Once again, I'm glad everyone's enjoyed this story. Thanks for the comments! There should be one more chapter to go before we're done with this. (And there may be a serious Moriarty arc to come in a sequel—if there's some interest and the muse provides!) :)
The throbbing in Joan's head woke her from a fuzzy sleep. In her dream, she'd been searching for Sherlock throughout the brownstone. She could hear him, but she couldn't find him and she knew he was in danger. When the pain in her head drove her to open her eyes, she was still hearing his voice.
"So. What is it you want exactly? I do have a schedule."
"Ah yes. 'Nanny Watson' must miss you. So let's get to it."
Joan blinked, glancing around for Sherlock. She was in what proved to be a hotel room. Her wrists were locked to a radiator with cuffs. Sherlock wasn't in the room, but her captor was. He was listening to a tiny speaker connected to some sort of transmitter. She focused and realized that Sherlock was speaking with Moriarty. The meeting. She remembered the note, the sudden intruder and her attempt to fight him. He'd been vicious, pistol whipping her across the skull with his gun. The wound had bled a lot. She'd tried to get to her room, but hadn't made it far; she'd felt the sting of a hypodermic needle in her shoulder and that had been the last thing she remembered.
Until waking up here. "Smile." The kidnapper took her picture with a cell phone as she glanced up at him, her eyes full of hate. He'd bound her well, hands and feet, and gagged her with some sort of cloth shoved into her mouth and held in place by a piece of duct tape. Her adversary was a tall man with a crew cut and a military manner. She'd tried to fight him off, but he was simply too large and too strong.
The voices being transmitted brought her attention back to the conversation between Sherlock and Moriarty. "Mr. Holmes. You are incredibly brilliant. So brilliant in fact, that I have admired you for quite some time. It would be a pity for you to end up on the wrong side of a bullet. Rest assured…if you continue to get in my way, I will have to take the regrettable step of killing you."
She felt the bitterest hatred turn her stomach at hearing the leering voice. So this was the son-of-a-bitch that had caused Sherlock so much pain. Her body shook with rage, but she could say nothing due to the gag.
"If I died in the process of bringing you to your deserved end, I would gladly make that sacrifice. It would be an honor."
No, Sherlock. Don't say that! Her anger melted into terror; the determined note in his voice terrified her. She focused on every word, closing her eyes to concentrate and in her mind, she could almost see the scene.
"What about your 'not a friend?' The sober companion? You don't mind her sacrificed for those principles as well?"
"She has nothing to do with this," She heard Sherlock reply, then there was a pause when she wasn't sure what would happen next. Her eyes met the dark eyes of her kidnapper, and he grinned, his empty eyes and sharp teeth reminding her of a shark.
"How long do you think you would have remained clean if not for her influence? I predict you would have been shooting up again within a month. You had quite an expensive habit, as I remember." She flinched at Moriarty's taunting, knowing it would cut him deeply. "Since this woman is so valuable to you, you need to think about your future actions."
"On the contrary, you should think about your actions. If you harm Joan or anyone else of mine, I will take everything from you; your power, your money, your network of criminals. Then, lastly, I WILL kill you." Joan could hear his determination.
Sherlock's next words made her heart leap, even though she was fighting a wave of dizziness and exhaustion. She could still feel the effects of whatever had been in that syringe. "I should think that you'll want to release Miss Watson in the next thirteen minutes. That is the exact response time from the nearest police precinct to The Ibis Hotel, where she is located, in an east facing room, probably the third floor."
She watched with satisfaction as her kidnapper looked up at her, surprise in his dark eyes. "Goddamn it." He said to himself. She watched as he began to toss things into a black, military style duffel bag. There was the transmitter and speakers, a gun and knife, and several other things she wasn't able to see. Then the captor's phone rang.
"Yes... Yes, I heard. Are you certain? I can take care of her in less than a minute since time may be of the essence." He grinned, shark like again, then looked disappointed. "Yes. I understand."
He ended the call. "Looks like you get a free pass this time." He walked over and grabbed her chin roughly. He turned her eyes up toward his and seemed to be memorizing her face. "Next time, we'll play for keeps."
She shrank back from him, her skin crawling at the feel of his cold gloved hands on her face. She knew he could murder her and never think twice about it. In fact, the more she studied his dark eyes, she thought he would enjoy it. He leaned in and whispered
"Goodbye, Joan Watson" in her ear. His breath brushed her skin and made her shudder.
Then he was gone. Joan groaned in disgust and sank back against the radiator. She hoped her rescuers would hurry; just in case the kidnapper changed his mind about playing for keeps.
The New York cabbie got him there in ten minutes, beating Gregson and the police. Sherlock threw some money at the driver and was inside before the man could count it.
The Ibis Hotel was a relic of the 1950's. It had once been a small, exclusive, upscale hotel, but now its faded elegance, while still apparent, was on the wane. The carpet was ancient and faded, but the faint blue and white details in the carpet could still be seen. The only occupants of the lobby were several worn sofas and chairs sporting hideously mismatched patterns. The detective blew right past the front desk attendant, finding the stairs and taking them two at a time.
In less than a minute, he was at the third floor. He knew she would be the third or fourth room down from the view of the mural painted on the Baker Building from the window in the photo. He chose the fourth room and knocked. He heard a soft sound from the room and pulled a paperclip from his pocket. It took him less than fifteen seconds to pick the thirty year old lock and pop the door open.
"Joan—" He was at her side in an instant, freeing her from the gag first. She was pale and looked a bit confused. "Gregson's on his way. Are you alright?" He examined her eyes, then the bloody gash on her head. It was still oozing blood. The side of her face near the wound was a bluish color where she'd been struck.
She nodded, and immediately he began to work on the handcuff lock. "Are you okay? Moriarty…I heard him. A transmitter."
She saw his jaw stiffen, the way it did when he was struggling with something. "I'm fine." The cuffs clicked and her hands were free. She threw her arms around him and he returned the embrace for long moments. Reluctantly he got up, then grabbed a towel from the bathroom and gently applied it to her head. "It's still bleeding." He said simply as he pulled out his phone with his other hand.
He texted Gregson the room number, just as he heard the sirens from outside. Then he pulled her close as they waited for the police.