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Title: The Phantom Chase: The Phantom Crime Scene (2/10)
Universe: BBC Sherlock
Pairings: John/Sherlock
Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Mycroft Holmes, Jim Moriarty, Sally Donovan, DI Lestrade
Word Count: 4,272
Rating: R (for non-graphic violence and eventual sexual situations)
Warnings: Non-graphic violence, kidnapping
Summary: Moriarty launches a series of kidnappings that have Sherlock Holmes at wits end, desperate for evidence, motive, and sanity.
Notes: Huge thank yous to alpha/betas/britpickers [ profile] annietalbot , [ profile] dickgloucester[ profile] machshefa, and [ profile] sc010f for your advice, insight, and support. Any lingering mistakes are my own.

Chapter One

By the time Sherlock rings off with Anthea, finding out where it was Mycroft went missing, John is at his side, arm raised to hail a cab.

John's barely opened the door before Sherlock barks out the address, shoving them both into the cab.

Throughout the ride, John's expression – or what Sherlock sees of it when he's not staring out the window, mind racing – oscillates between muddled confusion, anger, and concern. Sherlock looks down to find that he is drumming his hands on his knees.

'Thrill of the game?' John asks, judgement lurking somewhere in between the syllables.

'No... I'm... anxious is the best word for it.' Sherlock shoves his hands into his pockets. The cab ride is killing him. Can't the bloody cabbie drive any faster?

John's voice is low and strangled as he says, 'Finally sunk in that it's your brother who's been captured, then?'

Sherlock closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, the scent of taxi nearly gagging him. 'I was well aware and rather concerned from the moment Mycroft first spoke. And while he's got himself in a precarious position, I've no doubt he'll handle himself better than most would in such a situation. My getting emotional about his circumstance will only impede the investigation.'

John's neck cracks as he jerks to look at Sherlock. He begins to say something but Sherlock cuts him off. 'I am not incapable of feeling concern, John. I know you're not so dense that you can't extrapolate to your own circumstances. If someone you knew were suddenly under your medical care, would you cease all activity to have a sniffle over them? Or would you shove whatever selfish, useless emotions you have aside and do your job?'

'Not useless, Sherlock,' John clarifies and turns to look out the window. 'But point taken.'

The cab is stopped at a police cordon five streets away from where they need to be. John's been clutching a handful of five-pound notes in his hand for the last five minutes and shoves them at the driver as he and Sherlock clamber out of the cab. A policeman waves them through the barricade.

Sherlock forces his pace to a brisk walk, his long legs still covering enough territory that John is nearly at a jog trying to keep up. Sherlock slows down. He's learned that one does not run at crime scenes unless one is running with the officers. And John hardly needs another wound to slow him down. The area is swarming with police. By his estimate, even those usually relegated to desk duty are out in force.

Finally, Sherlock spies a cluster of familiar figures.

Lestrade, for once, looks well rested. Sherlock holds the tiniest shred of hope that this means he'll have noticed something of value.

Lestrade has noticed nothing. Sherlock would be disappointed, except that that initial shred of hope had hardly been more than a speck.

'We've got one of our forensic computer guys trying to figure out how Moriarty's people hacked Mycroft's schedule,' Lestrade offers.

Sherlock nods, eyes darting about the scene. He imagines Mycroft walking down the steps, mobile in hand, scrolling through the latest news feeds. He would have opened the door, unsuspecting and settled into his usual seat.

Elegant. No force required. Nothing suspicious to any outsiders' eyes. Not that eye witnesses are of much use. Especially not with CCTV watching.

No, Moriarty has set everything up such that Mycroft effectively kidnapped himself.

Donovan is silent as Sherlock lurches around the crime scene.

As John would say, there's not so much as a mouse fart in terms of evidence.

Donovan smirks when Sherlock comes up empty. 'Not much to go on, is there, Freak? Now you know how the rest of the world feels before you waltz into a crime scene.'

'Christ, Sally. Show some tact,' Lestrade scolds.

Her “why not? Freak doesn't” goes unspoken.

The taunt barely registers. Sherlock is already furious without Donovan's intrusion.

He has picked through everything the Yard has collected on the matter. Twice. For all it will do, examining gum wrappers and cigarette butts from individuals wholly unconnected to Mycroft's case.

He stalks the streets around where Mycroft was picked up. He scans the CCTV footage on a laptop some nameless government agent shoves in front of him.

There is nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Nothing that is helpful anyway. Though there are several details laid out to mock Sherlock. The numbers on the license plate are the same as those from the Mazda rented from Janus Cars. Lestrade quickly confirms that they're counterfeit.

They lose sight of the car on the CCTV when it passes behind a lorry advertising Jim's Meats. A quick search on his phone reveals, of course, no business with such a name except in the States. The phone number listed on the lorry leads to the pink mobile, which Sherlock has brought with him in case Moriarty decides to use it once again. Sherlock nearly throws it into the street when he dials its number without thinking and the damn thing rings from his pocket.

He ignores Donovan's bark of laughter.

Half of Scotland Yard has been standing around the crime scene, eyeing Sherlock and waiting for him to connect the disparate pieces of evidence and lead them off in the right direction. No epiphany manifests from the scene.

There is no evidence trail to follow. Moriarty has left no track uncovered.

With a muttered goodbye to Lestrade and a glance at John, who indicates that Sherlock should go on without him, Sherlock sets off towards the flat, fuming. He eschews a cab this time. Perhaps the walk will rattle something loose.

Nothing does.

221 Baker Street is empty when he returns to it.

Mrs Hudson is out, leaving blessed silence.

John has wisely decided to stop off at the shops on the way home, ostensibly to purchase milk or biscuits or whatever it was he mumbled under his breath. But seeing as John just went shopping on Thursday, Sherlock sees it for the excuse it is. John is wary of being in the path of Sherlock's frustration tonight.

So Sherlock's annoyance, stress, tension – whatever it is normal people call it – has free reign to echo about 221 as he enters. The sound of his steps bounces off the stairwell walls. The slam of the door to 221B leaves dull silence in its wake.

For once, Sherlock feels alone as he enters the flat and hurls himself onto the couch.

He stares at the ceiling, mentally scrolling through the evidence once again.

Sherlock has talked to Anthea twice. Their car had been two minutes late due to some minor traffic obstruction that hadn't been worth noting at the time. When they arrived to pick Mycroft up, he was absent. Then Mycroft sent a text saying that he'd been kept after a meeting.

She'd thought nothing out of the ordinary until Mycroft missed his scheduled tea with some undersecretary.

For security purposes, Mycroft's phone does not have one of those nifty, online tracking programs that Sherlock could access. Though one of Mycroft's superiors – Sherlock hadn't been aware Mycroft had superiors – had informed him that their own nifty, not-publicly-accessible tracking programs were useless because Mycroft's phone is turned off. Either that or it's been destroyed.

Sherlock fits the new evidence into the mental profile he's already established for Moriarty. He is accustomed to Moriarty teasing him, tantalizing him with information, with puzzles. But Moriarty has never mocked him before. No, Moriarty considered them equals, rivals, opposites. And a threat, Sherlock reminds himself. At least he used to.

He feels more like an incompetent twat now, and he cringes as Donovan's insult rings in his ears.

And it still – still – isn't clear why he's selected Mycroft, and it pricks at Sherlock's skin, his brain, the conscience he's got tucked away in cold storage.

It is a new experience for Sherlock to be handling a case where he knows the victim, never mind one he knows so well. It sends his thoughts skittering scattering off to speculate about how Mycroft is responding to the event. He can nearly feel his neurons firing, chaotic and stupid, like the overstated, choreographed fireworks displays John likes so much. This distraction is rather unwelcome, even if it is the only thing keeping his mind off the infuriating lack of evidence.

Sherlock curses Moriarty, amongst other things, for introducing Sherlock to something more maddening than boredom.

He stands, walking over to the window and staring out, eyes idly taking in the details. The building across the street has been demolished. Too much structural damage from the blast. More cost effective to rebuild than repair.

First that building.

Then the shoes in 221c.

Now Mycroft.

Moriarty must be delighting in the fact that he can hit so close to home. Repeatedly. Little shit.

Sherlock cannot tolerate looking out the window another second.

He begins pacing the flat, amused to note that since John's moved in, and had the free time to tidy in earnest, the surface area of the floor space seems to have tripled.


Sherlock is glad that John is out. For weeks before the pool, it seemed all he and John had done was bicker. The pool had ended that. Ended John's constant nagging at Sherlock about his utter lack of empathy. His callousness. His coldness.

Sherlock wonders when, if ever, John will cue in to the fact that Sherlock does care about people, about actual, live people. It just manifests differently for him. It's applied in aggregates. Sherlock could easy apply his skills elsewhere. Stocks and foreign exchange. International politics, though not diplomacy, of course. But Sherlock would make a rather smart spy. For short projects anyway.

But, no, he's chosen to apply his skills to solving crimes. If John could abstract at all then he would see.

Sherlock stiffens when he hears keys rattling at the front door, and he flings himself onto the couch, feigning sleep. Or failing that, deep thought about the case, rather than the muddy waters of intra-Baker Street relations.

He's tense, waiting for an auditory clue as to the intruder. He is not up to dealing with Mrs Hudson and had rather hoped John would arrive home first to run interference.

He relaxes when he hears the rustle of bags as their door opens and closes.

He looks up to find that John has sprouted Tesco's bags where his hands once were. He must have spent half his paycheck... no, a third. He lifts the bags, gesturing with them. 'I've brought goodies for you.'

'John, you know I don't eat during a case.'

'Yes, but you haven't any evidence to think about, have you?' John says, carrying the groceries into the kitchen.

'No,' Sherlock grumbles, shifting on the couch.

John returns to the living room, hands behind his back, and stands by the couch, looking absurdly proud for a man who has succeeded in purchasing items at Tesco's. Sherlock does not chastise him for his pride because John will simply point out that Sherlock hasn't yet managed to complete the same noble quest.

'I bought you prawn crisps and Penguins,' John says, tossing one package each of biscuits and crisps onto Sherlock's chest.

'I don't –'

'You'll need the fuel for when Moriarty's post comes.'

Sherlock stops objecting. He just stares at the package, the ridiculous bird smiling at him.

'I'll put the kettle on.'

Wisely, John does not comment when he returns and sees Sherlock has opened the bag of crisps. He shoves Sherlock's feet off the couch and settles onto the other end, fishing for the remote and switching the telly to a football match.

Sherlock abandons the crisps in favour of the biscuits when John's internal tea timer goes off. He returns to the couch, setting two cups on the coffee table. John says nothing when Sherlock offers him the last biscuit in the package.

Sherlock watches the match for a moment, wondering if this is what normal life is like, before he returns to staring at the ceiling, disparate thoughts about Moriarty and Mycroft flitting through his mind. The match ends some interminable amount of time later, and John gets up, announcing that he's going to shower.

And so it is that Sherlock begins pacing the flat again. This is how he discovers that John has purchased several packages of nicotine patches. Sherlock grins as he rips a package open and applies one to his arm. At this point, he doesn't expect one, two, or twelve patches to help him come up with any answers. But he knows he's agitated. He can practically feel all his cells vibrating, and one patch ought to help, at least, sooth that particular physical manifestation of the stress he's feeling.

John returns post-shower for another match – do they play these things at all hours of the day? His eyes flicker to watch Sherlock every fourth or fifth turn through the room.

'You're wearing the rug out, Sherlock,' John says, as if he's observant enough to note rates of degradation of rug fibres.

'Perhaps you should go pace on the stairs,' he suggests with a tight smile.

At 23:15 a still tipsy Mrs Hudson comes out and shoos him back to the living room, offering to bring him scones if he'll just sit in one place for the rest of the night. Sherlock notes that sitting in one place does not preclude playing his violin. At midnight, John, apparently cranky from listening to the match filtered through the sound of violin, offers to document and write up results for Sherlock's next twelve experiments if he'll shut up.

At 00:03 Sherlock considers that he could make a living quite easily simply by accepting bribes to cease his more annoying habits. Lestrade's team might be willing to cover the rent for half the year if he simply sent John to crime scenes in his stead.

John begins nodding off in his armchair shortly after two, failing yet again in his attempt to keep vigil with Sherlock. He protests any efforts to uproot him to sleep in his bed for a proper night's sleep until half past four when Sherlock threatens him with whatever is lurking at the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. This threat has never once failed to send him scuttling upstairs.

John flips him two fingers through his sleepy haze before shuffling to his room, and despite his frustration, Sherlock finds himself smiling. The bottom drawer, for once, is full of food.

Sherlock is still sitting on the couch, mentally reviewing his entire case file on Moriarty, when John clambers down to the kitchen four hours later for a quick breakfast before his shift at the surgery. His pre-tea grunt is particularly unintelligible this morning. His post-tea mumbled good-bye is hardly better.

Sherlock pulls out his phone. If John's up, that means Lestrade is up, and Sherlock can send the first volley of questions and demands for updates. Lestrade, like most people, tends to respond more promptly to a flurry of multiple texts, if only to stop the deluge.

08:32 Require update on investigation. SH

08:35 Has computer forensics tracked source of hack? SH

08:41 Any contact from Moriarty on other channels? Any suspicious crimes? SH

Sherlock settles back on the couch. Another text in five minutes and Lestrade should begin to respond.

08:46 Want to see Moriarty-related case files. When can you meet at SY? SH

There are only two recent cases that Sherlock knows with certainty Moriarty was involved in. How many more has he had a hand in? How many cases has Sherlock helped the police with over the years that he's orchestrated? And how can Sherlock begin to ferret them out from the rest?

He cannot afford to comb through everything. While it's a potential gold mine about Moriarty's resources and capabilities, it's also a potential distraction of epic proportions.

He needs access to people who have contracted with Moriarty. He needs to know how Moriarty found them. How he communicated.

Lestrade still hasn't responded.

08:59 Perhaps we should plant murder for hire schemes to entrap Moriarty's agents? SH

Sherlock's phone rings fifteen seconds later.

'Have you lost your mind, Sherlock? Of course we're not going to fake a murder for hire.'

'It would work.'

'Sherlock, we have undercover agents that are good, but from everything you've told me, none of them are that good. And the ones who might have a chance... I'm not going to piss away their lives on this. Because that's what it would be.'

'Fine. Perhaps Mycroft knows someone who... oh, right.'

Lestrade does not attempt to fill the awkward silence.

Sherlock exhales, the noise amplified by the phone. 'Look, I want to interview de Santos, Wenceslas, Ewart, and Monkford.'

He waits for Lestrade to offer transcripts of the police interviews and is relieved when he bypasses his usual song and dance. 'I'm surprised you haven't already asked that.'

'I've been... regrouping.'

'It's not like you to need to catch your breath, Sherlock,' Lestrade says, eyeing him with something just short of worry.

'Yes, well, I don't normally have half a building dropped around me, do I?' Sherlock bites back, annoyed that Lestrade's pushed the issue, making him play the pool card in self-defense.

'Fair enough. I'll see what I can arrange.' Lestrade hesitates. 'You do know there's a good chance they'll be killed if Moriarty suspects we're trying to get additional information from them.'

'He's too smart not to expect it. And... you say this as if you don't expect there to be more casualties in this, Lestrade. As if I wasn't almost a casualty. As if Mycroft might not be one.' Sherlock is alarmed by how shaky his voice has become as this exchange has progressed. 'And I'm surprised to find you so protective of the demand side of the criminal mastermind equation.'

'I'm not being protective, Sherlock. I just don't want you to... Look, we'll talk more about the investigation later. We intercepted your post yesterday, and it's at the lab now being tested. I'll pop over to Baker Street when they're done.'

'Text first. I might be out.'

'Fine,' Lestrade says before ringing off.

Sherlock settles back onto the couch; he's not sure at what point in the conversation he started pacing again. His mind reverts to the conversation with Mycroft, and he replays it, hoping against hope that Mycroft let loose some crucial detail. That he accented a particular syllable. That he hesitated. But there is nothing there.

Sherlock finally realises that he's stuck in a thought loop when he's replayed the conversation more than a dozen times with absolutely no results.

He grabs his coat. He must leave the flat before it's more than his thoughts that feel like they're closing
in on him.

His feet, of course, carry him to the scene of the abduction. His heart sinks and his frustration mounts
when he sees that the barricade is gone and the crime scene tape stripped away.

Of course, the area is too central, too important to keep locked away behind a police cordon. But it stings.

Sherlock walks every street, every alley ten streets in every direction from where the abduction occurred. He's not sure what he's looking for exactly, other than something out of place. He finds nothing.

He makes his way back to the flat, jaw set and stride determined. He's seen no outright evidence to support the theory, but he suspects that Moriarty is watching him. If he can access Mycroft's schedule, surely he can access the security feeds as well. Sherlock shudders at the thought of Moriarty watching his increasing frustration and impending madness, watching him dance all over the city.

It's all he can do not to howl in annoyance when he returns to the privacy of the flat.

Ten minutes later, Lestrade texts him. The message is brief and doesn't mention the post at all. So the lab found nothing, then.

Just after three, Lestrade delivers Sherlock's bomb-squad inspected post. There is nothing remarkable in any of the pieces. Bills. An invoice for some repair Mrs Hudson had ordered for the flat. A flyer for a new Chinese restaurant. All of it is scrutinised for hidden meaning. None of it yields any answers.

At this point in the game, Sherlock would have been very surprised if it had. Lestrade is watching from the armchair, eyes wary.

Sherlock discards the post onto the table where John usually puts it and sits on the couch, opposite Lestrade. 'What other bad news did you bring me?'

Lestrade clears his throat before beginning. 'De Santos is dead. Monkford, Wenceslas, and Ewart are all on suicide watch after what the prison officers assumed were attempts. After my inquiry, they've been placed under increased surveillance and could possibly be moved to more secure prisons. Monkford and Wenceslas are both in Holloway. Ewart is in Pentonville.'

'And where was De Santos?'

'Also Pentonville. And yes, we're already investigating to find out what happened.'

Sherlock glances at Lestrade, who is already braced for sarcasm. Instead of the barb waiting on the tip of his tongue, Sherlock says, 'I need more data on Moriarty. I need to know what other crimes he's had a hand in. What other crimes of his I've investigated. How he usually operates. I have no evidence to go on, and the only direct conversation I've had with him was under such duress, I'm not sure I trust my observations.'

'How do you know you've investigated his cases?' Lestrade says in that easy way of his that always sounds as though he hasn't got the wits to tie his own shoes in the morning.

'Because he told me to back off. He, he, spent the thirty million on that stupid painting to, as he said it, “get me to come out and play,” and he wouldn't have done so if I hadn't threatened him before somehow. Hell, he sponsored a serial killer to get my attention... or to redirect my attentions. Trust me, Lestrade, I've investigated his cases.'

'What do you need then? Case files? Summary reports?'

'Yes, because I'd love nothing more than to wade through hundreds of pages of your nonsensical scribble.'

'Sherlock...' Lestrade warns.

Sherlock waves away his warning and slumps against the back of the couch. 'I suppose I have nowhere else to start.'

Lestrade opens his mouth to say something, then reconsiders. He shifts uncomfortably. 'I can't let those files out of the building, Sherlock, especially given the quantity involved.'

Sherlock groans and slumps further. 'You cannot possibly expect me to work under those conditions.'

'Sherlock, I work under those conditions. I'm sure you can tolerate it.'

They stare at each other a moment, Sherlock gritting his teeth to avoid conceding that he's desperate enough to put up with Donovan and Anderson for days on end.

'Look, just until you've narrowed the field to some sort of reasonable number of cases. Just carting the boxes out from storage will take hours.'

Sherlock nods. 'When can I start?'

'Monday at eleven,' he says. When Sherlock begins to protest, he cuts in, 'I've got a department meeting in the morning. You're lucky I didn't push it until the afternoon.'

With that, he stands. 'I'll see you in the morning, Sherlock.'

Lestrade lets himself out, and Sherlock begins mentally rifling through the cases he's worked on, thinking about trends, peculiarities, and any possible bits of data that may signal Moriarty's involvement. He also thinks about what he hadn't said to Lestrade, that there may be dozens or hundreds of other cases of which Sherlock's not aware, nor possibly the police.

John walks through the door at eight, his head tilting when he doesn't see any immediate damage to the flat.

Sherlock is sprawled out on the sofa, his fingers idly tracing the patterns in the fabric. He turns his head, watching John, ever a creature of habit, begin his coming-home routine.

'Any news?' John asks before stepping into the kitchen to turn the kettle on.

'Nothing useful.'

John initiates six conversations in the next ten minutes before he gives it up for a lost cause.

Sherlock simply looks at the ceiling. All night. Simply stares. Like he's simple. His brain is a vacant, Antarctic wasteland. He's quite sure his brain has never been so full of nothing.

Eventually John mutters something and goes upstairs.

Sherlock is still staring, convinced he can see patterns in the cracks in the plaster, a thought which tells him it's entirely possible the I.Q. of the room dropped when John left.

John sleeps in Monday morning. Sherlock is still awake, of course, on Monday when the post comes early – the post that had apparently come from outside official channels – and lands in the entryway with a loud thud. Sherlock is down the stairs so fast he's not entirely certain he didn't fall.

He throws the door open, but there is no one in the vicinity who could have left the parcel. Sherlock scrambles back inside and opens it, tearing the brown paper so quickly that he opens a slice on his index finger. Cursing, he grabs a handkerchief from the pocket of his robe and wraps it around the wound.

The package is empty.

Sherlock rips the door open, fully prepared to run, full-tilt, in the most probable direction.

He stops before his foot crosses the threshold.

Because Mycroft is standing on the doorstep, briefcase in hand, umbrella noticeably absent.
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