The cab stopped a half block away from the police cordon around the burnt shell of a car. Sherlock quickly opened the door as John leaned forward to pay. A whiff of diesel fuel and smoke from burning tyres entered the cab assaulting John's senses causing his body to tense and his breath to catch momentarily in his throat. He hoped Sherlock hadn't noticed but he knew he had, of course he had.
"You alright?" Sherlock asked casually as they walked toward the blue and white tape.
"Fine," John answered voice even. He then resumed steeling himself mentally 'It's just a burned shell of a car. The casualties, no, the victims are gone. You've seen worse. There's no danger. You're in London. You can do this. Get a grip. It's just a burned car.' His shoulders were tense, his jaw was tight as his eyes subconsciously searched the roof tops. He had automatically slipped into the measured breathing he used to keep his composure. Sherlock suddenly whirled into an alley way just before the tape and began scanning the ground then apparently examining the fire escape. Distracted, John followed him into the alley and began to try to see what the detective was observing. His shoulder's relaxed as he looked around and then at Sherlock with shrug and a non-verbal 'what?' Sherlock simply looked past him to the crime scene.
"I don't think we're really needed here. It's probably only a 6, at most. Lestrade can always send over the case file," he said in his most bored voice.
John froze for a fraction of a second regarding his friend then emitted a sigh of practiced patience. "Look, we're here, let's just get it over with," the barest hint of an appreciative smile crossed his face before he arranged his features into their most neutral expression. John gestured toward the main street. Falling into step beside Sherlock he resumed his silent mantra, 'It's just a burned car. You are in London. It's just a burned car ...'
They ducked under the tape and moved around the tow truck and the forensics van to catch sight of the car itself. It was, or had been, a high-end Land Rover, the type that came with tinted windows, custom tyres, a premium sound system and leather seats, but the chassis was the same as an Army Snatch 2 vehicle. John faltered then stopped. Bennie Chalmers. Sherlock swept past sensing his blogger's hesitation but feigning oblivion to it. Instead, he immediately crowded Lestrade and Anderson drawing attention to himself.
"Tell me what you think you know?" he demanded as he began to whirl about studying the remains of the Rover.
"Bomb exploded at approximately 10:40 am. Three fatalities in the car, all male, yet to be identified. May take quite awhile. One fatality on the sidewalk, female, 72 years old. Lived in the flat above the estate agent on the corner. Seven others were injured, two in hospital in serious condition."
To John's ears Lestrade sounded like he was talking from the far end of long corridor, his voice echoing and slightly distorted. It was a rare fine day in London and the sun shone brightly on the burned out hulk of the car. He was looking into the sun toward Chalmers, the lucky git.
Sherlock moved to the far side of the car under the pretense of examining the sidewalk. He stood abruptly sneaking glance at John. The ex-soldier's face was blank and his body was rigid. His left arm was curled in tight to his body and he was staring unblinking at the car. He hadn't moved an inch from where he had suddenly stopped. Sally Donovan was coming over from the cordon and had noticed John. Sherlock acted quickly.
"Is that it, Lestrade? Please tell me that someone has something that might actually be interesting. Sgt. Donovan perhaps? Sally sent Sherlock her best withering stare and Sherlock returned his most patently false smile. Lestrade jumped back in.
"Hang on. Just ... give it a rest would you?" Lestrade let out an exasperated sigh. All eyes were back on the Freak. Good.
"Listen, there was nothing much left of the passenger compartment that was identifiable but it appears that there were multiple hand guns in there. The number plates were pretty much obliterated and we've only got a partial on the VIN but we're running it now,"
John stepped closer to the Rover. Bennie Chalmers was grinning ...
"Oh, don't bother," Sherlock huffed still intent on drawing their attention to him "It'll be unimportant."
"Right, why would we possibly want to know who owned a car that somebody saw fit to place a bomb in?" Anderson sneered.
"Anderson, could you possibly be any dimmer?" Sherlock rounded to face the forensics specialist his voice dripping with disdain.
Bennie was tossing a wicked grin and a wave over his shoulder.
"Open your eyes! Even your trained monkeys" Sherlock gestured broadly at the half-dozen forensic technicians in blue Tyvek suits combing the scene "should recognize that ..."
"The bomb wasn't in the car it was outside. Un-underneath. C-4. Probably triggered by a trip wire ... with a delay. Or maybe a ... remote control." John was suddenly next to Lestrade staring at the ruined car. His face was pale with unseen horror and his breathing was shallow and rapid.
"It was underneath. No one would have been able ... to see it ... " John's hollow voice trailed away.
Bennie Chalmers was tossing wicked grin and a wave over his shoulder as he jogged over to take the last seat in the lead Snatch 2. He'd won the toss. He'd get back to Bastion long before the rest of them.
John looked up. Sherlock was standing directly in front of him with the sun at his back casting his face into shadow. A faint breeze blew in the smell of diesel, smoke and burnt rubber.
John had just shouldered his pack and joined the remaining men making their way back toward the ancient ANA transport vehicle when he heard the blast. He looked back into the sun to see the silhouette of the Snatch 2 blown high into the air.
"John," Sherlock tried again, louder.
John started visibly at the sound of his name. His eyes went wide then they darted around, first in panic then in embarrassment, as his surroundings slid back into focus.
"Sherlock ... sorry ... I" he looked around at the faces of the Yarders who were all staring at him in silence and his ear tips flushed red. John cleared his throat and forced his voice to be even. He knew how to report.
"The bomb wasn't inside it was underneath. The victims wouldn't have ..."
"I know, John. It's OK." Sherlock interrupted calmly taking a step closer to his flatmate. John quickly scanned the perimeter and took a step back.
"I think I need to ... to, um, go. To walk. I'll just ... I'm going for a walk..." With that, John turned and quickly strode away walking without destination. Sherlock noticed the slight hitch of a limp in John's step as he turned the corner.
"Tshuh," Anderson broke the silence with a derisive snort. "Steady as a rock, that one," he muttered.
"Don't, Anderson." Lestrade warned. Sherlock's eyes bore through the noxious man as his anger boiled.
"What? It's just a burnt car at this point. Not like he was a first responder. He's supposedly a doctor. Bloody unprofessional if you ask ..."
"Shut it!." Lestrade commanded.
"Not very useful if he can't ..." Anderson never got to finish his sentence. Sherlock had seized him sweeping his legs out from under him in one swift motion. As he fell Sherlock grabbed the ball-point pen out of his hand and jabbed it hard into the back of the forensics man's shoulder. He then wrenched the arm and shoulder back until Anderson cried out in pain. At this point Anderson was on the ground on his stomach with Sherlock kneeling on his back twisting his shoulder mercilessly.
"What do you smell!" Sherlock screamed his face contorted with fury. Anderson tried to squirm and protest but Sherlock held him fast.
"Sherlock, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Lestrade asked, moving to pull the lanky detective off his officer. Sherlock shrugged him off.
"An experiment. Smell. It's the most potent trigger for memory. Far more potent that sight or sound. Particularly for the recall of traumatic circumstance. Surely you all know this." Lestrade was confounded. Sherlock leaned over his subject.
"WHAT DO YOU SMELL!" he roared pulling back sharply on Anderson arm and pressing his face into the dirt.
"Diesel!" Anderson cried.
"And?" Sherlock prompted jabbing the pen in harder.
"Aaahh ... burnt rubber! And smoke!"
"Along with the faint remnants of charred flesh, yes?" Sherlock added continuing the pressure on Anderson arm and shoulder.
"Now imaging you were a first responder and that the people in the vehicle were your comrades, your mates, your friends! As you struggle to rescue them you feel a punch in your shoulder". Sherlock jabbed Anderson with the pen again. "But it's not a plastic pen. No, its a 50 caliber bullet. What do you smell!" Sherlock roared again.
"D-diesel, smoke, rubber ..." Anderson croaked quickly.
Sherlock leaned in placing all his weight on Anderson back. "Hard to breath now isn't it? ISN"T IT!" Anderson nodded. "Look on the bright side, at least you're not choking on your own blood." Sherlock gave Anderson's arm one more twist before pushing himself up, gracefully regaining his feet and turning to face Lestrade and Donovan.
"John was right. The bomb was probably C-4, planted under the car and remotely triggered. This almost certainly a drug related hit and tracing the vehicle will only lead to a bogus corporate front. The weapons are probably untraceable as, well. The victims are likely foreigners or recent immigrants, from Turkmenistan or possibly Kazakhstan. I'll need to see the remains before providing any more."
Sherlock adjusted his coat collar then swept away from Anderson and the other Yarders without so much as a backwards glance before ducking back under the blue and white tape and disappearing down the street.
Anderson struggled to his feet dusting off his blue suit. "Well aren't any of you going to go after him?" He looked around incredulously. "He just assaulted a police officer!"
Donovan was still staring at the space where Holmes had just been, her mouth agape. Had the Freak just shown not only compassion but empathy, too? She was having a hard time processing that.
"Hardly an assault," she said absently.
"Not an assault! Well what would you call it then?" Anderson fumed as he rubbed his shoulder. Lestrade was also trying to work out what had just happened here. He considered for a moment remembering the pained and horror struck expression on John's face as he had stared at the hulk of the Rover.
"Don't know ... maybe ..."
"Sensitivity training?" Sally Donovan offered. Lestrade nodded soberly.
"That'd be it. Sensitivity training. I'll enter it in your personnel folder." The DI reverted back to business mode pointing at the Rover. "In the mean time check the underside. Confirm the C-4 and see if there's anything that points to the triggering device. Sally, call the morgue. Find out when they'll be conducting the autopsies." As his team continued to work the scene Lestrade found himself repeatedly glancing in the direction of the corner around which John Watson had walked away.
A/N – This was a plot bunny that kept getting in the way of my writing the epilogue to my other fic, Afterwards. So I decided to get it out. Now maybe I can finish the other story!
I envision this happening mid-first season when John is still both newly returned from Afghanistan and a bit of an unknown to Lestrade and company at the Yard. Reviews and comments are most appreciated!
Not beta's or Brit-picked.
I make no claims on any of these characters. Just borrowing.