I now write all Sherlock drafts, literally, on the backs of envelopes to ensure brevity of style.


John was halfway through his second Guinness when all hell broke loose on the TV. The pub hushed, broken only by the bus boy's nervous giggle as they watched a football fan climb onto the referee and lay into him like a wad of bread dough. The fight was picked up by the Jumbotron, and when Sal Velasquez, all-star player and Internet darling, moved to separate the men, a red hole appeared in his forehead, and he pitched back, eyes falling on the cameraman as a hundred thousand fans ran for the exits, only to find them locked from the other side.

John speed-dialed his intern. "Hello? Have you seen what's happened at the stadium? I'm on my way, trauma ward's going to be slammed tonight."

He glanced down, and a bar napkin with a note on it appeared by his elbow. STOCK UP ON CLOZAPINE AND B6.

John looked round, but a fog of cigar smoke hung over the room, and everyone was seated. He tapped the napkin.

"How many psychs we got on the floor? Quadruple it, I suspect we'll be signing off a lot of Section 11s tonight. "

A second napkin appeared. ALSO FOLIC ACID, THEIR BLOOD WILL BE DEMINERALIZED.

John grabbed the bus boy's arm, but no, he was just a kid. "Yes, I'm still here," John said, rubbing his mouth, "While you're at it, call in some muscle from the main office, I won't have the NPs tackling drunk and disorderlies and, frankly, no one would be heartbroken if these idiots ended the night in toe-tags."

He crumpled up the first napkin, and found a different message on the back. NO ONE NEED DIE TONIGHT. THOUGH THESE MEN BE DANGEROUS, DRUG-ADDLED, DRIVEN TO COMMIT CRIMES AGAINST INTERDIMENSIONAL SPACE IN THE NAME OF EUGENE ONEGIN'S CTHONIC DEATH CULT, THEY ARE BRITISH CITIZENS, AND DESERVE A FAIR TRIAL. I CAN FIX THIS. WILL YOU COME WITH ME?

John turned over the second napkin, and swallowed hard. SAY YES.

He looked up, and an old man in a police uniform raised his glass to him, a smile toying at the edge of his mouth. John walked over, and pushed the man's jacket open.

"Where's all this blood from?"

"Oh that," said Holmes, finishing his beer and dropping a pile of bloody Russian banknotes on the table, "I had a duel with a pal."

Leading John to the men's room, Holmes stood on a toilet seat to slide aside a ceiling tile. "Here," he said, handing John an EMT uniform, "Change into this. We'll enter the stadium by the loading dock, should be sparse security there."

John fingered the hospital logo on the shirt. "I only left you two hours ago, when did you get around to squirreling this away?"

"Please, I have disguises all over the city. If you check the boiler room two doors down, you'll find a red concierge suit with shoes to match."

"And how are you supposed to blend in with that?"

Holmes pulled down a spare gun, the edge glinting in the florescent light. "It's not important to blend," he said, pushing a magazine into place, "It's important to appear harmless."

Weaving between delivery trucks, they approached the dock, and Holmes held up his hand for John to stay back. John eyed the guard on duty, stepping out for a smoke break. "How are we getting in?"

"How old would you guess he is?"

"I dunno, forty? Forty-five?"

"He's forty-six. Originally from County Cork, but made his way to the city to work in the shipping industry, until a recent injury forced him to take on night work. His wife insisted he stay off his bad knee in order to resume his packing job as soon as possible, judging by the way he leans against that rail. Frugal, middle-aged, and currently working a job two miles from the nearest bus terminal. Thus," he said, casting about the parking lot, "The car."

"What car?"

Holmes pulled out his pistol, and aimed. "That one."

A shot rang out, and the windshield of a rusting Volvo spiderwebbed in the dark. The guard looked up, cursed, and went running.

"Okay," John whispered, as they went up the steps, "But that's one man. There must be dozens more inside."

"It's worse than that," said Holmes, stooping to retrieve the guard's lit cigarette, "They will undoubtedly be Onegin's men, put in place to ensure no one escapes the building before the ritual sacrifice is complete. They would as soon crush our skulls as a child would pop a soap bubble."

"Sherlock!"

"Oh hush," he said, pulling out a small jar full of red powder from inside his jacket, "You think I came unprepared?"

"Are you going to tell me what that is?"

"Wouldn't want to ruin the surprise," he said, opening the door, "After you, good sir."

Inside, men in riot gear clustered around a security monitor, armed with assault rifles, their walkie-talkies hissing every few seconds with new instructions. Scales crept out from their collars, and the first to notice John had the bright look of sleep deprivation, soldiering on with the knowledge that he would soon sleep forever.

Holmes put the cigarette to his lips and sucked hard, the cherry glowing in the gloom. "It is done," he said, smoke curling from his mouth as every gun in the room leveled their sights at him, "I have come from the Sanctuary, and the Master from across the Void has whispered his plans to me. All is in readiness. Krocadeel is coming. Krocadeel is coming..." he said, pulling out the jar of powder, "...for us all."

And dashing the jar to the ground, he tossed the lit cigarette onto the scattered mercury thiocyanate, and watched with great satisfaction as huge tentacles erupted from the flames, writhing in all directions and stinking like a charnel house. Black smoke funneled clockwise into the ceiling, setting off the sprinklers, and the lights quickly changed to red as the klaxon sounded for everyone to evacuate. The men watched in silent wonder, afraid they might soon be pulled through the very stones of the earth to meet their final doom.

John grabbed his hand, sending a thrill that skated up his arm, did a u-turn at his brain, and burst somewhere around his heart like a warm water balloon. And squealing like baby pigs, Russia's emptied their clips into the burning horror at their feet, while John and Holmes took off down the main corridor.


TBC