Note: Sorry for the short chapter; I got into another awkward situation where if I'd left this connected to the next scene it would have made for an extremely long chapter and I think some of the details would have got lost along the way. I'll be posting the next chapter very soon since it's already done, I just wanted to let this scene have its own space to breathe because it's setting up some important plot bits.
It had taken the better part of the evening, but Sherlock and John had eventually gathered a fairly comprehensive file on Luca Folino. As it turned out, he was the son of Nicolo Folino, the owner of one of the country's largest olive oil production companies. Evidently this was something that could make one extremely rich in Italy, which baffled John a bit. Why precisely was this Luca Folino, who according to what they could find was about 25 and looked to be an extremely typical Italian playboy, in need of five million euros? His first instinct was that maybe someone had simply stolen the rich kid's credit card, but he and Sherlock had gone back to the shop just before it closed to show the owner a photo of Luca to confirm that he was indeed the one who'd made the purchase.
A kid with no credit limit and he was holding Galileo hostage for five million euros why exactly? Of course, John hadn't forgotten Ted Sholto, who in spite of the fortune he was inheriting from his father's estate had still desired more in order to feed his drug habit. Could this Luca Folino be in a similar situation, cast out by his own family for his transgressions? And who was his paramedic accomplice?
John had tried posing these questions to Sherlock, but the detective had simply asserted that they were irrelevant. The only thing that currently mattered, according to Sherlock's plan, which John was feeling leery of, was that they now had the power to threaten Luca with public humiliation and exposure unless he returned Galileo's body to the church. His being connected to a family of prominence was excellent news on this account. Even if he didn't care about his own reputation, surely someone in his family would very much mind being connected to the desecration of a famous tomb in a very Catholic country, Sherlock had reasoned. John saw the logic in it. There was always logic in Sherlock's plans, but that didn't mean John was always comfortable with them. Still, Sherlock was the boss. So here they were, at noon the next day, once again crossing the open piazza leading up to Santa Croce.
"Blackmail. You really think a priest is going to go for that?" John asked, sceptically.
"It's his only option. Particularly considering the lack of cooperation from the authorities," Sherlock noted bitterly. John eyed his friend carefully, as he had been trying to do subtly all morning. Though he'd promised Mary he wouldn't ask Sherlock directly if he was using cocaine again, that didn't mean he couldn't look for the signs. But Sherlock's eyes were clear and his stride confident as he led the way into the church.
Father Giordano greeted them as soon as they entered. He'd clearly been waiting for them. "Buongiorno signori," the rather timid, anxious man said, taking their hands quickly, then jumping right to the point. "Your message said you had found the criminals?"
"We've identified one of them. We'd be able to identify the other if the police would give us access to the ZTL checkpoint footage from the night of the break-in. Do you have friends in the police force?" Sherlock asked, insistent and short as always.
"Detective Rinaldi said he was doing everything he could and to call him if I had any more information," the priest replied, clearly searching for a way to be helpful. "Perhaps I could contact him and see what he can do?"
Sherlock sighed. "No, Rinaldi is the problem rather than the solution. Never mind," he said with a wave of his hand, then stepped closer to the priest. "The point is, we know who one of the criminals is, and more importantly who his connections are. His name is Luca Folino."
"Sì, the olive oil company?" Father Giordano replied. Evidently this family was well enough known for public humiliation to matter, then, John noted. That could be good for Sherlock's plan.
"Yes," Sherlock affirmed. "And I highly doubt young Folino wants this incident and his face splashed across Italy's imaginative array of tabloids. Not to mention the attention that a trial and sentencing would garner for himself and his family. According to my research, he's been living off the family trust and doing little else but spending the money. Perhaps he wasted his trust fund. Whatever the motivation, Italians remain at least nominally loyal to the Catholic church and desecration combined with the removal of one of Italy's greatest thinkers from his tomb makes for a rather lurid tale, all things considered."
John could sense Father Giordano's hesitation, and couldn't help sharing in it. The priest asked carefully, "And you think this might help us in some way?"
"No. I know it's the only way to get Galileo's body back without shelling out any money, which is the nearly impossible task you've given me," Sherlock replied cooly. "Let's set aside all the righteous indignation for a moment and consider - does the church actually want to give any money to these criminals? To fund whatever enterprise they might be running?"
"Of course not," the priest affirmed, sounding uncertain, his will quickly crumbling. He looked vexed, and John could sympathise. Dragging someone's name through the mud publicly was a nasty business, even if they were a criminal. When Sherlock had presented this plan to him, it had been all John could do to bite back a comment about Sherlock's own negative experiences with the tabloid press. He'd conceded that he couldn't think of another way to go about this.
"Detective Rinaldi will not cooperate with me, nor does he have any leads whatsoever of his own." Sherlock gazed at the nervous priest steadily, his eyes cool and grey like a statue's. Whatever discomfiture John had seen in Sherlock the night before had completely evaporated. Maybe Mary was right. Maybe John was just imagining things.
The priest swallowed, clearly considering Sherlock's proposition. The detective continued, "The only way to recover the body is to contact Luca Folino, tell him that we know who he is, and tell him that if he does not return the body, intact to the church at this evening, we will contact every tabloid in the country with this story and tomorrow his picture will be featured in every newsstand from Milan to Palermo."
The little narthex they were huddled in grew very still. A few visitors slipped by, completely unaware of the conversation happening off to the side. Father Giordano ran a hand over his mouth, looking down in contemplation as he considered what Sherlock had said. After a few moments, he closed his eyes, sighed, then nodded without looking up. John felt bad for the priest having to make such a difficult decision.
Sherlock, on the other hand, perked up instantly, his intense insistency dissolving into the chipper good-natured tone he took on when he was absolutely sure of himself. "Good," he said, stepping back from the priest. "I expected that would be your decision, so I've already contacted Mr. Folino to let him know that he and his paramedic accomplice ought to meet us here at 9pm. That should be ample time for them to return to the city with the body in the event that they've already left or hidden it away somewhere difficult to retrieve. I've assured him there will be no police involvement. Only way to persuade him we are solely interested in recovering the body. Which is, in fact, the case." The detective turned and made his way towards the door.
John gave the priest an apologetic look, assuring him silently that he hadn't realised Sherlock had already contacted Luca either. But John was too accustomed to this sort of behavior to be truly shocked. Instead, he was oddly filled with a sort of fondness for his friend's bizarre way of handling things as he followed Sherlock out the front door. He couldn't even really bring himself to be mad, instead only making it to incredulous as he caught up with his friend on the front steps of the church. "Why even ask for his permission if you'd already done it?" he inquired, truly wanting to understand how Sherlock's brain worked sometimes.
"Now he's complicit in the plan. Whether or not it would have proceeded without him, he did in fact agree to it," Sherlock pointed out. "The church can't simply blame us for the supposed immorality."
"Well..." John said with a shake of his head, squinting against the bright midday sun. As usual, once Sherlock explained his logic, it made perfect sense. John just never would have thought of it on his own. "What's on the agenda for the next nine hours, then? We prepare for this meeting somehow?"
But Sherlock merely shrugged. "Either Luca and his accomplice show up with the body or they don't and we make good on our promise to release our file to the press," Sherlock replied. "Either way, there's nothing more to do for the moment. I'd say you're once again doomed to enjoy Florence with your fiancée."
John felt that uncomfortable twisting in his stomach once again, that tingling feeling in the back of his brain. Regardless of what Mary had told him, no matter how much she assured him that there was no way Sherlock was running off to do drugs, John could feelthat Sherlock was lying to him. Trying to get rid of him. The doctor clenched his hands, hoping his anxiety wouldn't show elsewhere (though hiding from Sherlock was no easy task). Casually, he said, "Yeah, but what about enjoying it with my best mate? There are loads of galleries and historical museums that you'd probably be interested in. We could visit some of those."
"Perhaps later, yes," Sherlock agreed, rather quickly John thought. Explaining further, Sherlock said, "When I was at the university lab I saw that there's a lecture this afternoon at their Natural History Museum on their 7,000 samples of various wood types and their grains. It sounded interesting to me but I presumed it wasn't the sort of thing youcame to Italy for. Besides," Sherlock added, with a touch of exasperation, "you and Mary are always so shy about having sex when I'm around, and I'd assumed that at some point you'd like to actually enjoy the lavish romantic hotel accommodations. I can find plenty to do for the day. You and I can visit those museums once the case is over."
Damn him. That was a completely plausible explanation: a lecture that John bought Sherlock would actually be interested in and which he of course would want to avoid in lieu of spending time with Mary. And then he'd had to throw in their recent conversation about John and Mary's desire for private intimacy. It all sounded perfect, which was precisely the problem. It was so well crafted. There was nothing suspicious for John to even comment on or question. He gritted his teeth. "Fine. You go to your lecture. But we ought to at least all meet up for dinner together, don't you think? Enjoy Florence at night?"
"If you two can pull yourselves out of the bedroom," Sherlock replied with a slight huff.
John shifted uncomfortably. He knew Sherlock was mostly joking, but damned if the man weren't right about John's English sensibilities on this issue. He'd never really cared that much about privacy when he'd been dating, but this wasn't just some woman, it was Mary. She was going to be his wife, and he felt strangely protective of their intimacy. They weren't just shagging, they were making love and sharing important private moments. Having that belittled was sometimes irritating. "We have a lot of things we'd like to do while we're here," John replied tightly, "And frankly what we do in the bedroom and how often we do it or when- that's our business, not yours."
Sherlock gave him a slightly guarded, searching look for a moment, almost as if a little suspicious. John had no idea what to make of that. What did Sherlock have to suspect him of? "Believe me, we're entirely in agreement," Sherlock said. Then he added, "I have to get to the university. I'll be in touch about later. But I won't be surprised if you have to cancel dinner."
Sherlock was already backpedaling across the piazza, giving John no real choice in the matter. What could he do? Follow his friend's every move all day to see where he actually went? Confront him directly about the drugs? That was the only possible thing John could do right now, in this moment, before Sherlock disappeared down a far alleyway to God knew where. And he might have, had he not heard Mary's voice in his head begging him not to ask Sherlock about it. To trust her. She must actually know something about what was going on with Sherlock. John knew he couldn't trust his friend, but he had to trust his fiancée. She'd never given him any reason not to. So he did nothing more than give Sherlock a weak wave goodbye before letting out a long breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.
John turned back in the direction of their hotel, determined to focus as much as possible on enjoying the present time with Mary in this lovely city. Determined to ignore what he knew to be Sherlock's lies.