A/N- This is a sequel to The Parson's Son, which is the sequel of a sequel :p If you want in on the ground floor of this series continuation/soon to be AU, and want to know where to start, the first fic is 'After the Fall.'
This, like The Parson's Son, is based on a real life case, and this one uses a lot less artistic license. In 1948, a dead man was found on Somerton Beach, South Australia, with the printed words "tamam shud" and a mysterious code in his pocket. To this day his identity and cause of death remain a mystery. All details of the body in this fic are, so far as I could make them, as they were in real life. So is the code, which has to date never been deciphered. If you think you've got it, NASA would like to hear from you.
It being slightly unrealistic and a bit of a logistical nightmare to take our boys to Australia, this is now set in a different Somerton- in Somerset.
The mosquitos and midges weren't bothering him.
He was sitting on the bank of the river; upright, leaning against a tree, his hat slouched low over his forehead and his head was tilted lazily to one side. There was a cigarette tucked behind his right ear, and another lay balanced between his chin and shoulder. A white cotton shirt, tucked in with due regard for decorum; but he wore no jacket or tie. His black trousers, faded grey and shiny at the knees, were too big for him. Nondescript black shoes, scuffed slightly on the sides. No wallet or keys. Ginger hair curling around his elfin-looking ears and blue eyes that gazed across the river. But he saw nothing, because he was dead.
This was the way the Somerton Man was discovered, at nine in the morning on what was already shaping up to be the hottest July day in living memory.
"Can't you turn up the fan, John?"
"No, Harry, I can't," John responded. "For a start, it doesn't go any higher than that, and if it did, it would probably fly off the ceiling altogether and somebody would get killed."
The weather was no less stifling in London that morning. John hadn't spent three years in Afghanistan for nothing and was largely unbothered by the ridiculous weather (he hated the cold more), but Harry, who had come around because her own house didn't have a ceiling fan, was sprawled out miserably on the floorboards. Half of her conversation was complaining about the heat, and the other half was directed at Molly, who was on a nearby sofa with her bare feet up and her laptop on her knees.
It was all of day three of Molly's maternity leave, and already things were not boding well for the six months she'd originally intended to take off. She had worked long weeks - sometimes fifty and occasionally sixty hours - since her university days; even on her honeymoon she'd regularly called the lab to check up on her suspended projects and make sure her temporary replacement wasn't rearranging everything in her absence. Six months off was, John knew, a concept she was having trouble getting her head around. She'd started time on the computer that morning organising spreadsheets; some pointless filing, so far as John understood it, but it was keeping her amused. As he leaned over the back of the sofa to pass her a glass of water, he glanced at the screen and saw she'd moved on to a website of rather patronising pastel colours.
"Daniel," she suddenly said. Harry lifted her head.
"Before I comment, is that a family name or otherwise of sentimental value to you?"
"Then I hate it. The only Daniel I've ever known was a complete prick."
John silently conceded the point. Daniel Hurst from back home had been a complete prick, and he wasn't keen on his firstborn sharing a name with the kid from school whose hobbies included beating up girls - or trying to, as Harry regularly came off best when they scrapped. Harry wasn't familiar with Dan Tate, an old army 'friend' of John's; but on reflection, Dan Tate was a bit of a prick, too.
"On whether you want him to grow up to be a cricket player. If not, I'd probably give that one a miss. Besides, either you two know something I don't or you haven't even really thought of girl's names."
Both John and Molly had just about given up trying to convince Harry that the baby's gender was still a genuine mystery to them. John, who was in the kitchen tidying up after a late breakfast, was also about to remind her that they'd already decided on a girl's name months before when the front door clinked and then opened with a heavy thud.
"Good morning, Sherlock," John greeted him without even turning around. Nobody else, absolutely nobody else in the world, made that kind of noisy dramatic entrance when he was in a mood. As Sherlock entered the kitchen, though, John did a double-take.
"Oh, for God's sake," he blurted out. "Are you trying to give yourself heat stroke?"
Sherlock, still dressed in his usual black suit and silk shirt, ignored this. He went to the sink, filled a glass of water, and then dumped the contents over his hair, shaking it out like a terrier. "I'm fine," he announced.
John, with a heavy sigh, went to the laundry for the mop. "Just heard on the radio that it's hit thirty already," he commented over his shoulder. "How's Mrs. Hudson coping in this?"
"Sheltering at the library."
"Should have gone with her."
"I did, yesterday." Sherlock ignored the implications of John's remark. "Half the children in London were there, shrieking and getting their grubby hands all over everything."
"So I take it that's a 'no' on the regular babysitting job on offer, then. What about Smudge?"
"Smudge is the cat, John."
"Not what I asked."
Sherlock's response was a withering glance. He filled the glass from the tap again and made his way into the living room, stopping in the doorway.
"Hi, Sherlock," Molly greeted him. She was still clicking away at the laptop.
"Molly," he said, in tones that were clearly meant to sound pleasant. "You're looking very -"
He stopped. John, who had just come in and was trying not to trip over his sister on the way over to his armchair, gave him a brief warning glance. Sitting down, he could practically see Sherlock mentally conjuring up assorted adjectives and then striking them out, one by one.
"You're looking well," he finally said with effort, glancing briefly at John.
"Thank you," was the listless response. "I am."
This had been a new progression over the past few weeks - Molly and Sherlock could now sit in the living room together and have an awkward-but-civilised conversation. This embarrassing courtesy over, Sherlock turned his attention to Harry instead.
"Harriet." He knew it grated on Harry's nerves to be addressed by her real name. She was still sprawled on the floor, like one of the cats; lazily, she rolled over and looked at him.
"Sherlock," was her response. "We meet again. You look ridiculous. Who the hell wears a jacket on a day like this?"
Lestrade, who had driven to work that morning and was now basking in the air conditioning in his office, was already getting tired of hearing it: Sorry I'm going to be late, sir. Tube's broken down. Bus was full, had to wait for the next one...
Bloody Tube. Whose idea was it, anyway, to use carriages made in Germany, ones that broke down like that under the stress of a bit of heat?
Still, it could have been worse. He'd made it in, and he had the air conditioning for now. He'd just got word that another train was stuck on the tracks near Waterloo, and the transit authorities had deemed it wasn't safe to let anyone on or off. This wouldn't have been too much of a drama, except that it was peak-hour and crowded, and no engine also meant no air conditioning. Murtagh and Barber were both stuck on that train, and Thompson had called in sick, which pretty much guaranteed it: somebody, somewhere, was about to be found horribly dead.
Jacob Dyer had been very much on time that morning, however. On time and annoyingly keen to work. He'd reported for duty and taken to the overnight incident reports with a smile on his face, which Lestrade didn't entirely trust.
The terrible thing about it was this: Jake was a genuinely nice kid, who made Hayley happy and treated her well. He hadn't even flinched on Hayley's suggestion several weeks before that they "come clean" together about what was going on. It had been the first time Lestrade had realised one of his underlings was afraid of him, and he'd absolutely hated it.
"Rough morning, sir," Jake commented now with a wry little grin. "Just heard from Barber. They think they're going to be at least another hour of it."
"Wouldn't say that, sir. I'd much rather be here."
"Jake." Lestrade dropped the formality of the Force for a second. "Look, I appreciate the effort you made to get in here and do your job, especially when just about everyone else has called in late or isn't coming in at all. But you don't need to overdo it."
"I'm really not, sir," he insisted. He had a straight face, but Lestrade, glancing up, saw the twitch at each end of his lips.
"Okay," he said, trying to hide his own smile. "What's happened?"
"Some poor old woman isn't doing so well on the train - crowd, heat, you know. Threw up on Barber. They think she's okay, but I'd prefer a mountain of paperwork over being vomited on any day."
"You and me both." Lestrade stopped himself before he said what he would have said to anyone else in Jake's position - just you wait until you have kids. They'll chuck on you at least once. "You still don't have to overdo it, though," he said instead.
There was a short silence, and he was about to say more, when the phone on his desk rang. Groaning unprofessionally, he reached over to answer it.
Great. This was it. The wonderful murder they were currently too understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with.
"Dyer, I swear I will sell my firstborn child if it'll guarantee this phone call isn't going to result in some major awful investigation," he said, fingers resting on the handset.
"I'd much prefer it if you didn't do that, sir."
"You would, wouldn't you." Lestrade sighed and picked up the receiver defeatedly. "Lestrade."
John, who'd finally had a chance to pick up the morning paper, rolled his eyes a little. There'd been a time when he thought Sherlock's habit of answering his phone with his frankly bizarre name was... kind of cool, actually, like something out of a crime procedural. By now, though, he was over the novelty and was instead keeping a running tally of how often Sherlock picked up with his name, and how often with "hello." The caller was probably Greg; Sherlock liked to answer the phone with "Sherlock Holmes" when he suspected he was being summoned professionally. John gave half his attention to the newspaper on his lap, while keeping an ear out as Sherlock paced up and down melodramatically.
Lestrade had found himself a body. Or at least, someone had.
"Where...? Where's that?"
And it had been found in some godawful little provincial outpost, judging by the fact that Mr. Googlemaps didn't even know where it was. He lifted his head a little, now blatantly listening in.
"Bit outside your jurisdiction, isn't it? What's so unusual about this one?" Sherlock turned and clicked his fingers urgently, and John picked up a pen from the coffee table beside him and threw it to him. "Okay," he said down the line, uncapping the pen with his teeth and spitting it onto the floor at his feet. "Say that again. Case sensitive, gaps, everything."
"Sherlock, what the hell-!"
It was too late to stop him. John put his head in his hands. "Oh my God," he groaned. "You did that. You really did that."
Sherlock had once before written at least one note on the wall at Baker Street, not long after John had moved in there. Obviously a habit he hadn't grown out of. He'd by now wandered out to the kitchen, still talking; with a sigh, John got up to see what was so urgent that it just had to be written on his living room wall.
MLIAOI (this line was struck out, as if in error.)