"How long has he been dead?" Sherlock stooped over the body and gave the blue lips a sniff.
"Not long, about an hour and a half. The neighbour heard screaming about six o'clock and called the police. They broke in and found him like this." Lestrade flipped open his notebook and read out all the important information he had gathered so far. "The victim's name is Phillip Dalton, a music agent from Surrey. He lives here with his son Joseph after his wife committed suicide last year. According to the medical examiner, the time of death corresponds with the time the scream was heard and the call to police, but the neighbour did not see anyone fleeing the scene from the front, and there are no signs of forced entry at any of the doors or windows on the premises."
"You notice the angle at which the knife was inserted?" Sherlock interrupted, and then he explained before either John or Lestrade could reply. "Upward force from low down." He then mimicked the action, practically having to get down on his knees, and John agreed it did look odd. Sherlock then flicked his fingers, instructing Lestrade to continue.
"No useful prints have been found so far but the boys are still looking." Sherlock's lip curled ever so slightly at the mention of the forensics crew.
"Is that it?"
"We have a witness." Sherlock straightened up. "Well, we think we do."
"How can you think you have a witness?" asked John, who had been standing silently as Sherlock went about his magic.
"During the search of the house we found Joseph, the son, hiding in his wardrobe upstairs. He must have seen or heard something or else why would he be hiding in the cupboard?" Sherlock appeared to have spaced out, his eyes darting left and right as his brows furrowed. "He was shaking when we found him," Lestrade whispered to John, not wanting to interrupt Sherlock's train of thought, "he hasn't spoken a word since we found him."
"Where is he?"
"The neighbour has him playing with her children, which he does often, but not even she can get him to talk. We can organise counselling but…" Lestrade shrugged.
"I am done I think," announced Sherlock as he spun round, making his coat flare elegantly.
"And?" Lestrade encouraged, knowing it would be Sherlock's lead that would solve this case.
"I wish to speak to the boy."
"He will not talk to you," replied Lestrade sounding slightly surprised.
Again Lestrade shrugged and led Sherlock and John next door. At first the neighbour, Jen, thought they had come to talk to her, so she had begun to repeat her witness statement to Sherlock. But Sherlock had little patience for her and demanded a bit too strongly to talk to the boy she was temporarily caring for.
"He is in the kitchen baking cakes with my two children," she answered, an edge in her tone that no doubt was there because of Sherlock's rudeness.
They found him just as they had been told, quietly stirring a bowl of cake mix whilst the other two children chatted away and greased some cake tins.
As the three men entered, the children turned to them and stopped talking immediately.
"Your mother is looking for you," said Sherlock coldly. The children looked at each other and then slowly walked out of the room, their backs against the wall in fear so that they were as far away as possible from the big scary pale man in the dark coat and messy hair.
Joseph was left twiddling his thumbs and avoiding Sherlock's gaze. Sherlock studied him for a moment and then shooed Lestrade and John out into the corridor. They thought he was going to tell them something he didn't want the boy to hear, but when he began to shut the door with them on the other side they realised he was cutting them out. Lestrade slammed his foot in the door so it could not close.
"You and a disturbed child on your own?" Lestrade frowned. "I'm not sure if that is a good idea Sherlock."
"Believe it or not Lestrade, I am capable of subtlety and tact occasionally." Sherlock looked at John. Some kind of silent conversation passed between them as John gently placed his hand on Lestrade's arm.
"Just let him try, if we here screaming or crying we can always break the door down." Lestrade didn't look overly pleased but he stepped back and allowed Sherlock's private consultation with the child.
John began to twitch after ten minutes had passed.
"Maybe we should-"
The door opened and the young boy peered at them, his eyes red raw and the colour of his skin a deathly grey. John was about to demand what Sherlock had done to him, but the words got stuck in his throat when he noticed how Sherlock had his hand on the boy's back as if he was comforting him, and the boy was clinging onto his coat like you would a parent when you were around strangers.
"Joseph is ready to make a statement," Sherlock said calmly, although there was something off with his manner that John could not figure out. Please god, don't tell me he tortured the boy.
Lestrade called an officer over who specialised in child victims to get the statement and went to sit down in the corner so he could listen, but as Sherlock disappeared out the door he made the snap decision to follow him, he could always read the statement later. He found Sherlock talking once again with the neighbour, but to his surprise it was not about the case.
"Does the boy have anyone to stay with whilst everything is sorted out? Family? The last thing he needs right now is to be put in a care home."
"He is welcome to stay with me as long as he needs; he has been practically family since they moved in next door." Sherlock's agitation seemed to calm after that and he nodded approvingly at the woman before walking out of the house without saying goodbye, John and Lestrade hot on his heels.
"So what?" Lestrade sighed at Sherlock's difficultness.
"So, any leads?"
"I'm afraid this case does not interest me Lestrade, therefore I shall not waste any brain power trying to solve it."
"Sherlock!" John protested, but Sherlock was defiant.
"What about the boy?"
Sherlock shifted on the spot.
"He'll be fine." Sherlock didn't allow Lestrade to reply, he was already half way down the street before he had finished speaking.
John was cross with Sherlock. He had seen him turn down cases before, but never involving a child that had been orphaned by the murder. To avoid having to talk to him, John went to bed early, reading for a while before feeling his eyes droop and going to sleep.
A loud thump woke John from his dreamless sleep. At first he thought he was hearing things but when a second thud was heard, along with a muffled moan, John shot up on red alert. He took the gun from his bed side drawer and tiptoed out of his room in search for the origin of the noises. There was a yelp. Sherlock! John raced to Sherlock's room, cocking the gun before charging into the bedroom and aiming it at the bed.
He lowered the gun immediately when he saw that Sherlock was the only one in the room. He was wrestling his duvet and crying out in his sleep. Nightmare, John thought sympathetically, knowing what those could be like.
As John stood there contemplating what to do, Sherlock gave one large jerk and fell off the bed. The impact was not quite enough to wake him, however, as he had managed to tangle himself up in his duvet and so it cushioned his fall. John sighed and quietly picked Sherlock up and helped him back into bed. Sherlock was still whimpering so he did what he mother would do to him when he had nightmares when he was young. He hushed a few times and stroked Sherlock's forehead.
"Shh Sherlock, it was just a dream, shh."
It did the trick. The wriggling stopped and Sherlock's breath slowed. John debated staying with Sherlock just in case the dreams came back, but he decided against it. So he gave Sherlock a final tuck in and went back to bed.