Lestrade pulled a crooked smile as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were shown into his office. He leant back in his wheelie chair and clasped his hands together, leaning his elbows on the armrests.
"Let me guess," he said as he offered the men a seat with a gesture, "you have solved my case for me and now you want me to make an arrest." Sherlock said nothing, Lestrade took that as a yes. "I knew you couldn't stay away." He pointed an accusing finger. "So who is getting a ride in the back of a police car today then?"
"We don't know," replied John. Lestrade was visibly less than happy with this statement; he shifted in his chair looking agitated. "What we mean to say is," corrected John, "we know who did it, but we don't have a name."
Lestrade took a deep breath. "Right." He turned to the detective. "Sherlock, you want to take me through it?"
"It is very simple really," Sherlock said nonchalantly. "The victim was a music agent. Every Robbie Williams and Madonna wannabe goes to him in hope of a record contract."
"I'm surprised you know who Robbie Williams and Madonna are," murmured Lestrade. John had to stifle a laugh. If Sherlock was offended by the comment he did not show it.
"The victim probably rejected hundreds of applications a month, crushing the dreams of many with one letter or phone call. I put it to you that one of these people found out where the victim lived and went to his house in hope for a second chance, or at least some tips on how to improve. He is invited in and they talk, the victim saying in no uncertain terms that the musician is a terrible singer and should continue working in McDonalds or wherever he his wasting his life away. The victim stands and suggests he should leave, but after being insulted the musician sees red and stabs the victim. He had been sitting on the sofa at the time and so that explains the strange angle of the entry wound. But the victim cries out as the knife strikes and in a blind panic the murderer rushes out the back way, climbing the tree in the back garden and jumping the fence, explaining the lack of footprints on the wood."
As Sherlock finished his narrative his eyes narrowed, like he was waiting for Lestrade's reaction. He glanced at John momentarily, exchanging a look that Lestrade did not understand, but in a blink it was gone and Sherlock was once more looking at him with the stone cold expression that made Lestrade shudder.
"But you have no name?" Lestrade asked eventually.
"It is impossible to know, it is likely this man had many official and unofficial auditions and too many rejections to sieve through. I have helped you as much as I can; the rest is up to you."
Lestrade groaned at the thought of the amount of work Sherlock's deductions told him he would be doing for the next week; getting a list of every rejection the victim had given, alibis, statements, paperwork. This was not going to be fun.
Sherlock and John left an exhausted Lestrade to his work.
As they stepped onto the pavement, John let out a breath he had been holding.
"Do you think he believed us?"
"Lestrade has one flaw. No, scratch that, he has many flaws. But one of those flaws is that he trusts me, and so if I say something happened, then he will take it as gospel."
"What if he finds someone that fits our description? We cannot allow an innocent get blamed for this."
"I am not that cold hearted John," Sherlock said in a monotone. "If Lestrade managed to catch anyone with my vague description it would be a miracle. But of course I would then prove them innocent." Sherlock sighed. "In time it will become a cold case, a file of papers in a pile of other 'to do' files that will never be put to rest."
John did not approve of taking advantage of Lestrade like this, but the alternative meant a young boy would go to juvenile prison and for Sherlock's sake John was not going to let that happen.
John quickened his pace as to keep up with Sherlock's long stride, almost barging straight into oncoming traffic when Sherlock took an unexpected left. He hesitated.
"Er, Sherlock, the flat is that way." He indicated the street in the opposite direction. Sherlock did not stop as he called over his shoulder.
"We are not going home just yet."
Joseph could not make eye contact with either John or Sherlock as they sat opposite him on the sofa in the living room of the neighbour's house. John watched as he picked at the skin around his fingernails and chewed them off when they got long enough. Sherlock, who would normally look scrutinising and intimidating in these conditions, slouched on the settee with his hands loosely resting in his lap. He gave off a wave of calm that spread through the room as he waited until they were certain the neighbour was no longer eavesdropping and would not hear what was to be said. She had been reluctant to allow Sherlock into her house after his rudeness last time but Sherlock had insisted, explaining it was for the case. She then had wanted to sit with Joseph as Sherlock and John talked to him but Sherlock had refused. When she protested he stared blankly at the wall until she had given up and left the room. John he been about to speak when Sherlock placed his hand on John's knee to catch his attention and quickly shook his head. John gave an enquiring look and Sherlock nodded towards the door. Understanding his meaning, John leant back and they continued to wait in silence until footsteps were heard going up the stairs.
"Joseph," Sherlock said very quietly. The boy shot an accusing look at John. "It's okay, John is a friend, he is going to help." Finally the boy lifted his head and pushed his hands between his knees to stop himself fidgeting. "Listen to me Joseph, everything is going to be alright, I have fixed it just like I promised you. The police will never come for you so long as you tell no one, and I mean no one, about what happened. Do you understand?" He nodded, his eyes tearing up. Sherlock shifted forward in his seat and rummaged into his inside coat pocket, pulling out a small rectangular card. "If you ever need anything, and I mean anything, you call me. Be it tomorrow, next month, or ten years away, I will be there."
Sherlock held out his calling card between his two fingers and, like a mouse edging towards cheese that could be in a trap, Joseph reached out and snatched it away.
With a satisfied nod, Sherlock stood up and was caught unawares as Joseph jumped at him, hugging his legs so tightly that Sherlock could not move. He froze momentarily, looking at John with a 'help me' expression. John simply smiled. Slowly Sherlock wrapped one arm around the boy's shoulders and the other on the back of his head as he pressed him closer in a strong embrace.
John waited patiently until the unlikely companions pulled apart. Before he left, Sherlock placed a hand on Joseph's shoulder and said, "any time. I mean it."
"Thank you." Joseph's voice broke as he spoke.
John looked incredibly smug as the duo climbed into the taxi and headed back to Baker Street.
"What is it?" Sherlock asked with an air of frustration.
"Nothing," he replied, in a way that suggested there was more. "It's just," there it was, "I never saw you as the caring father type." Sherlock shifted in his seat. "It was nice."
"Well don't get used to it," Sherlock mumbled.
"Why not, I can't see why the great Sherlock Holmes can't show a little emotion now and again."
"John," Sherlock took a deep breath, "shut up. If you will not engage me in stimulating conversation then I ask you not to talk at all." John rolled his eyes.
"Oh well, it was nice while it lasted."
"Shush," Sherlock snapped.