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Bern the heart out of you (2/3)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (implicit slash, major character death, swearing, angst)

Summary: Sherlock has killed Mycroft. Allegedly.

Betaed by the wonderful Warriorbot

Part 1, Part 3

"I'm going to clear your name," John told Sherlock, as they sat in the cramped, messy police cell. They were letting him visit now; the whole system had suddenly relaxed a little. They had their man, and he wasn't Swiss, which was clearly a big relief. Just two stupid foreigners and a drunken, drug-fuelled row.

"How quaint," Sherlock said. "It's not that long a sentence. And I can probably arrange to be transferred to a British prison if you'd prefer it."

"Why are you pleading guilty? You didn't do it."

"You're very loyal," Sherlock at his most untouchable, cool and sarcastic. Impossible to imagine a man like that attacking someone in a frenzy, killing them. If you hadn't seen the other side of Sherlock. The dark side. Even deadly, perhaps.

"You didn't do it, did you? Tell me you didn't." John found himself demanding.

"I didn't do it," Sherlock said smoothly. He was beautifully dressed and so calm, indifferent almost. He didn't look like a prisoner, like a murderer, but as if he was about to stride out for a photo-shoot.

"I meant...Oh, God, what is happening? What happened?"

"I can't remember," Sherlock said, and you could hear the cracks in the ice now. "But I'm afraid that's no excuse. Whatever the legal case, I am the reason that Mycroft is dead. And that is all you need to know."

"Is it because you feel guilty?" John said. Maybe it was him that was going insane. "Why are you not fighting?" He put out his hand towards Sherlock's, which shrank back. Turning in on himself already, John thought. Sherlock's eyes were staring blindly into space the way they did when he had a complex problem to solve. And then suddenly they turned and focused on John, and he announced:

"I...I have to be patient. You do as well. There is a clever man behind this scheme and we have to wait to see what his next move is."

John felt the surge of relief in his body: "Do you know who's behind it?"

"I have my suspicions, but there's no evidence as yet."

"What do you need me to do?"

"Wait, as I said," Sherlock replied."The 'invisible man', as you so bizarrely put it, will reveal himself, and then we have him. Go back to London and stay there till I need you."

"Just go back? Not do anything?"

"We don't, I don't know what's best to do yet. When I do, we will act. Don't worry, John, I don't propose to enjoy the hospitality of the Swiss justice system for too long."

***

John lasted six weeks – well, five weeks and six days – before he went to New Scotland Yard and found Sergeant Donovan.
"I need help," he said, when she took him into an office, and waited for the obvious tasteless joke. But instead Sally just looked him up and down fiercely and asked:

"Psychiatric? Financial? Legal? I can recommend a divorce lawyer, if you need one."

"Is Greg still on sick leave? He's not answering his phone."

"Officially, he's signed off for three months," Sally replied, her chin going up.

"Unofficially?"

"He's not coming back. He says he's had enough. That he's resigning from the force. I suppose he can afford to, with Mycroft's money. You know what's he done? He's gone off to France to buy a house. Says he's gonna move to Dijon, near where his family came from originally, get a job in the vineyards or something."

"But the police is his life. And so's London."

"They were," Sally said, folding her arms. "Congratulate Sherlock for me, next time you see him. He's done what I thought was impossible. Broken Greg Lestrade."

"It wasn't Sherlock who killed Mycroft," John said. "And yes, I remember what you told me once. That he'd end up standing over the body of someone he killed."

"Well?"

"If it was him, he then made a half-arsed attempt to conceal his crime, which the police saw through easily. Whatever you think he's capable of, Sally, he'd be a more competent criminal than that."

She nodded. "Maybe. And I know I'm gonna get no peace from you till we know for sure what happened. OK, so just suppose the Freak is innocent? How do we get the little scrote who did this?"

"We?"

"Greg's not around to help, I will. I can't do anything officially, of course, not our case to deal with, but if you need any advice..."

"What I need," John said, "is the police files on the case. Sherlock pleaded guilty, so his advocate never got them all."

"Actually, that we might be able to do. I can always claim we're investigating previous cases back in London. OK, I'll try and sort that out for you."

"Thanks, Sally."

"We owe you something. Maybe even the Freak something. But if the files show him guilty, you're gonna have to accept that, John.  And work out if you want to stay with a man who goes crazy when he's high. Don't want anything happening to you when he gets out."

***

"Got some good news and bad news for you from Switzerland," Sally announced on the phone early the next week.

"Give me the good news," John said, "God knows I need it."

"Got the case files through on Mycroft's death."

"And the bad news?"

"All in German."

"Fuck! I hadn't thought of that. I knew a few words, but not enough for that."

"I'll being 'em round to 221B on Wednesday evening, I'm free then," Sally added. "And I'll see if I can find anyone who can help translate."

"Thanks," said John. It was a start at least.

***

It was surprising how many people were reluctant to return your calls if you were a murderer's boyfriend. Molly Hooper knew German, but he couldn't get hold of her, however many messages he left. There was Google Translate, but that was getting pretty desperate. He'd just have to thank Sally for the files and leave them to stew till he could find someone. And then on Tuesday night he got a text: Found someone who can help with the German. I'll bring him along tomorrow. Sal D

***

John thought he was ready for anything, until the doorbell went and Sally came up the stairs. With Anderson behind her.

"What the fuck?" John said. Sally couldn't be back with him again, could she? Surely she wouldn't make that mistake twice?

"We don't need–" he began.

"You don't need me?" Anderson broke in, with immediate aggression. "Well, I can just go home then, and leave you to look through the forensic reports on your own. Have fun. Do you know how to translate Quetschwunden or Knochenbrüche, by the way?"

"I..." said John and stopped.  He had to do this, for Sherlock's state. He forced himself to breathe, and then looked up into
Anderson's hostile eyes.

"I didn't know you'd be willing to help," he said at last.

"If by any improbable chance Sherlock Holmes is innocent," Anderson said, "I want to be the man who proves it. Because he would never, ever forget that."

"If we could maybe get a move on," Sally broke in. "We've got a lot of work to do tonight."

"You're going to stay, are you?" John said.

"Got yourself your own little murder squad. OK, have we got a wall clear where we can stick up some photos?"

***

He couldn't let himself think that it was Mycroft's body in the burnt out car, John knew. Think of him as a stranger, try and see the whole thing from outside, the way Sally was automatically doing.

"OK," she said. "Mycroft Holmes is found dead in a car on the outskirts of Bern on March 10th. Cause of death is?"

"Unknown," said Anderson, from his seat on the couch. "They say he was probably dead when the car was set alight – no trace of smoke inhalation – but the body's so badly burned that they're not sure how he was killed. Might be head trauma, though there's no sign of fractures. But the lab seem to have made a complete hash of checking the stomach contents, so it's possible he was poisoned or drugged."

"Right," said Sally. "So why was he in the car and why was it set on fire?"

"Accident?" John asked. "The attackers were kidnapping Mycroft and Sherlock–"

"Any sign of prior damage to the car?" Sally asked.

"No," Anderson said, flicking through the pages. "And they think from the intensity of the burns on the corpse that petrol was specifically poured over that, not just the car generally."

"So," Sally went on, "possible deliberate attempt to destroy the body. Even though that doesn't make sense."

"Why not?" asked John.

"They couldn't expect to be able to prevent DNA recovery. If you can get it from thousand year old bones, you can get it from a fresh body, even a badly burned one. And if you're trying to conceal someone's identity, you don't go off with the body in their car."

"So what's the alternative?" said John. This was turning into a slow-speed version of Sherlock's methods, and he was happy to fit into the 'useful idiot to bounce ideas off' role.

"That it's a message," Sally said. "Which is why they let Sherlock go. They wanted to show him that they could kill him if they wanted to. Whoever did this was someone very clever, well-organised, but also willing to take risks to be dramatic."

"Clever, risk-taking, dramatic tendencies," Anderson said. "Anyone we know like that? Oh, Sherlock Holmes himself."

"Yeah, we're keeping that possibility in mind," Sally said. "Especially because what we've got at the other end is Sherlock last seen with the victim. OK, so we've got Sherlock and Mycroft in Sherlock's hotel room from 11.15 onwards. How do we get both of them from there across town to Brunnadern, the suburb near where the car was found?"

"The car was seen in CCTV footage on Thunstrasse at 11.48 pm," Anderson said. "So half an hour to move one or possibly two bodies from the hotel into the car and then drive a couple of miles to a patch of wasteland. I'm surprised no-one noticed the fire."

"Bern's not exactly busy at night," John said, "but yeah, they must have chosen the spot carefully. Does the CCTV footage show who was driving the car?"

"No," Anderson said, "but they have got footage from the hotel car park. Not much help though."

Sally stuck the photos up on the wall. John could hardly work out what the fuzzy images showed, however closely he squinted.

"Look at the right-hand corner of the first one," she said. "That wheel, it's not a car wheel. And if you look at the rest of the sequence, someone is wheeling someone in a wheel chair. The last one is the best, though you still don't get much, just a back."

"It could be anyone," John said.

"Tall, thin man in a dark coat is pushing the wheelchair. Tall thin man with dark hair."

"The lighting's bad. He might not be dark-haired."

"OK," said Sally, "but probably not blond, and I reckon it's a man, rather than a woman."

"Hard to say. We don't know that it's anything to do with the murder. Could be a random guest."

"Any sign that it was someone who wasn't used to pushing a wheelchair?" Anderson said, coming to stand in front of the photos.

"No," Sally said. "But it'd be much easier to bring the car round to the front entrance of the hotel and get the person in the wheelchair in there, not trek across the car park with them."

"Unless you didn't want to be seen," said Anderson.

"What about the wheelchair?" John asked.

"That was left in the car park," Sally said. "Which again suggests that it was used for this. As does the fact that it had been nicked."

"Nicked?" John said.

"It was the hotel's. Taken from their first-aid room."

"Any fingerprints?"

"They must have been wearing gloves," said Anderson. "And the hotel staff think the wheelchair was taken in the evening, but they can't pin it down definitely closer than after four p.m."

"No sign of anything on the CCTV inside the hotel?" John asked.

"No," said Sally. "Whoever it was must have known how to avoid them."

"Then why did they get caught by the one in the car park?" said John. "Unless they wanted to be. And how does Sherlock get to the hotel at what, seven-thirty, eight and he's already worked out an escape route and stolen a wheelchair by ten, when he meets Mycroft?"

"You mean if it was a premeditated attack," Sally said. "But I thought Sherlock was claiming it wasn't?"

"Very convenient, isn't it," Anderson said, "how Sherlock mysteriously happens to have been given a drug that means he can't remember things clearly. Excuses a lot of things, doesn't it?"

"If you think Sherlock did it, why are you here?" John demanded, squaring up to Anderson.

"He's here because he's trying to help, you pillock," Sally said. "Stop it, you two. Bloody men. But that's a point in Sherlock's favour: he didn't have long to find out an escape route and he couldn't rely on finding a wheelchair to hand."

"Unless he knew the hotel layout already," said Anderson. "He's been to Switzerland before."

"He hasn't been to that hotel that I know of," John said.

"We'll need to check how visible the CCTV cameras are..." said Sally, and then stopped and stared at the photos again in silence. John immediately tried to breathe more quietly and wondered if he should tell Anderson to look the other way.

"We're thinking about this the wrong way," Sally said suddenly. "Start off by imagining you're Sherlock."

"God, no!" Anderson said immediately.

"Shut it, James! I'm serious. Think about it. If you were Sherlock and you were in Switzerland and you wanted to kill your brother, how would you do it?"

I can't bear to think about that, John told himself. He knew he was starting to flex his left hand, the way he did when it was near shaking, and that Sally had spotted that, would realise he was coming apart at the seams...

"What you'd do," Sally said patiently, "is push him off a mountain-side, like Moriarty once tried to do to him."

"If you could get Mycroft up a mountain in the first place," John said almost automatically.

"Sally's right," Anderson said. "He'd arrange some little accident with the bear pits. Or there are poisons that are difficult to detect, unless you know to look for them. That's how I'd...that's how I imagine Sherlock would plan it."

"So you're saying–" John began.

"I'm saying," Sally said, "that if Sherlock did kill Mycroft it wasn't premeditated. So somehow – we don't yet know how – he's taken something or been given something and he's out of his face. His own evidence suggests that, confirmed by the blood tests. We also know he has an argument with Mycroft. Suppose Mycroft ends up dead as a result. What would Sherlock do then?"

It was a puzzle now, and John had got used to thinking about those.

"Fake an attack on both of them," he said immediately. "Or carry Mycroft back to his room somehow and fake an attack on him there. They both have enemies, you could make it look like they had someone come to meet them at the hotel and it turned nasty."

"What he wouldn't do," Sally said, "is make a half-arsed attempt to dispose of the body."

"Unless he was so high he wasn't thinking clearly," Anderson said loudly. "And you know what? That's what the quarrel was about." He smiled triumphantly. "Why has no-one asked what the argument was between the brothers?"

"Oh, that's easy," John said. "Because that pair can have a heated argument about the correct colour for a piece of toast."

"The argument blew up suddenly and then they went back to Sherlock's room," Anderson said. "And the reason for the argument was that Sherlock took the Rohypnol in the restaurant."

"Why would he do that?"

"One of his bloody experiments. He takes the drug to see what the effects are like and then tells his brother what he's done. Mycroft’s annoyed, not surprisingly, they have an argument, which carries on as they go back to the hotel room. The argument gets more heated, Sherlock loses control, attacks Mycroft. Realises what's he done, tries to cover up his track, and comes up with this hare-brained scheme."

"No!" John protested, "It can't have happened like that..."

"Why not?" Anderson replied, smirking. "Are you claiming Sherlock would never pull that kind of stunt?"

"It's complete bollocks," Sally said firmly. "That's why it didn't happen like that. If Sherlock's with it enough to dodge the cameras inside the hotel, why does he get caught by the one in the car park? And why does he set the car on fire? Why doesn't he just keep driving into the mountains and then fake an accident there?"

"The Rohypnol is affecting him, he's worried he might crash for real," Anderson said.

"And he mysteriously somehow finds a place where no-one will notice a burnt-out car for hours?"

"And what about the petrol?" John said suddenly. "You said that petrol had been poured onto My...the body. How did Sherlock do that?"

"You mean when he has a car with a petrol tank?" Anderson asked. "Tricky one that."

"He's so out of it he can't drive straight, but he's suddenly able to siphon fuel out of the tank?"

"I don't know," Anderson said. "He bought it. Or maybe it was some other accelerant used. Maybe they were wrong about the fire."

"Maybe they were wrong about everything," John said. "Maybe we are."

"We need to talk to the witnesses," Sally said. "Particularly the staff at the restaurant. One of them might have seen Sherlock put something in his own glass, or show us there's some way for someone else to have done it. We should check where the CCTV cameras are in the hotel too–" She suddenly stopped and looked up at John and shrugged. "Yeah, well what I mean is, the Swiss police should do that."

"They won't listen to me," said John, "They've got their man already, or so they think." He found himself staring at Sally's tough, beautiful face, the fire in it, and made an abrupt decision. "I'm going back to Bern next week to visit Sherlock. Will you come with me and help me solve this thing once and for all? I'll pay your fare."

Sally folded her arms and looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "Never been to Switzerland," she said at last. "And I've got weeks of leave Personnel are nagging me to take. OK, I'll come."

It was only then that John looked at Anderson, whose face had taken on a familiar closed-down expression, one that said: I know you didn't mean me and I wouldn't want to come with you anyhow. Tempting just to stick with Sally, but...

"We need someone who speaks German as well," John said determinedly. "And who knows more about forensics than I do."

"I...I should be able to get the time off," Anderson said awkwardly. "That is if...if you could talk to my wife, explain what this is all about. Only, if she hears I'm going away somewhere with Sally, she might think..."

"I'll explain to her, of course," said John. "Thank you, thank you both very much." Don't worry, Sherlock, a sarcastic voice in his head was saying, The Scooby gang are on their way to rescue you.

***

"Is it your first time back?" Sally asked John on the flight.

"Second. I'm trying to visit Sherlock every month, but it takes some planning. I've set up a visit for later this week." The trips were expensive as well, though he wasn't going to tell Sally that. He wasn't looking for sympathy.

"How's the Fr-Sherlock getting on? Is he OK in prison?"

"Yeah, he seems to be alright. Says it's better than boarding school, at least. They've got him at work in the book bindery, and he's learning Somali from some of the other inmates." John had been terrified at the start about what might happen to Sherlock, but Thorberg seemed to be pretty well-run. It was starting to sound almost safe, compared to some of the places Sherlock got to when at liberty.

"He's probably better off there than in a prison back home," Sally said. "Has he said anything about...you know? What happened."

"No," said John. "We don't, we talk about other things." It had been hard the first time: Sherlock had retreated into himself, the way he did sometimes, leaving only a hard facade on view. And John hadn't dared try and chase him down, force him to open up. Just sat there in that damned visiting room for hours getting lectured by Sherlock on comparative criminology. This time would be better: John had made sure he read the books he'd sent Sherlock, so he could discuss them, thought up other topics that might interest him. They could survive this thing, even if they had to be apart. Sherlock and he could cope, if they had to. He just hoped to God they didn't.

***

The hotel staff would all speak English, so it was an obvious division of labour: Sally and John took them, while Anderson went off to talk to the forensics people. John had to admit he was glad about that. Anderson might be turning out to be surprisingly helpful, but he still didn't like the man. Sally was a lot easier to get on with.

The hotel manager was polite, if wary, but he cheered up when Sally said that the Met thought Sherlock might be innocent.

"I felt confident," he said, his lean face breaking into a smile, "that none of our guests would turn out to be a criminal. But nor are any of our staff, I assure you, Inspector Donovan." John noticed that Sally carefully didn't correct him on her title. "This must be the work of some international gang who targeted our hotel. Please feel free to ask any questions you need."

"Thank you," said Sally. "We'll talk to the restaurant staff first. But one question for you first. Had Sherlock Holmes stayed in the hotel before?"

"His brother visits our hotel quite regularly, but no, this was the first time that Sherlock himself stayed here."

"You're sure?" John asked. "You don't need to check your records?"

"No," the manager replied. "Mr Holmes is quite a celebrity in Switzerland, as indeed, are you, Dr Watson. After the drama of the Reichenbach Falls, you see. There has been a definite increase in English tourists coming to the region since then; middle-aged women, mainly, for some reason. So I was pleased when he was coming to our hotel. And now...it's obviously not the association we want. If you can clear his name, it would be very helpful."

***

Anna Luchsinger, the waitress who had served the Holmeses, was young and pretty and blonde and a few years ago John would have been tempted to ask her when her shift finished. But there were more important things to worry about now.

"I'd have remembered them even if it hadn't been for the...for what happened," she said. "Mycroft Holmes comes here quite often. Though to be honest, as far as I'm concerned he's just another boring businessman. But the other one, yes, the beautiful one with the beautiful coat. He's...very memorable."

"Tell us what you can remember about the evening," Sally asked. Her voice was gentle in a way that John had never heard before.
"I know you gave a statement at the time, we've read it, but I suspect there's things you've remembered since or didn't think to say. There always are."

Anna was still looking at them warily. What would get through to her, John wondered, and then had an idea.

"What did they have to eat?" he asked, smiling at her. "I hope they appreciated your food. Sherlock is terribly bad about ordering things and then not eating them sometimes."

Anna smiled back suddenly. "I was cross about that," she said. "Mycroft had a starter, but Sherlock didn't, so that was a smaller bill to start with. And then they were sharing a fondue, and he was hardly bothering to eat. Just sitting at the table, staring at his phone, tapping away. It's not nice manners."

"They had wine to drink?" Sally asked.

"Yes, Fendant Valais, very suitable. They were both drinking that."

"How much did they have?"

"They say they were drunk, don't they, that's why they fought? But I didn't...we're careful here. We don't let our guests drink themselves sick."

"It's OK," John said hastily, "there's no suggestion of that. But how many bottles and could anyone have tampered with them, put something in them? Or could Sherlock have put something in his own glass?"

"I suppose he could have done. But I don't see how anyone else could have drugged him. I opened one bottle for them, and then it was left on the table. They were drinking...they weren't drinking fast, just normal. I saw they'd finished the bottle, went over to ask if they'd like anything more. Mycroft Holmes said another bottle of the same. He was still eating the fondue, Sherlock Holmes just sitting there, with his phone."

"So you opened a second bottle, and took it over?" John said. Anna frowned.

"What happened then?" Sally asked. "You've remembered something more, haven't you?"

"I poured a glass out for Mycroft. Then I went to top up Sherlock's glass, but Mycroft put his hand over it, said Sherlock shouldn't have any more, it wouldn't be good for him. It was odd. I wondered if maybe it was Mycroft Holmes who was a little, tiny bit drunk." She held up her slim fingers for emphasis. "He took the bottle from me, put it on his side of the table, like it was just for him. And Sherlock looked up from his phone then, and said something very quickly. I didn't follow it, but he was cross. I didn't want to be involved in any argument, so I left, went back to the kitchen."

"And then?" Sally said.

"I went back out to start clearing away things from some of the other tables, but I could see out of the corner of my eye that they were still arguing. And then a few minutes later Sherlock Holmes stood up, and he was yelling something about interference, and he just walked out. Mycroft Holmes pulled out a handful of banknotes and left them on the table, far more than the meal had cost, and went out after him."

"What happened to the extra money?" Sally asked, smiling. "I mean, you probably felt you deserved it, after the way they'd behaved."

"We...we split it between us," said Anna. "Well, we didn't get a tip and we thought–"

"And what about the wine?" John broke in. "Let me get this right. There was one bottle that both of them drank from. What about the second one? Was it just Mycroft who had that or did Sherlock have some?"

Anna thought for a while. "I don't know," she said at last. "His glass was empty when he left, so he'd finished up what was he was drinking earlier. I don't remember seeing him get hold of the second bottle – like I said, Mycroft seemed to have charge of that – so maybe he didn't drink anything from that. But I wasn't watching them all the time."

"So there could have been something in the second bottle," said John.

"There wasn't," Anna said. "We...we drank it later, between us. We get to have the wine that the customers don't finish."

"You're sure it got drunk?" said John. "Someone couldn't have swapped it?"

"It was nice wine, almost a whole bottle of it. Normally we just get a few dregs. I kept an eye on it, when we took it back to the kitchen, so nobody could sneak off on their own with it. Nobody could have poisoned the bottles, it's not possible."

"And there was no-one else near their table at any time?"

"No. It was late, it was quite quiet, and Mycroft Holmes has a preferred table in the restaurant. One that isn't near anyone else's, that isn't on the route to the toilets so that people can sneak past and listen to his conversations. Whatever happened that night, it didn't happen here, it's nothing to do with us."

***

"It has to have happened there," John insisted.  "There's something odd about that second bottle."

"It doesn't make sense, though," Sally said. "We're looking for something Sherlock had and not Mycroft, not the other way round. Sherlock had the fondue and the wine, both of which he shared with Mycroft."

"Unless Mycroft was drugged as well. Maybe that was why he was behaving strangely."

"Drugged how, John? The stuff works very quickly, that's the point. Someone sticks it in the fondue and both of them would be keeling over at the table. And we've got no evidence that Mycroft had anything."

"Maybe Anderson will find something from the forensics lot," said John. "If he hadn't managed to get all their backs up, that is."

God, he thought, it's down to Anderson now to clear Sherlock. That's how desperate we are.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kalypso_v
Dec. 11th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
I love the creation of the Watson-Donovan-Anderson crime squad. And Anderson's motivation. Good luck to them!
fengirl88
Dec. 11th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
God, he thought, it's down to Anderson now to clear Sherlock. That's how desperate we are.

*hides in a corner until this is resolved*
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )