To new readers: Although this book is a continuation of the story begun in Ten Days, there are enough references to what came before that it is not essential for you to have read Book I of the trilogy. This book can stand alone. However, to fully understand the conflicts these characters must deal with, it may be useful to read Ten Days first.
To readers of Ten Days: Thank you for your past comments and kudos, and especially for your patience in waiting for Book II. I appreciate your support more than I can say. I hope you enjoy where the story goes from here. Once again, please take heed of the archive warnings. As before, I will place additional warnings at the beginning of relevant chapters.
This story begins approximately two weeks after Ten Days left off.
CHAPTER 1: THE ST MARY'S ABDUCTIONS
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2015
Lights flashed and bulbs popped as Sally Donovan—straight-backed and stiff-necked—crossed the platform behind a long table and its two empty chairs. She took the one on the left, as always, and doggedly ignored the vacant seat beside her. The cameras were rolling and the reporters were rocking in their seats, eyes tracking her every movement. Her own eyes were lowered, fixed on the page in her hand, reciting the words in her head, yet again. She could feel the dryness in her throat and so, stalling, she sipped slowly from the glass of water that had been left there for her. Then she raised her chin, and the steady murmur of voices hushed.
She let the silence hang for a few seconds longer than necessary while she recalibrated her baseline of composure. Then she cleared her throat, squared her shoulders, and began.
'New Scotland Yard has issued the following statement,' she said in the perfunctory manner as she had long ago perfected. Nevertheless, she took another long, palliative breath through her nose. 'As we continue our investigations, the Metropolitan Police announce that Mr Sherlock Holmes has been absolved of all suspicion connecting him to the murder of Ms Mary S Morstan, as well as to the abductions of Ms Morstan and Dr John H Watson, that occurred in October of last year. Additionally, and in light of new evidence, Mr Holmes has been acquitted of the posthumous charge of homicide in the case of the fatal shooting of Mr Richard Brook back in June of 2011.'
The reporters stirred on the edges of their chairs as they leaned forward, some with outstretched arms holding audio recorders and microphones, others with pad and pen perched on a stabilising knee. One or two tutted, but they all waited for her to finish.
'The Yard wishes to convey its'—she powered through the next part, hesitating only slightly on next word—'sincerest apologies to Mr Holmes and to his loved ones who were in any way affected by these false charges.
'Finally, New Scotland Yard expresses its deepest regret regarding certain of its officers' criminal involvement in the events that led to murder, abduction, and torture of London citizens, as well as to the obfuscation of evidence, the hindering of an investigation, and the corruption that took place at various levels of law enforcement; and, as officers of the law, we declare our dedication to enforcing the laws of this city and ensuring the protection of its people. The public may rest assured that we are doing everything within our legal power to ensure that such corruption is purged from this organisation and punished to the fullest extent of the law.'
She laid the page upon the table and lifted her eyes to meet the gathered men and women of the press. Familiar faces stared back at her, reporters and journalists and bloggers and analysts who had covered the Boffin Holmes Murder-Suicide three-and-a-half years before, in tandem with the flurry of interest over Holmes' supposedly orchestrated cases from the months and years prior. The public had chewed, swallowed, and asked for second helpings of everything. Now they were back for more—she could see the hunger in their eyes, could practically hear them licking their lips with salivating tongues. She found herself agreeing with DI Lestrade's characterisation of the press: vultures, hyenas. Sickos.
But the seat beside her was empty.
Pushing down the resentment that began to stir anew while she sat there on her own, she prepared to lift the latch that would break open the floodgates.
'I will take questions only as they relate to the Yard's statement,' she said.
At once, the room swelled with the cacophony of voices.
'Sgt Donovan.' A woman's sharp voice cut like a razor through the din, and Donovan's attention turned to Ida Fedezco of The Daily Telegraph, who had shot to her feet, though her eyes were still scanning her notes. 'How is it that the Yard could have been so ignorant of the subterfuge taking place within its own walls, and how can you be confident that all double agents have been exposed?'
They were going straight for the jugular, but Donovan didn't even wince. This was the very reason she was chosen time and time again to act as NSY spokesperson: she had mastered the art of the unruffled, and she knew how to stick to a script.
So she answered succinctly and without passion: 'The majority of the double agents were not plants but were officers, once in good standing, but recruited to engage in crimes through bribery and threats. During the course of our interrogations, these agents not only implicated themselves but also identified one another. Furthermore, the perpetrators of all suspicious and criminal activities have been accounted for. We are confident that all secret operatives have been uncovered.'
'Sergeant, you say most of the double agents were not plants.'
She gave a shallow but conceding nod. 'It is not clear how long Chief Superintendent Pitts had been working as a spy, and we never had the chance to interrogate him on the matter. Very few of the others were aware of his involvement, it seems.'
A man just behind Ms Fedezco stood and inserted his own question before The Daily Telegraph could slip in another. 'How many officers, then, were uncovered?'
'Ten,' said Donovan crisply. They couldn't know how deeply the thought rankled her. 'Their names have already been released. All nine living have pled guilty to the charges brought against them. We cannot know how Tony Pitts would have answered those charges, and I'll not speculate on that.'
'Ms Donovan,' said Alvin Saunders, BBC News, 'what can you tell us about Everett Stubbins' most recent claim that Sherlock Holmes was aware of the subterfuge three years ago, and that he even had a hand in organising it?'
'His claims are groundless,' she replied tersely.
'Given Mr Holmes' questionable history and dangerous character, why is the Yard so quick to dismiss the claim?'
Your insight into the inner workings of the Yard's investigations is astounding, she thought, in a voice that echoed Lestrade's own sarcastic lilts and cadences. Instead, she answered with a politician's brevity and tact. 'We treat no claims with levity, I assure you, especially none as grave as that.'
'And yet you have dismissed the charges brought against Sherlock Holmes, a known fraud, a criminal conspirator—'
Donovan shifted forward in her seat. 'I would like to reiterate the Yard's position concerning Mr Holmes,' she said, reining in a huff of irritation. 'Sherlock Holmes has been fully exonerated by this institution. There is insufficient evidence to support any claim that he was in any way criminally involved in the deaths surrounding this case. Past charges have been dismissed in light of new evidence. And any characterisations of the man as dangerous can be attributed not to Scotland Yard but to various media outlets and are considered by this organisation to be greatly exaggerated.'
She was on the edge of losing her cool. She unballed her hands and flattened them on the table.
'Ms Donovan.' The newest petulant voice belonged to Sandra Hitchens of The Daily Mail. She held an audio recorder in an outstretched hand to capture the exact proceedings sans bias, but her eyes were incredulous, her head shaking with disapproval. 'Surely Scotland Yard isn't ignoring the common element in all these tragedies! Kidnappings, the "Moriarty crimes", Richard Brook's death, and now the St Mary's Abductions! These were all clearly planned well in advance of their execution and resulted in multiple deaths, and Sherlock Holmes has been at the centre of all of it. In fact, The Daily Mail attributes no fewer than seven deaths to Mr Holmes: Mary Morstan, Frank Vander Maten, Hugh Freemont, Tony Pitts, Peter Caldwell, Alexander Slough, and Richard Brook. And these latest six, all in the name of Sherlock Holmes' miraculous return from the dead!'
'That's a gross mischaracterisation—'
'How can Scotland Yard honestly seek to deny Holmes' involvement?'
'The Yard makes no effort to deny anything that is true . . .'
'And yet you refuse to hold a murderer accountable!'
'How can Londoners feel safe with Sherlock Holmes on the loose?' shouted the reporter from The Daily Star.
Said The Independent, 'What about justice for Ms Morstan, Mr Freemont—?'
'How can you let Richard Brook's killer go free without standing trial?' said The Observer.
'Richard Brook wasn't real!'
The room hushed again, but for the sudden resurgence of flashing lights and popping bulbs.
'I'm sorry, sergeant, could you say that again?' Michaela Warner, The Guardian.
Donovan couldn't believe what she had just done, and she blinked, stunned, into the eyes of the cameras. In all the years she had spent addressing the press, she had never blundered, never moved more than an inch away from the prescribed script. Stick to the statement, Donovan, Chief Superintendent Gregson had told her in the seconds before she entered the room. The manhunt continues, Sherlock Holmes is innocent, and the Yard is seeking severest punitive measures against those who acted as double agents. Details can wait.
'Did you say that Richard Brook wasn't . . . real?'
She swallowed, resisting the urge to reach for the glass again and delay her response. 'I'm afraid I misspoke,' she said carefully. She knew she would be reprimanded for this later, but it was either explicate her slip-up now or allow the false stories to fester longer in the public mind like an infected wound. 'Richard Brook was real,' she said, 'but he was not the man who died on the rooftop of St Bartholomew's. That was a man named James Moriarty.'
'Kitty Riley for The Sun!' A woman with fiery hair in the very front row sprang to her feet and nearly toppled over on her expensive court shoes. But she righted herself, straightened her green tweed blazer, and said, 'James Moriarty was an invention of Sherlock Holmes, a fact that has been well documented.' She stabbed a pencil into the centre of her notepad as though the evidence were in her hand.
'Sit down, Ms Riley, before you hurt yourself,' said Donovan. Again, she was shocked by the words leaving her mouth. As free as she was with the insults in other venues, she had always maintained careful check on them in settings where her professionalism was being monitored.
Ms Riley riled but did not sit down. 'On what basis does the Yard justify its reopening of a case that was solved three-and-a-half years ago?'
Donovan gritted her teeth as she said, 'We were wrong.'
'Or perhaps, Ms Donovan, you are wrong now. I met Richard Brook. I spoke with his family, with friends and associates. He was an actor Sherlock Holmes hired—'
With elevated voice, Donovan overtook her: 'Mr Richard Brook of Sussex was an out-of-work actor who disappeared from his home in Crawley in early June of 2011. Days later, James Moriarty—the same master criminal who stood trial for breaking into the Tower of London, Pentonville Prison, and the Bank of London two months before—re-emerged in London, calling himself Richard Brook and giving fake interviews under that guise. Using the real Mr Brook's credentials and bearing a passing resemblance to the man'—striking resemblance, she thought to herself—'he was able to fool'—here she glared as Ms Riley and wasn't sorry for it—'some paltry and credulous aspiring journalist into lapping up his every defaming word against Mr Holmes and committing it to print.'
Shamefully, Donovan had to admit that Moriarty's plan was embarrassingly simple, but effective.
'Detectives from the Yard have re-evaluated the evidence pertaining to Mr Moriarty's death and have considered new testimony, and they have determined that the only explanation of all the facts is that Moriarty committed suicide. That is all I will say of James Moriarty at present.'
She wouldn't mention that the new testimony had come from Sherlock Holmes. Nor would she confess that it had also been Sherlock Holmes who had prodded them into looking more deeply into the character of Richard Brook, whom he had long suspected to be a true figure. In fact, the less she actually said the word Holmes, the better.
'Then what of Richard Brook?' said Ms Warner.
'The real Richard Brook,' said Donovan with great reticence (oh, she was going to be flogged when Gregson got hold of her!), 'has not been seen or heard from since 2011. He has officially been declared a missing person.'
Donovan heard Ms Riley mutter, 'That's convenient,' but she ignored her.
The Guardian persisted: 'Is he presumed dead?'
Not officially. Not yet. 'No comment.'
'What actions are being taken to recover him?'
We're applying to the Secretary of State for Justice for an inquest in the absence of a body. He'll be declared dead before the week is out. 'No comment at this time. You'll have to take that question to the Sussex Police. It's their jurisdiction.'
'Sgt Donovan,' said Ms Fedezco again, 'are you telling us that no charges will be brought against Sherlock Holmes?'
'What about deceiving law enforcement officers? What about resisting arrest? Was he not, at that time, in possession of an officer's handgun?'
Donovan's nostrils flared as she took yet another long breath through her nose. 'I repeat, Mr Holmes has been fully exonerated. No charges stand against him.'
The murmur of disbelief and disapproval was growing louder.
'Will the Met be watching him?' asked The Times.
'We do not make a habit of monitoring the innocent,' Donovan snapped.
'And what about Mr Watson? Are you not concerned for his safety?'
Donovan nodded. Perhaps they were back on track. 'Yes, the Yard's concern for Dr Watson's safety is paramount, and the manhunt for the actual perpetrators of this crime continues—'
'But is he safe from Sherlock Holmes?'
For the first time, Donovan was flummoxed, and all she could do was gape. Safe from Sherlock? John Watson?
'Is it true,' said The Daily Mail, taking advantage of her pause, 'that Mr Holmes and Mr Watson have again taken residence together?'
'I'll not comment on that,' said Donovan, rather weakly.
'Sergeant, what can you tell us about the nature of their relationship?'
'Are they co-conspirators? What about the speculations that Holmes has a firm, psychological grip on Watson?'
'What is Mr Watson's current condition?'
'That's a matter for Doctor Watson and his physicians.'
'Is it true that he has refused psychological counselling? Was the trauma he experienced not as grave as initially reported?'
'Why won't he speak to the press?'
'Could it be that Sherlock Holmes is silencing him?'
'Is it possible that Mr Watson was in on the St Mary's Abductions from the start?'
'All right, I'm shutting this down.' Donovan was suddenly on her feet, all but shaking with fury. 'I will not entertain this speculative journalism. The Yard has made its statement. Follow-up questions can be addressed to the office of Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade. Good day.'
With that, she snatched the page off the table and strode from the room, back still straight, head still held high, but her tongue was bleeding from where her teeth down bit mercilessly into it.
Sally Donovan stood bent over at the sink, splashing her warm face with water and suppressing a groan deep, deep down. Instead, she sighed out a great breath. She gripped either side of the sink and let the droplets stream from her nose and chin and slip down the drain. Then she lifted her head to stare at her reflection in the glass. At least she didn't look as haggard as she felt. Her eyes looked a little more tired than normal, perhaps, but her dark skin hid any flush well enough. Hopefully, the cameras hadn't picked up on her near-explosion.
It was supposed to have been a simple press conference. Exonerate Holmes in the eyes of the press, ensure the public that the true criminals would be found and punished, and leave everyone confident in the knowledge that Scotland Yard had everything well in hand. How had she managed to bungle every single one of those things! She felt like she had lost her footing. For the last three years, her confidence in herself and her career had soared. All those years of griping about Holmes' involvement in her cases, writing him off as a psychopath, and even predicting his turn of fortunes had been validated. Strange, then, how victorious was not at all the emotion she experienced when she had learnt he had committed suicide. In fact, she couldn't name the emotion at all, so she settled on anger, anger at the way he had made her, made them all, into fools. Anger had always been a comfortable guise for her to wear.
In the following weeks and months, and stretching on into years, she had fastidiously avoided conversations of which Holmes was the subject, and she ignored all other passing mentions of the man. Anderson still got off on verbally abusing him, but Lestrade seemed to have taken her stance and preferred never to mention him. The man was dead and gone; the criminal class was not, and there was work to be done.
Almost, she erased the memory of him from existence. It took time, but eventually she stopped seeing him in the corner of her eye, lurking in the shadows at crime scenes or striding down the halls of the Yard like he owned the place. The holes he had left—that he had had no right to create to begin with—had been filled.
And then the day came when Donovan saw John Watson's face on the wall. Her first thought had been, to her consternation, not Watson, but Sherlock. And in that moment, it was like those three years had collapsed into nothing, as if he had never left the shadows of her mind after all, just hadn't moved, so she had forgotten he was there. And this latest case, Watson's disappearance, the one she had urged Lestrade to ignore, was slowly resurrecting him. It came as almost no surprise, then—almost no surprise—to find him alive in the waiting room of St Bart's, only two short days after recovering his half-dead friend from the condemned convent.
The St Mary's Abductions. That's what the press was calling it, and Donovan disdained the moniker. Compared to the true breadth and scope of it, it seemed so inadequate, almost innocuous, and therefore offensive. Still, it was preferable to the name that had attached itself to the lips of the officers of the Metropolitan Police: the Sherlock Holmes Mess, they were calling it. A mess? Absolutely. But that moniker implied that all the murders, violence, and subterfuge were a mere annoyance, a hiccough in the day-to-day workings of a copper's beat, and not the serious criminal affront that it was.
It was one of those days where she thought she might have been better off following in her father's profession and studying contract law. He'd never had a day quite like this one.
When she was ready, she patted her face dry, rolled her shoulders back, and walked steadily toward the door. She had to stuff down the urge to kick it open.
Anderson, arms folded and head slack, leant against the wall beside the door to the ladies' loo where she had left him. Or rather, where he had stopped tailing her. She hadn't spoken a word to him as she sped herself away from the conference room, and he'd had the good sense to keep his mouth shut.
Her feet came to a stop in the middle of the hallway. Shaking her head and worrying her fingertips into her furrowed brow, she said, 'I can't believe I did that.'
'Which part?' asked Anderson, pushing himself off the wall. 'The part where you lost your composure, or the part where you defended Sherlock Holmes?'
She turned a glaring eye on him. 'The part where I blabbed about Richard Brook.'
He shrugged. 'It's not like it's classified.'
'Yeah, well that lot were hardly ready for it. I sounded like a conspiracy nutter. Now they think Sherlock's pulled another one on us.'
'Hasn't he, though?' Anderson muttered under his breath.
Folding her arms and assuming her severest posture, she challenged him. 'What's that?'
'You have a problem with Holmes, take it up with Lestrade.'
'Oh right, Lestrade. As if he hasn't been in bed with Sherlock from the start.'
'Then take your whinging to Gregson.'
'There you go again. Defending the freak. Never thought you for a fangirl, Sally.'
'Hey. Hey.' She stuck a finger in his chest until he had the balls to raise his eyes to look at her properly. 'I never said he wasn't a tosser. Most days, I wish I'd never met the sorry son of a bitch. But that doesn't make him a criminal. Stop being such a berk and use your brain some days, okay?'
She spun around, intending to storm all the way back to Lestrade's office, when she stopped short and found herself nose to nose with Kitty Riley, reporter for The Sun, who held an audio recorder in her hand. The button glowed red.
'Excuse me, Ms Riley,' she said curtly, 'but the press conference ended five minutes ago.'
'Just some follow-up questions, Sgt Donovan, if you don't mind.'
'I do mind, in fact.'
'Won't take a moment.'
But Donovan was in no mood to banter back and forth with the likes of Ms Riley. Without a word, she started away, but the reporter followed on her heels, Anderson trailing behind. 'If Richard Brook really had gone missing in early June three years ago,' she asked, 'why was it not reported?'
'Take it up in Sussex, Ms Riley.'
'It seems odd that the family didn't realise they were burying the wrong man. How do you account for that, if he were not, in fact, Richard Brook?'
Grinding her teeth, Donovan rounded the corner. At the end of the hall stood two security guards, or, as she silently dubbed them, Ms Riley's escorts.
The questions kept coming: 'Has Sherlock Holmes been questioned regarding Mr Brook's disappearance? Has he been subjected to lie detector tests? How will the Yard answer the public if he does prove dangerous?'
But Kitty must have, at that moment, noticed the guards, because she suddenly stopped; Anderson had to dance around her to avoid collision. But Donovan kept striding, satisfied to be putting the pesky reporter behind her. But the woman wasn't finished with Donovan.
'Is it true,' Kitty said, nearly shouting, 'that evidence in the St Mary's Abductions has gone missing?'
Donovan halted. How the hell could she know a thing like that! That was strictly confidential. Not even Anderson knew that. Well, he did now.
Kitty seemed to realise that she had struck a nerve. Her voice drew nearer, and Donovan heard a distinct sing-songy swagger colouring her every syllable as she read down a short list in her notepad. 'A pair of grey underwear. A red dog dish. And something called a barbed cilice, though to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what that one is . . .'
Donovan rounded on her. She snatched the recorder from Kitty's hand, pushed the off button, and threw it to the ground. Kitty's eyes went wide with a mix of affront and delight.
'The press has been told nothing about evidence,' Donovan said.
'I'm sure my readers will be curious about what all those things were used for. We've been told so little about what went on in that place, after all. Offer a statement? Or let them draw their own conclusions—they're an imaginative lot.'
'Who is your source?' said Donovan.
'So it is true.'
'Grant me an interview. The inside scoop.'
'That's extortion. I can have you arrested. If you have information involving a crime—'
'I do not. My source does, and I cannot be forced to reveal my source. But I'm sure I don't need to educate you on the tenets of freedom of the press, or on a journalist's professional integrity.'
'Integrity? That's a laugh.'
'I'm trustworthy. People know they can rely on me to be discreet.'
Donovan took a menacing step closer, the tips of her flats knocking against Ms Riley's too-shiny court shoes; their noses nearly bumped, but Kitty didn't so much as flinch. In heels, she came up to Donovan's level. But Donovan had always known how to make other people feel small. Most people.
'This isn't about integrity with you. It's about fear. You're afraid. Afraid that the biggest story of your life, the one that made your career, was all a lie. Moriarty was real, Sherlock Holmes is alive, and you were played for a fool. Where does that leave you now?'
Feeling calmer than she had all morning, Donovan stepped back. 'You can't hide under a cloak of freedom-of-the-press rhetoric for long. It's thinner than you think.' She gave Kitty Riley one final, scornful appraisal, turned, and walked away, kicking the recorder aside as she went.
Anderson watched her go, befuddled and agitated. Then he glanced down to where Kitty was bending over to retrieve her digital recorder. The battery cover had popped open, but it seemed otherwise undamaged. Kitty pushed the batteries back into position, closed the cover, and hit play. '. . . something called a barbed cilice . . .' they heard. Kitty smiled and hit stop. Then she lifted her eyes to him.
'You're not fooled, though. Are you?'
He shook himself as though from a daze. 'Pardon?'
Kitty shrugged, brushing the imaginary lint Donovan had left in her wake from her jacket sleeves. 'Must be hard. Being the lone voice of reason. Being the only man left in the Yard that can see him for what he really is.' She stilled, making sure that Anderson's eyes were locked on hers. 'A liar. A manipulator. A master criminal.'
'Yeah, well,' said Anderson, feeling a bit dodgy about talking to her. He had received an official censure for giving an interview back in November, and he wasn't keen on receiving another.
'You're very brave. After all, you were the one who exposed him the first time. Given his popularity back then, that couldn't have been easy.'
Well, that had mostly been Donovan, he thought, but he said, 'Not easy, no. But one has a duty. To, you know. The law. Justice.'
'Mm,' said Kitty by way of agreement. 'Never you fear, Mr Anderson. We exposed him once. It won't be easy for him to keep wearing the mantle of hero after all that. You'll keep an eye on him.' She slipped her card into the pocket of his suit coat. 'Won't you.'
She started away, and there was definitely a little more sway in her hips than before. 'I'll be in touch,' she said.