The fourth floor, south-side vending machine seemed less like a business transaction and more like a wheel of fortune. You put your money in, pressed your selection. Sometimes it jammed. Sometimes it gave you something else. Sometimes it spat out chocolate and crisps and drinks all over the place, and sometimes it did absolutely nothing at all.
Occasionally, if you were lucky, it gave you exactly what you wanted and nothing else.
Lestrade kicked the machine gently with the side of his foot until it yielded what he wanted - Coke - then retrieved it from the dispenser and stalked back to his office. Ordinarily, it would have been coffee. But somebody had poured the last from the percolator and hadn't bothered to brew more which, in that particular kitchenette, was almost a capital offence. Somebody else had already got to the percolator before Lestrade and taped a note to it:
Hi! I'm a coffee percolator! I distribute coffee to fifteen overworked underpaid detectives. Or I do when I am filled.
(If you have taken the last of the coffee the least you could do is make more you selfish shit)
Lestrade had left the note there and added another, scribbled on a piece of paper ripped out of his notebook:
Hi! I'm DI Lestrade, and I'm your boss! I oversee fifteen overworked, underpaid detectives and I drink coffee too.
(If I catch who's leaving notes like this I'll be writing up them AND the selfish shit drinking all the coffee)
It had taken just as much time and effort to write the note as it would have done to make more coffee, but that wasn't the point. All he really wanted was something to keep him awake. It had been one hell of a night.
Cancel that. It'd been one hell of a week.
After the drama at Baker Street the night before, it was amazing that he'd been asked to come into work at all. But then, it wasn't his fault that John had punched Dawson (he'd missed that, much to his disappointment). And it wasn't his fault that Sherlock had pulled a gun on the police and escaped with John as a… hostage, apparently. And God only knew where the two of them were now, so it certainly wasn't his fault they hadn't yet been found. After all, he had his best people out looking for them.
He hadn't asked any of them to make enquiries at St Bartholomew's hospital. Nor had he asked Molly Hooper if she'd seen her friends recently.
It had been a beautiful morning; fresh and bright, with only a few fluffy cotton-wool clouds in the sky. But those clouds had gathered and darkened quickly, and then a haze of drizzle had drifted in. Lestrade gazed out the window absently, looking at the shining pavement, the drips coming off the eaves of the adjoining building, the assortment of dark and bright umbrellas on the street below that seemed, from above, to be transporting themselves. The rain back home was cleansing. The rain in London just made everything dirty and wet.
And he was supposed to be working, not staring out the window. He turned back to the desk and reached out absently for the Coke.
One sip, and he grimaced - it was vile. Sweet enough to put you in a diabetic coma, and not the same idea as coffee at all. He was just wondering to himself whether it'd be worth backing down and making more coffee (or telling Thompson to) when a knock on the open office door pulled him out of his thoughts.
Sergeant Sally Donovan was also looking slightly worse for wear this morning: bleary-eyed, her hair still slightly damp and smelling strongly of shampoo. Obviously hadn't slept much the night before, though she'd technically been off the clock for eight hours in between Fun Times at Baker Street and the day of paperwork and follow-up investigations that generally followed anything that Sherlock Holmes took it into his head to do.
"Donovan. Any news on the Bruhl kids?" Lestrade pretended to be absorbed in the official report into the kidnapping, though he could probably have recited it by then. The last thing he wanted was the company of Sally Donovan.
"Their mother's arrived at the hospital this morning." The father, Lestrade knew, had arrived back in London at around ten the night before and had been at his son's bedside since then. The divorced Bruhls did not get on. Good times were being had at that hospital.
"How are they doing?"
"Not well. Max is still unconscious and Claudette had a very bad night of it. She still won't speak…"
Lestrade had a sneaking suspicion that he wanted Claudette to start speaking not so much for her own mental health, but so that she could say why she'd screamed at the sight of Sherlock the night before. He hadn't kidnapped her. There had to be some other reason. For all he knew, she'd been conditioned to be afraid of baritones or blue scarves.
Poor kid had no idea the drama she'd unleashed.
Donovan was still standing in the doorway - obviously hadn't come in to discuss the Bruhl kids. He looked up at her. "What?"
"Sir, I think you'd better come downstairs. John Watson's just turned himself in."
"What? You mean to say he's downstairs?" Lestrade got up. "Where's Sherlock?"
"We don't know. John's asked for you, and he won't talk to anyone else."
It was hardly a surprise that John wouldn't talk to Donovan, anyway. Lestrade went down to the front foyer where DS Lucy Parnell met him. Good officer, Parnell. A lot easier to get along with than Donovan. Less mouth.
"Sir, John Watson," she said.
"Yes. Where is he?"
"Interview room four. Not in a good way, sir."
Lestrade didn't pause to ask what not in a good way was meant to mean. He went down the corridor and around to room four, tapping on the door and stepping in when bidden to do so. DCs Matt Carroll and Brooke Prescott were in attendance. Brand new on the squad, Matt was mild and subservient. Most of his workmates, while they liked him, respected him only a little above the work experience kid. Prescott was almost as recent, but she was making a good impression with her superiors. Solid, by-the-book, lacking in imagination and perhaps in intelligence, but a very decent copper.
Lestrade wasn't really paying attention to Carroll or Prescott, though. Wherever the hell Sherlock was, and however John had come to turn himself in, the man looked awful - grey-faced and shaking. Lestrade stopped short.
"Oh, for God's sake," he blurted out. "Why the hell have you cuffed him? He gave himself up."
"Orders, sir. He -"
"Yeah, I know. I was there. And those are not my orders. Uncuff him."
"Keys are at the front desk, sir." A security measure, theoretically. Most officers had worked out that the need to uncuff someone in a hurry was more likely than being overpowered by a cuffed suspect mugging them for the keys, and disregarded it. Not Prescott. Not yet, anyway. Given time, she was going to get awfully sick of trips to the front desk.
"We'll wait. Matt, go and get Dr. Watson some strong coffee, will you?"
Matt Carroll had yet to earn his way into being addressed by his surname. He and Prescott looked at each other uncertainly. Finally Prescott, looking mightily put out, left. Matt was still hesitating.
"Did you hear me ask you to get coffee, Matt?"
Matt Carroll was too new to know what was likely to happen after Detective Inspector Lestrade started a sentence with "Did you hear me...".
"This isn't an official interview, so I don't need a minder. Go on."
Non-interview or not, Matt knew that he was in for a world of trouble if he left a single officer in charge of a suspect who'd assaulted the Chief Superintendant only the night before. And even more trouble, if such a thing existed, if anyone made the point that the suspect was a personal friend of the DI.
"Sir, for safety reasons and -"
"He's given himself up peacefully, and he's handcuffed. I'd say he'd be a pretty unlikely assailant."
Lestrade stared Matt down - stare-downs were his speciality - until he muttered an assent and left. The heavy door clunked behind him as Lestrade slipped into the seat he'd vacated.
John had been watching all this like a man who was sleepwalking. He was passive and expressionless, and for a second, Lestrade wondered if he even recognised him. He flinched as the chair scraped noisily across the floor.
"Did they read you your rights?" Lestrade asked him quietly. "Offer you access to legal services?"
John nodded, dazed.
"Is there anyone you want me to call, let them know you're here? Mrs. Hudson, or Harry, maybe...?"
This time it was a head shake.
Lestrade glanced up at the security camera to check that there was no tell-tale blinking red light. "And do you understand that anything you say to me in this room, when it's just us and there's no tape recorder or camera running or anything, is strictly off the record?"
"Yeah," John muttered. Both hands were resting on the table, fists clenched; the cuff chain rattled against itself, gently but insistently, between them. Lestrade glanced them over and saw that there was blood under his thumbnails, and grazes on the knuckles of his right hand.
"You look bloody awful. Are you all right? Do you need medical treatment?" Lestrade thought he could smell blood, just faintly, but perhaps that was his imagination. With a table between them, he couldn't see what the other officers had noted when John had first blundered in - the patches of blood on his knees. But John shook his head.
"John, where's Sherlock?"
John swallowed, looking down at his hands.
"Is he all right? Is he safe? We'll get this sorted out, John. But I need to know where he is."
But even as he spoke, Lestrade knew they weren't going to get this sorted out. John would never have left Sherlock somewhere on his own to give himself up out of a sense of moral duty.
"I left him behind at Barts," John said. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid he's dead."
There was a brief knock at the door; a soft jangling noise from behind it. Prescott was back with the keys.