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Double cross purposes (1/3)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (swearing, implicit het and slash)

Spoilers: none for Series 2, possibly for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Betaed by lucoluco

Summary: A secret operation has gone wrong and Mycroft needs someone to pin the blame on.

Part 2, Part 3


Friday 11th December 2009

One of the worst aspects of being officially employed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Mycroft considered, was that not only did he sometimes have to turn up and pretend he worked there, he also had to attend their official functions. That was how he had ended up at the Innovation Infrastructure Partners Christmas dinner, fending off the inquisitiveness of some tedious woman from the Design Council, all gold fingernails and determination.

"So will you be staying in London for Christmas, Mycroft, or are you travelling somewhere?" she demanded cheerfully.

Unfortunately, Mycroft Holmes of the BIS did not know twenty-three different methods of resisting interrogation. He was instead dull, but helpful.

"I'll be going down to Sussex to spend a few days with my mother and brother," he said. "All very quiet, of course."

"Your mother's still alive? I do adore old ladies at Christmas, they're so festive," Ms Smythe announced. "And are you close to your brother? I'm an only child myself, so I'm fascinated by siblings."

"Not particularly close," Mycroft said cautiously. "Sherlock's seven years younger, so–"

"Sherlock?" she interrupted. "You don't mean to say your brother is Sherlock Holmes?"

"You know him?"

"Of course I do. Everyone at the Design Council does, after the Six Napoleons affair."

"The Six Napoleons?" Mycroft said, cautiously.

"Someone broke into our offices a few years ago, stole some prototype animated mannequins of Napoleon one of our staff was advising on. Your brother managed to get them back before they were cloned by the Koreans. We can't let them get ahead of us on display technology, can we?"

"I suppose not," Mycroft said awkwardly. "I didn't realise, erm, I'm afraid I don't really know anything about my brother's work as a detective."

"You don't?" Ms Smythe said incredulously. "Oh, I was hoping you could give me the inside story on him, dish the dirt. I've followed his career ever since that case. He's such a glamorous figure, isn't he?"

She looked guilelessly at Mycroft and the temptation was almost overwhelming to say: You're impressed by Sherlock's little tricks, are you, Ms Smythe? What would you say if you knew that it's because of me that you are not currently running shrieking through the radioactive ruins of central London? Or that this afternoon I will be discussing with a four-star general the CIA's latest plan to roll up a network of Pakistani terrorists?  He bit his lip. Operation Cobra was enough of a disaster area already without getting the Design Council involved. He must focus. Ms Smythe had just said something else, hadn't she?

"I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't catch your last question."

"Could you at least let me know who Sherlock's tailor is?" she said firmly. "He has a very distinctive style and I'm wondering whether we might be able to use him for promotional purposes."

***

There is a reason why I don't know about Sherlock's cases, Mycroft told himself, as he sat sulkily in the back of a car on his way to Heathrow. A good reason. I have more important matters to deal with. And besides, it would only encourage him...

That had been the excuse – the reason – at the start. Sherlock had announced he was going to become a detective two days after turning down Mycroft's offer of a post with the Service. It was clearly an attempt by Sherlock to show off, flaunt his analytical abilities in Mycroft's face. Mycroft's long experience with his brother told him that such plays for attention were better ignored. Show no interest in what Sherlock was doing and his little game would soon lose its thrill.

But it hadn't this time, had it? Sherlock had stuck with being a detective, thrived at it. Mycroft knew that much. He'd been doing it for...goodness, it was almost five years now, wasn't it? Mycroft had a sudden vision of how his own refusal to engage with Sherlock's cases must look to an outsider, like the tediously sparkly Ms Smyth. Not as a rational decision on priorities and strategy, but as something petty, mean-spirited on Mycroft's part, a refusal to admire Sherlock's successes. Perhaps he should now moderate his position, he thought, read the reports generated about his own brother, rather than rely on others to inform him that he was still clean and solvent. Maybe even find out a little more about his interests and the people he worked with.

Tuesday 19th January 2010

The Minister – who was not, of course, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – was furious, as Mycroft had expected.

"We need to get to the bottom of this!" the man yelled yet again.

Good thing the club has soundproofing, Mycroft thought. "In what way?" he replied cautiously.

"We need to find out why your lot mucked up Operation Cobra so badly."

The fact that it was a deeply unrealistic plan in the first place might have a little to do with it. That bit, at least, was not the Service's fault.

"The Americans are livid," the Minister went on. Mycroft didn't bother explaining that it was unlikely they were actually grey-tinged.  "They're talking about stopping information-sharing if we're just leaking all the time."

It was almost certainly the CIA who was at fault on this occasion, but Mycroft wasn't certain yet if Agent Matheson was a criminal or merely criminally careless.

"I could perhaps have a word with the Americans," he said smoothly.

"You know what they're saying?" the Minister went on, his floridly handsome face staring up at Mycroft, "They're suggesting that there's a mole, a traitor in the Service at the highest level. I am not ignoring those kind of allegations. They must be investigated by someone the Joint Intelligence Committee can trust, not just given the normal whitewash."

"Such an investigation would be inadvisable," Mycroft replied.

"Why? Afraid of what we might find?"

Any investigation of the Service's top brass would no doubt uncover that Hil Baydon had been bought by the Chinese. It would probably miss, however, that Mycroft had bought him back, and he was now feeding the PRC with a beautiful diet of dubious intel. Mycroft didn't want that little arrangement disrupted just yet. Unfortunately, the Minister was neither an adulterer, nor corrupt, which eliminated some possible moves. Since he was simply a sanctimonious prick, it was time to fall back to plan B.

"It would be very costly," Mycroft said. "And the Treasury would be particularly irate if, or indeed when, it turned out it wasn't the Service that did the leaking after all."

"What do you mean?"

"We strongly suspect the leak came from the Metropolitan Police. As you know, they became involved tangentially in Operation Cobra when Gul Khan was murdered in Whitechapel. We closed down their investigations, of course, but perhaps not quite quickly enough. And it might fit with some of our other suspicions."

"About the Met?" the Minister said, suddenly sounding more positive. The police weren't part of his ministerial responsibilities, after all.

"We have believed for a while that there are members of their Criminal Investigation Department selling information on operations to interested parties. We'd presumed it was just for domestic consumption, but possibly someone's got more ambitious. Under the circumstances, the time might be ripe to see if the rumours about police corruption are true."

"I need something definite," said the Minister. "And soon."

And cheap, and politically convenient, Mycroft thought. "A month, perhaps?" he said. "If you're happy with us putting some other projects on the back burner."

"Two weeks."

"In three weeks," Mycroft said, "I'll have something concrete to give you." He hoped he wasn't being rash, but he could surely find the American evidence much sooner than that. Especially with the helpful smokescreen of alleged dubious goings-on at Scotland Yard.

***

Miss Murchison from IT Angels was understandably cautious.

"I thought you were the CIA, Mycroft. So why do you need us to hack into their network?"

"South Asian Analysis have been rather hostile to me, since I pointed out that they might learn something from the failures and successes of the Raj. It seems to have become a point of principle with them to sideline my contacts."

"It's not going to be easy," she protested, her plain face dogged. "They've hardened up their systems a lot recently, with all the hacking."

"Which is why I've come to your firm. The best social engineering service on the planet, so you always claim."

"Well, we have got a new woman who might be just what you want. Nirupa Devi. Looks like a princess and can install a rootkit faster than you'd believe possible. Ideal nerd bait. But two weeks is still a very tight timetable."

"The rewards will be substantial," Mycroft said, "and if there's anything else you need, you can come to me day or night."

"This is off the Service's books, is it? Do I report to your assistant?"

"You'll need to contact me via her, but I don't want even Anthea suspecting yet that I'm investigating the Americans. But don't worry about my end of it. Just get your Angels flying round the CIA and see what sins they uncover."

Wednesday 20th January 2010

"There are five possible people in the Met who could have leaked information about Operation Cobra," Bland informed Mycroft the next day. "I've compiled some preliminary facts about them."

"Good," Mycroft smiled encouragingly. "Any immediate red lights?" He had to hope that they weren't all whiter than white, that there was at least one with murky spots to act as distraction.

"The two uniformed officers who found Khan are unlikely," Bland said, sliding two files across the table to Mycroft. "Motte's keen and green and wouldn't want to put a foot wrong. Bailey's an old rascal, but I severely doubt she has any more than small time criminal contacts."

"Who are the other three?"

"The CID team who started the investigation. They were pulled off it very quickly, but that may just have got them suspicious. The first one is DC Stanley Hopkins." Bland handed the file over, with a photo on the front of a young, thick-necked, earnest-looking blond.

"I'm not sure he can find his own arse yet," said Bland, "let alone work out how to sell secrets to a terrorist organisation. The second one is his boss, DI Gregory Lestrade."

Lestrade's photo, Mycroft noted, showed a good-looking, dark-eyed man with a direct, confident gaze.

"Late forties and he's not been promoted to chief inspector," Bland said. "Which makes it likely he's either incompetent or dodgy."

"The name sounds familiar," Mycroft said, and then stopped. The man had worked with Sherlock, hadn't he? Despite his determination to ignore Sherlock's crime-solving activities, he definitely remembered some mentions of "that imbecile Lestrade" by his brother. No wonder the poor man's hair was going grey. Though it did rather suit him.

"I suspect if he is crooked, my brother would have pointed it out loudly and conspicuously by now," he said. "Who's our last potential leaker?"

"Lestrade's right-hand woman, DS Sally Donovan. Now she might be worth a closer look at." Bland's vast, slab-like face finally showed some animation.

"Why do you think so?"

"Bright, but clearly has an attitude problem; she has a series of warnings on her file for insubordination. Also, one odd thing."

"Which is?"

"It says on her file that she's got a degree from Cambridge. What are the chances of a woman from Stoke Newington ending up there?" Bland banged the file onto the table, and Sally Donovan's face stared defiantly up at Mycroft. Beautiful and black. It certainly was unusual if she'd made it to Cambridge. She'd be as good a distraction as any, thought Mycroft.

"Right," he said, "I want level 2 background checks on Motte, Bailey, Hopkins and Lestrade. Let's make sure there are no obvious weaknesses."

"And Donovan?" Bland asked.

"Level 3 checks," Mycroft replied. "I want to know all about her."

Thursday 21st January 2010

"So what have you got?" the Minister demanded.

"An anomaly," Mycroft said. "An outsider who got a place in two rather traditional systems. First Cambridge University and then the police service."

"Oh well, Cambridge let anyone in, don't they?" the Minister sneered.

You could take a man out of Magdalen, but not Magdalen out of the man, Mycroft thought, but all he said was:  "We have no evidence against Ms Donovan yet, but we consider she bears investigating."

"If she's the leaker, you'd better damn well bring me her balls on a plate!" the Minister insisted. "Or whatever the female equivalent is. I need answers for the Americans."

"Oh, they'll have answers," said Mycroft smoothly. "Don't worry. Any skeletons in Sergeant Donovan's cupboards won't stay hidden for very long."

Monday 25th January 2010

For an arbitrarily chosen distraction, Sally Donovan was turning out to be ideal material for Operation Squid, Mycroft thought with satisfaction, as he sat in the meeting room and listened to his subordinates come up with ever more convoluted reasons for why she was a traitor. Even though she wasn't one, of course.

"Dates back to childhood," Henry Tinker drawled, leaning back in his chair. "Her father walked out when she was five, her mother raises her and her siblings alone. Ray Donovan betrayed the young Sally, twenty-five years later she betrays the whole white establishment in revenge."

"She doesn't need father issues to get pissed off about racism and sexism," Khadija Moosvi countered sardonically. "She hits a glass ceiling at the Met, knows her face doesn't fit, starts looking round for someone who does appreciate her. Easy target for a clever agent."

"It's about cold, hard cash," Sam Wood insisted, with a scowl on his heavy face. "She has expensive tastes. She saw a chance to make some easy money and she took it."

"The money," Ros Jones said, "is going to fund Dr James Anderson's divorce. Which, God knows, will be happening fairly soon, if they aren't more careful. Sally does have remarkably poor judgement about men, doesn't she?"  She smiled at Mycroft, all lip gloss and bitchiness.

"Workplace romances do not always strike the outsider as rational," Mycroft replied, carefully directing his gaze at Sam Wood, the only one of the analysis team who had not recently had an in-house sexual encounter. "Though I must say I do rather agree with your assessment." If Sally Donovan had to fall for a colleague, why on earth had she not chosen Lestrade, who was a far more attractive proposition? Perhaps because sleeping with her boss might cause difficulties. But then, any emotional entanglement brought its own risks. Better, after all, to stay detached.

He abruptly realised that the one person so far silent was about to speak.

"You know," Toby Westerhaus announced earnestly, "We could be looking at this completely the wrong way." Mycroft sighed inwardly and waited. Toby was one of the Cold War warriors they still hadn't managed to put out to grass.

"The thing is," Westerhaus went on, "how do we know that this woman's Donovan at all?"

"What?" Mycroft demanded.

"Have we considered the possibility of a ringer?" Westerhaus' face had lit up now. "She could have been replaced when she went to Cambridge. Girl from Hackney disappears, new girl takes her place at Trinity Hall. Back in the late Seventies there were a lot of African students in Moscow. This woman could easily be the daughter of one of those and a Russki. Who'd suspect her of really being KGB?"

"Who indeed?" Mycroft said. "Other than possibly her family, friends and school teachers. But rest assured, when I go to Cambridge, I will investigate the possibility."

Tuesday 26th January 2010

He'd been wanting a trip back to Cambridge, and this gave him the ideal excuse. And Sally's old tutor, a burly middle-aged Dutchwoman called Carin van Zon, was surprisingly helpful.

"Of course I remember Sally Donovan, Mr Holmes," she said, as they sat in the chilly gardens and looked out at the Cam. "I had to fight like hell to get the college to admit her. They say they want diversity, but then they get a black candidate from a poor area and suddenly they're panicking she's not good enough."

"And you thought she was?"

"She had a lot of determination and she was well-prepared for the interview. I think there was some teacher at her school who had taken a particular interest in her, got her thinking. Broadened her horizons beyond Hackney. I reckoned she'd be more interesting to teach than yet another public school boy. Anthropology always benefits from a diversity of views, an outsider's perspective. So I fought her corner and won."

"How did she find college life?" Mycroft asked.

"Oh, a bit of a shock, of course. Too many petty rules in college, too many petty people. She struggled with her essays for a while, and I think there were a few racist comments thrown her way. Couldn't have been easy, but she adapted, made friends, got involved with college life. Did she tell you about her rowing when she was here, Mr Holmes?"

"Rowing?"

"You probably didn't believe her, did you, she's so tiny. And yes, she was really too small for the rowing itself. But she was so keen, so do you know what they did with her?" Her broad face cracked into a grin. "They made her a cox, and she ended up coxing the men's first eight. Eight hulking men and Sally telling them what to do. That was good to see. Sally Donovan, rowing and arguing. Rowing and rowing, you might say."

"In what way?"

"Any time the Junior Common Room had a dispute, you could be sure Sally would be involved. She wanted to get her voice heard, and good for her. Not the most academic student I had, but I've never regretted picking Sally."

"After graduating, she went off to join the police, didn't she? Did that surprise you?"

"At first, but I suppose it made sense. She wanted to go back to London, her roots, her own community, give something back. Too impatient to be a teacher, too honest to be a politician. And she's doing well, I gather. Well, she must be, since you're here."

Mycroft gave her a quizzical glance.

"Mr Holmes," she said, grinning at him again. "You're an important man, a big chief. I've seen your type from New Guinea to New York. You want Sally for some special job, don't you? What's she going to be doing? Guarding the Queen? Do you want her for the Special Branch or whatever it's called now?"

"I'm afraid I can't discuss why I'm here," he said hastily.

"Yes, well, whatever the job is, she'll do it well. She's a good girl, Sally. Ready for anything. I can recommend her highly to you. But one thing, Mr Holmes," she added, as she stood up, slightly breathlessly, to shake his hand. "I'm sure you're a very clever man, as well as an important one. But don't underestimate Sally. A lot of clever men in Cambridge did."

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
maggie_conagher
Dec. 19th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, she is clever that Sally Donovan, that mary sutherland. :)

This piece has that every day component that you were talking about in comment responses. I think writing specifically about Mycroft's job is difficult. You've got the chops for it but so many ppl cop out.

Again, I am intrigued.

Are you cleaning out your story drawer before the new series next month? Several are and I'm benefitting from the flood of extra stories.

Thank you.
shezan
Dec. 20th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. Sainted. Aunt, you had me at "Hil Baydon"! And Plan B, hahaha!
coeurl_toy
Dec. 24th, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
This is a delight to read!

Bland banged the file onto the table, and Sally Donovan's face stared defiantly up at Mycroft. Made me laugh. I could see it happening very clearly.

Patiently awaiting parts 2 and 3~
marysutherland
Dec. 31st, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Sorry for not getting back to you before - all the parts are now up and links put to them, in case you hadn't found Parts 2 and 3. Hope you enjoy the rest of it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )