that cheered Lestrade in the slightest.
"It's freezing in here."
"I told you not to come."
John huffed. "And I told you that you weren't going if I wasn't."
"Then it's your own fault," Sherlock responded impatiently.
The two of them were holed up in an abandoned flat on Baker Street, with their eyes on the building across from 221B. They were lying side by side on their bellies on the filthy laminate floor, watching through a gap in a boarded-up window for Moran's men. Troublingly, they were nowhere to be found - and hadn't been for the last eight hours.
"I'm only saying that we should try again tomorrow."
Sherlock shook his head and pressed closer to John to get a better view of the street. "No. He has to be here. It's the only logical place for him to be."
"Then why haven't we seen him? This feels like a trap." John's sixth sense about these things was well-trained. He practically had eyes in the back of his head, and right now they were seeing a million places for enemies to be hiding, waiting to ambush them on their way back downstairs or on the streets below. "It was much too easy to get in here..."
Beside him, Sherlock shivered, frowning through the gap in the boards. "Perhaps he's gotten impatient and gone looking for me. Any word from Lestrade?"
"He texted an hour ago. Still at the Yard. You don't think Moran would go to Greg's?"
"Not just yet. It's the last place I would go."
"You did go there," John reminded him, breathing on his own fingers to warm them.
"Yes, and I was not in my right mind," Sherlock said for the hundredth time.
"Could he be at my flat?"
"No, he won't risk venturing that far when he last saw me here in London."
Frustrated, John shook his head. "How can you possibly know that?" he demanded.
"Because he's me."
"He's you. What?"
"Moran is Moriarty is me. He's here, somewhere. And I wouldn't dare leave London knowing he's here." It was clear that Sherlock was becoming weary of explaining it, but it was also clear that he shared in John's frustration. Why wasn't Moran where he ought to be? He shivered again and dropped his head to the floor, sighing into the dust. "It's cold." A pause, another sigh, and then: "Let's go."
But suddenly, John was staying him with a frantic grip on his arm. "Wait! Look!" he hissed, inching closer to the boarded-up window.
Sherlock's shoulder pressed into John's as he obeyed, squinting to see down into the street. They held their breath, watching through the semi-darkness as a shadowy figure exited 221B in a swirl of black skirts. A woman. Her hair was pinned up. She was humming pleasantly.
"Mrs. Hudson," said Sherlock softly, ducking his head to get a better view. "What is she doing?"
Johh shoved Sherlock's head out of the way and watched as Mrs. Hudson turned to cross the road, the streetlamps illuminating her in their orange glow. She was holding something. John narrowed his eyes and strained to see. "She's... oh, for heaven's sake, she's only taking a cup of sugar or something to a neighbour."
But Sherlock, now pressed bodily against John at shoulder and hip, was shaking his head vehemently. "No," he said. "No, no, no... she's going across the street. She's going to the empty house." Desperation edged into his voice, and he started to scramble to his feet. "Moran's there, as I thought he would be, she's going to him."
"Wait - Sherlock!" John leapt to his feet and grabbed Sherlock roughly by the arm, spinning him round to face him. As much as he wanted to believe that Sherlock was being paranoid, his own nerves were on edge, his body vibrating with the need to do something, knowing full well that his friend was right. Something was amiss. "Wait. Sherlock, this is a trap. Stop. Stop."
Sherlock was struggling to pull his arm out of John's hand. "Mrs. Hudson - "
"This. Is. A. Trap. You can't go over there."
"One of us has to!" From down the street, there was the sound of a door opening and closing, and Mrs. Hudson's humming was cut off from their hearing. She was inside. They were running out of time. "You're a better shot, you have to stay here and cover me."
"If you go in there, and he's there, he's going to shoot you where you stand! How the hell am I supposed to cover you from here?" John demanded.
"We're wasting time," Sherlock snapped, wrenching his arm out of John's grip. "Stay here. Call Lestrade. Keep an eye out." Without another word, he sprinted away down the hall, his footfalls echoing down the stairs and eventually down into the street.
"Damn it!" John threw himself back down on the floor, his right hand scrabbling in his trousers pocket first for his gun and then for his phone. He pressed his face against the window boards and watched as Sherlock's ghostly figure appeared on the street below, took one glance back at John, and ran across the street. John observed, his entire body on edge, as Sherlock stuck to the shadows, furtive as a cat, gun drawn as he approached the empty house.
Meanwhile, John's phone was pressed between his ear and his shoulder. Lestrade answered gruffly, and John wasted no time on pleasantries. "Baker Street. Vatican cameos." Sherlock's age-old code phrase for danger, duck, or run - whatever the case may be. He knew Lestrade would understand. He hung up before giving the DI a chance to respond, instead focusing all his mental power on watching Sherlock's back. He trained his weapon on the empty house, watching anxiously as Sherlock disappeared into it.
His short, rapid breaths stirred up dust on the floor as he waited for some sign of what was going on inside. He had heard no shouts, no gunshots. Sherlock had only been inside a few seconds, but it was quickly becoming even more obvious that John was useless here. The empty house probably wasn't even in firing range of his handgun; he needed a better vantage point. Sherlock's instructions be damned, he wasn't going to let him die again. Or lose Mrs. Hudson, either, for that matter.
"Damn it," John seethed again. He hesitated just for a moment, afraid to take his eyes off the door behind which Sherlock had disappeared, but resolved that he needed to get down there if he had any hope of keeping his friends alive. He hurried to his feet, pocketing his phone and checking the clip on his gun, but he never got past the door.
A large, black-clad figure stood in his way, a cigarette smouldering on his lower lip. "Hello, John," drawled the stranger, in a honeyed voice that reminded John of both Mycroft and Moriarty simultaneously. Green eyes stared down at him coolly, illuminated by the glow of the cigarette butt. A pair of thin lips curled upward at one corner in a self-satisfied sneer: a cat that has caught a fat mouse.
John felt his heart seize as he brought his weapon to bear. The trap was for me. Time lurched painfully to a cinematic slow-motion crawl. His finger wrapped around the trigger. The firing pin reared back. The stranger took a single step forward and smashed John's temple with a fist that felt more like rock. John's gun went off, the bullet burying itself in dusty drywall on the other side of the room. He stumbled, dazed from the blow to his head, and lost his footing, crashing into a support pillar as his assailant closed the space between them. A black bag came down over John's head, followed by another crushing blow to the temple, and John distantly felt his gun slip from his fingers. He slid to his knees, bright pinpoints of light blossoming across his vision as pain burst across his skull. One more blow crashed into the side of his face, and John felt himself losing consciousness as he fell to the floor. The trap was for me.