If ever a remark drove Lestrade up the wall, it was no followed by comment.
By nine-thirty, the chief medical officer on duty considered Liam Newell sober enough to be interviewed. But while it might have been true that he'd sobered up, that didn't mean he was going to be co-operative. So far he'd said no comment eleven times in a row though, oddly, he'd rejected the offer of legal help.
There was something else bothering Lestrade a little as he sat across the interview table from his suspect. John Watson had immediately come to the conclusion that Newell must be an alcoholic, but he neither smelled nor looked like one.
Harriet Watson didn't always look or smell like an alcoholic. Still, Harry didn't live rough, either, and Newell had been homeless prior to his arrest. He bore all the trademarks of a homeless man: unshaven, wearing six layers of clothes, unwashed. Rancid body odour and stale tobacco emanated off him, with no hint of alcohol.
Lestrade had interviewed dozens of drunks in his time. They always stank of alcohol. They sweated it from every pore.
"Okay." Lestrade flicked his pen in a blatant attempt to irritate his suspect into talking and not at all minding if he also irritated Sally Donovan, seated beside him. "Right. So let's go back to square one. Your full name?"
"I've told you this already, Inspector." This in quiet, respectful tones. Newell might have been impoverished and homeless, but when he opened his mouth, he immediately gave Lestrade the impression that it had not always been so for him. The alcohol, probably. Marriage breakup, perhaps. Mental illness. Maybe all three. He'd once been a respectable man, clearly - and probably quite handsome, under that layer of hair and dirt.
"Yeah, I know you did. But I have this problem with my memory - it's not good," Lestrade said. "I forget things in a hurry. Again, please."
Newell sighed. "My name is William Robert Newell."
"And your address?"
"I don't have one. I already told you. I spent the night before last at the Stoning Boarding House in Chivers Street."
"That's a bit of a commute from Ravenscourt Park," Lestrade remarked casually. "I don't expect you to remember, because you were off your head at the time, but that's where we found you. So what were you doing there, exactly?"
Lestrade flicked his pen again. Click-click. Click. Click-click. "Okay. How did you get there? Did you walk? Take a cab?"
"Well, you got there, anyway. I'm just going to imagine that you teleported…" Lestrade wrote teleported to Ravenscourt Park in his notebook. "So, Moran says you met at the Legion beforehand. He says he bought you a drink and you chatted for a bit. Is that right?"
"Did you follow him out of the Legion last night?" Donovan tried.
"Did he do something, say something that made you afraid?" she asked, in possibly the most gentle tone of voice Lestrade had ever heard from her. "Self-defence isn't illegal, Liam. You wouldn't be punished for that. If you hurt him in self-defence, though, we need to know so that we can help you."
Lestrade gave Donovan an approving glance. Generally, when she and Lestrade played Good-Cop-Bad-Cop, her role was Bad Cop. There was something reasonable and paternal and earthy about Lestrade that a lot of people responded positively to. On occasion, though, they would tacitly switch places. Some suspects responded better to a kind word from a pretty woman.
Not for the first or last time, Lestrade longed to have Sherlock Holmes on hand. He raised suspects' hackles, wasn't always strictly by-the-book and once had a chair thrown at him, but so far as Lestrade's memory went, he'd never had a suspect stonewall him with no comment. Not for long, anyway.
"Newell," he said, "it's over. You got caught, and Moran isn't going to die. You can't ignore that with no comment. 'Cause I can assure you, if this goes to trial, and it will, the judge is going to have plenty of comments for you. Unless you start helping us."
"… No comment."
"Maybe you'll be able to think up some comments if we leave you to it for a bit." Lestrade stood up. "Interview suspended at 9:43 am. Suspect is being returned to a holding cell. Interview will resume at midday."
At half-past eleven that morning, Sherlock heard his brother finally return to the house. He waited for a minute or two from behind his locked bedroom door, listening to Mycroft moving around heavily in the parlour below. Concluding he wasn't on his way upstairs, he contravened his orders by unlocking the door and going down to him. He found Mycroft sitting in his armchair by the French windows. He seemed dishevelled; or rather, as dishevelled as Mycroft could look in a three-piece suit. His back touched the chair he was sitting in – a sure sign that he was either mentally busy or physically exhausted – as he puffed on a cigarette.
"Ah, the famous Holmes coping mechanism." Sherlock held his hand out, and Mycroft passed him a fresh cigarette and a lighter. He sparked up, put the lighter back down on the side table, and moved over to the window. They smoked in silence for a minute or two.
"What's happening?" Sherlock finally asked.
Mycroft pulled some papers out of his left-hand breast pocket and passed them to his brother. Sherlock looked them over for a few seconds.
"This is my new identity, I suppose."
"Yes. Memorise that information."
"'Christian Yearsley'. What a ridiculous name." Sherlock, unaware of the irony of his comment, noted that his new date of birth was two and a half years after his real one and couldn't help smiling for a second. Besides new documents - false passport, false birth certificate – he found a plane ticket, and looked it over in silence for a few seconds.
"Are you serious, Mycroft?" he demanded. "You're sending me to -"
"You're fortunate that I managed to talk my way out of New York," Mycroft said flatly. "I don't want to hear any complaining about it, Sherlock. The plane leaves at eight o'clock. I'll accompany you to the airport and make sure you're on it."
"But you're not coming with me?"
Mycroft noted the twinge of anxiety in Sherlock's voice, and felt its answer in his own chest. "I'll be a few days behind you. My own flight leaves on Thursday morning. I can't leave London too abruptly; it would look suspicious. On the back of that piece of paper you'll find a list of coded instructions as to what to do once you arrive. You are to follow them to the letter, and then destroy them. Are you packed?"
"Yes." Sherlock flopped down restlessly on the sofa, fidgeting for a few seconds and, Mycroft noted, clearly playing Bach's Passion-Johannes in the privacy of his own head. "How long, Mycroft?" he asked at length.
"How long is this going to go for? I'd nearly finished it..."
Mycroft sighed. "I imagine it will finish when it's safe to target Moran again."
"And when will that be?"
"When do you think?"
Sherlock considered this in silence, and did not return the answer: Not for years. It would be years before he could go back to Baker Street, and Mrs Hudson, and taking cases and… back to John.
Though, one had to take Molly Hooper into consideration now.
He's probably stupid enough to marry her, eventually. Sentiment.
Still, he thought, unhelpful to reflect on those things. "What happened with Newell?" he asked instead, resigning himself to problems at hand.
Mycroft paused, chewing on the inside of his left cheek. He lit up another cigarette. Sherlock stamped his foot.
"Mycroft. Is Newell talking?"
"No," Mycroft finally said in a low voice. "And you needn't worry that he's going to do so."
At twenty past three that afternoon, John woke abruptly from a heavy and pleasant sleep. At first, he didn't know what had woken him; Toby was nowhere to be seen, and Molly seemed not to be home yet. After a few seconds, though, he heard it again: a heavy, urgent knock on the door.
Probably not the Red Cross making a collection.
"Yeah, okay, I'm coming," he called down the stairs, trying not to sound cross at the third round of knocking. "We do have a doorbell," he muttered in much lower tones as he reached the foot of the stairs. He yanked the front door open more abruptly than he intended and found Greg Lestrade on the step.
The doctor's first thought was that Lestrade was ill, or injured. He was leaning on the doorframe with one hand, and John hadn't seen him look that pale and drawn since the day he'd had to tell him-
"Are you okay?" he demanded. "What's happened?"
"Liam Newell committed suicide in his cell."
"… Oh, shit." John took him by the arm and drew him into the hall. "Right. Come in."
"We should never have left him there that long, John," Lestrade blurted out as John led him into the living room. "Never for that long. We should have realised he was a suicide risk-"
"Sit down. I'm going to make you some coffee, okay?"
Lestrade sat down, putting his face in his hands for a second. "We don't even know what he did it with… Halloran went in and found it all sprayed up the walls-"
"Greg shut up. Talking like that -"
"No, I'm okay, John. Stop carrying on; I'm okay. Poor bloody Halloran's not."
"I can imagine." John Watson had an intimate acquaintance with the sight of "it" sprayed up a wall; it was plenty gruesome for a soldier and a doctor, let alone Lestrade's youngest and most wide-eyed constable. "Have they offered him help? Counselling?"
"I don't know. I suppose so. It's procedure whenever a suspect dies in custody."
"Did they offer any to you?"
"I'm, uh, suspended with full pay until they investigate whether we were remiss…" Lestrade said, which didn't answer John's question in the least. He seemed about to say more when Toby jumped into his lap, purring furiously. Lestrade liked cats in general, and Toby in particular; he'd once commented that any animal that seemed to understand sarcasm was all right by him. He raised no objection to the tabby's attention, and absently stroked his head.
"Okay. How long are you suspended for?"
"I don't know. They sent me home, but Hayley's there and right now I can't…" He trailed off. "Not yet. Um. I have to go back in and make a statement…"
"Not today. You're in no fit condition to give any kind of accurate statement. I'll sign anything I need to saying so. You're in shock."
"I'm not in shock."
"You bloody well are. Now shut up and drink your coffee."
Lestrade had barely taken a sip, however, before he made a brief, choking sound; John glanced over and saw that he was laughing. All of John's medical instincts rose up against that laugh.
"Stop it," he said.
"Oh, Christ, John. This is the second person who's committed suicide on my watch…"
John gritted his teeth, but only for a second. It had never before occurred to him, in all the days and nights of feeling that he was to blame for Sherlock's suicide, that Lestrade felt the same way. "And neither of those suicides were your fault."
"Right. Okay. Do you think you could tell that to Dawson for me?"
"You don't want me to," John returned, fighting an almost obscene urge to smile. "I think we both know I'm not Dawson's favourite person."
Lestrade laughed again, but this was his usual laugh, and not the high-pitched hysteria John had heard from him a minute before. "I think he might hate me more than he hates you now."
"I don't see why that should be," John said. "After being on your case for so long, you've finally caught him a serial killer."
Lestrade looked at him.
"Sort of," he clarified. "Look. They found Newell red-handed. Open and shut case. That he chose to kill himself had nothing to do with you. He'd have done the same thing on Gregson's watch."
Lestrade sipped his coffee in silence. He could think of no way of telling John of the thought plaguing him all morning: that Newell was innocent.
Didn't matter now. Even if he'd survived custody, he'd been found with the bloodstained pipe in his hands. No jury in the world would have acquitted him, and now none needed to.
"You've got everything?"
Mycroft caught the anxiety in his voice far too late, and flinched. I need to stop doing that.
It was just past seven o'clock, and he and Sherlock stood in one of the rooms just off Customs at Heathrow - a room that was usually reserved for private interviews of potential illegals and drug smugglers. Plastic furniture and harsh fluorescent lighting that served to make Sherlock look more gaunt than ever. But though Sherlock's hands were shaking, he still managed to roll his eyes.
"Next I suppose you'll wipe my face with a tissue," he said. "Yes. I have everything I need…"
The sentence seemed to finish itself.
"There'll be a car to meet you on arrival," Mycroft said. "Don't speak to the driver. Don't, so far as you can help, speak to anyone."
"I think that can be arranged. I'm hardly in a chatty mood." Sherlock paused. "Thursday?"
"I need to deal with transfer paperwork first."
Another unfinished sentence: and clean up the death of Liam Newell. Sherlock had been adamant that Lestrade not be made to take the rap for that, even though he'd seen the preliminary, shocked statement that the DI had given his superiors only an hour before. By now they'd discovered the suicide 'weapon': a paperclip. One that could very well have been picked up with a proper search of Newell's person, prior to locking him up unsupervised for several hours. A search that DI Lestrade hadn't thought to order. Or so his statement had gone, prior to a mysteriously edited version - sans incriminating details like that - turning up in its place.
"The driver will give you the keys," Mycroft continued carefully. "And I've arranged for food and clothes to be available until I'm able to get there. You will not be seen until then, is that understood?"
Mycroft looked at his brother for a few seconds in silence. "Sherlock," he said. "We will finish this."
Sherlock looked down and shook his head slightly. Before Mycroft could respond, he felt a faint buzzing from the phone in his left-hand breast pocket. He pulled it out to look at it for a few seconds.
"They're ready to board you," he said in quite different tones. "I'll see you to the gate. Follow me."