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Double cross purposes (2/3)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (swearing, implicit het and slash)

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

Betaed by lucoluco

Part 1, Part 3

Summary: Sally Donovan is proving a useful distraction from the Service's real mole. But things are getting a little too personal for Mycroft now.


Thursday 28th January 2010

Mycroft realised the scale of his mistake as he watched the Met's press conference. A junior minister dead, talk of serial suicides, and at the heart of the investigations, was a woman who ever increasing numbers of people believed was crooked. It was hardly surprising that he got a phone call from the Minister half an hour later.

"Why are we letting this Donovan woman anywhere near the case?" the angry voice demanded. "I mean, for all we know, she could be the murderer."

"There isn't a murderer," Mycroft replied wearily. "As DI Lestrade said, they are all suicides, the poison was self-administered." Lestrade had looked weary, miserable, like a man being ground down by the whole thing. Good thing he didn't know how much worse it might be about to get.

"Donovan's up to something, she must be," the Minister said. "You're not taking this matter seriously enough, Mycroft."

"Minister, I have a team of my people working on this, but if we move prematurely we may compromise the operation. She isn't working alone, we suspect."

"I've a good mind to get a few questions asked in the House about Davenport's suicide."

"Oh, I wouldn't advise that," Mycroft replied, with sudden irritation. "You hardly want any discussion about how some of your colleagues received the news of Ms Davenport's demise, do you? There are people who heard the 'Ding-dong, the witch is dead' comment in the Commons canteen, even if they've been encouraged to keep quiet. We really don't want the British public to be reminded of how much of an old boys' club Parliament still is, do we?"

"I need results!" the Minister yelled. "And soon. You just seem to be sitting on your backside."

Better than talking out of it, Mycroft thought. "I'll have something for you very soon," he said.

"Make sure you do, before she bumps off any more of us."

***

"I need your advice," Mycroft said to Anthea, once the Minister had finally got off the line. "Or rather your expert opinion. If I explore Sergeant Donovan's finances, am I going to find anything disreputable? Do you think, for example, that she's living beyond her means?"

"No," said Anthea, after a moment's thought. "She likes clothes, but she wears high-street stuff, not designer gear. Her mobile's nothing fancy and she's too busy with her work to socialise much. Besides, if she'd wanted money, she'd have become a banker, not a policewoman."

"Is petty fiddling likely, though?"

"I've been reading the reports on DI Lestrade," Anthea said, "and he seems to be whiter than white where money's concerned. Can't see him having anyone on his team whom he couldn't trust. In fact, I'm finding it very hard to believe there are any secrets in her life at all, other than Anderson." She looked shrewdly at Mycroft. "So why are we investigating her?"

"For Operation Squid, you mean?" Mycroft said, smiling, and waited for Anthea to join the dots. A moment's hesitation and then she smiled her perfect smile back at him.

"The squid pumps out ink to fool an attacker. Sally Donovan's camouflage for your interest in someone else. That's clever, sir."

"I thought so," Mycroft replied, sighing. "But I may be going to wreck her career, which would not be...ideal."

"We can look after her, sir, if necessary. I'm sure we could find a niche for her somewhere."

"Oh yes, but I do feel that as a recruitment ad, 'Come and work for us because no-one will have you now' lacks a little finesse. I'm starting to feel I should warn the woman what's coming. If this serial suicide business gets any worse, someone is going to finger her, I feel sure of it. Unless...I suppose there's no hope that the police will actually be able to solve the matter, is there?"

"They're baffled."

"Not a new situation. The police have many admirable qualities, but they lack true imagination. The obvious question is how the killer is coercing the victims into suicide. It can't be blackmail: he or she doesn't have time for it. One meeting with the victim and they immediately kill themselves. What do the police normally do when they're stumped?"

"What they should do is call in your brother," Anthea said.

"Are you a fan of his as well, now?" Mycroft protested. "Sherlock is wasting his formidable talents on the squalid little crimes of squalid little people when he could be looking after his country's interests."

"With respect, it's surely not in the country's interest for junior ministers to be committing suicide."

"I suppose the mass self-immolation of the government would be distressing," Mycroft said, "though one can't help feel the United Kingdom would run more smoothly as a result. So do the police actually request my brother's help? I thought Sherlock's modus operandi was simply to hang around at crime scenes making clever suggestions till someone overheard him."

"He used to do that," Anthea said, "but Lestrade took him in hand." Mycroft found himself eying her slightly nervously. If only he'd paid proper attention to Sherlock's activities earlier, he'd have a better idea what to do now. Then he made an abrupt decision.

"I need to get hold of Sherlock," he said. "Ask him to take the case."

"Are you sure, sir?"

He nodded.

"It might be tricky," Anthea said. "Sherlock's having problems at Montague Street again."

Honestly, it was quite enough work for one man sorting out his brother's domestic life, Mycroft thought, without having to worry about his work activities. "I understood we'd bribed Mr Melas sufficiently."

"There's been another incident," Anthea replied. "Mr Melas told me that not even our subsidies made up for the damage to his floorboards. I don't know when Sherlock's being evicted, but in an emergency, we could put him in the safe house in Borehamwood."

"Which would promptly be converted into an extremely unsafe house. No, Sherlock can probably find one of his dubious friends to house him. I could do without him being distracted, however, if you think he might be able to sort out this case."

Friday 29th January 2010

There was still no word from Miss Murchison and a thin trickle of worry was starting to seep into Mycroft. By lunchtime, when he hadn't heard from her or Sherlock, it was becoming a flood. He couldn't stall the Minister for much longer, he knew. Forty-eight hours at the most and then he either had to let him have Sally's head or concede an enquiry into the Service.

There was no choice, of course. Sally Donovan wouldn't be the first innocent to be sacrificed to protect a double agent and she wouldn't be the last. It wasn't even as if she was going to lose her life. Just her job and her pension, which could be remedied. And her reputation, which was harder to fix. Her dismissal was bound to get out to the press, and she was an attractive woman. The tabloids would be eager to root out every past misdemeanour of hers, especially details of her sex life.

He'd got too close to the matter, Mycroft told himself firmly. He'd let himself start to think of Sally Donovan as a real person, not just a weapon. But it was more than that, wasn't it? She's spent her life being screwed over by white men and it was going to happen again. It was undoubtedly rash, but he owed her something. If – when – it became necessary to expose her, he should at least warn her in person, offer her protection. Maybe even explain to her that she was only being treated like this for the good of the state.

***

"I've finally tracked down Sherlock," Anthea said, and Mycroft felt his spirits lift for a moment. Then he remembered he was going to have to grovel to his brother.

"Decided you're interested in my petty little cases after all?" Sherlock's voice on the phone was sardonic. "What's brought this on?"
Mycroft forced the words out.  "I need your help."

"The answer's no. Whatever the question is."

"These serial suicides–"

"Oh I see," Sherlock sneered. "A junior minister has killed herself and suddenly you're interested in people dying. People who matter dying, I mean. Not just ordinary people suffering."

"Don't pretend you care about the victims," Mycroft said, his jaw clenching in the way his dentist hated. "It's the puzzle that interests you, isn't it?"

"I'm trying to get involved with the serial suicides, as it happens. But Lestrade's being stubborn. The man's an idiot."

Judging by the press conference, he was an intelligent and attractive man, Mycroft thought, but he didn't say anything. If he could just be patient...

"If I do take the case," Sherlock said abruptly, "I need a favour from you in return."

"Of course," Mycroft said wearily. "I'll see what I can do about another flat–"

"Oh, that's solved," Sherlock said, and Mycroft could almost hear the smirk in his voice. "But I think I've found a flatmate and I presume you'll feel your normal need to vet him."

"There have been occasions...you know what happened with Victor Trevor."

"I was younger and more inexperienced then," Sherlock retorted. "Anyhow, if you are going to vet him, get on with it. I don't want to get the man used to my domestic habits and then find out he's only got acquainated with me in order to facilitate an attack on you."

"I'll put someone onto it immediately," said Mycroft. "What's your unfortunate flatmate's name?"

"Dr John Watson, recently returned from military service in Afghanistan. Trained at Barts, has an alcoholic brother called Harry. If you need more details than that–"

"No, we'll find him. Well, if he's just back from a war zone, he'll doubtless find sharing a flat with you familiar. Just try not to poison him accidentally. And solve those suicides, please," Mycroft added. "A woman's reputation depends on it."

Saturday 30th January 2010

John Watson looked promising, at least on paper – any flatmate of Sherlock's would doubtless end up with psychological problems, so it hardly mattered if he already had some – which was a good start to the day. On the other hand, another corpse was reported mid-afternoon, which immediately soured Mycroft's mood. Maybe the public won't hear about it till Monday, he thought, but he wasn't surprised when the Minister rang a couple of hours later. Obviously, even if the Met hadn't been leaking before, it was now, like a ship about to sink.

"I'm going to the PM," the Minister said. "He has to know what's happening. It's not just this Donovan woman, is it? It's something bigger. How do I even know I can trust you any more, Mycroft?" From the sounds in the background, he was probably attending a dog show. Shame he couldn't get torn to pieces by a pack of hounds, Mycroft thought. That would be handy right now. He had a sudden inspiration.

"We're bringing them in this weekend," he said. "You're right, it's a big network. I think I've finally got a lead into their military operations, via an ex-army officer, name of Watson. And I'll talk to Donovan myself tonight."

"Doing your own fieldwork now, Mycroft? I thought nothing short of World War Three could drag you from your desk." A hint of cheerfulness was creeping into the Minister's voice, now that someone else's weekend was also being wrecked.

"This needs my personal attention," Mycroft replied. "There may...it is possible that some junior agents have been turned." Some heads might have to roll even from his own staff, just not the right ones, as usual. Innocent scapegoats, shunted out, shunted sideways. Sent to Brixton. Was he losing control, Mycroft suddenly wondered. "I want the matter settled as much as you, Minister," he went on, "but do you really want to explain to the PM that you blew our operation prematurely?"

"When is it going to be resolved?"

"Soon," he lied, and the Minister grumbled and agreed to wait till after the weekend to talk to the PM.

Mycroft sat at his desk, after the call had finished, and realised he was breathing slightly too fast. He had to calm himself, think and not just react. Get ahead of the game. He called Anthea into the office.

"We need to pick up John Watson and Sally Donovan and talk to them," he told her. "But separately, not together."

"Is that wise, sir?" Anthea asked. She didn't often question his judgement, but he listened to her when she did. There was a razor-sharp brain beneath that decorative facade.

"We need all the decoys we can get," he said. "The Minister wants action, he won't worry too much who gets accused of what. Donovan is our first human sacrifice. Dr Watson may have to be the second line of defence, and from then on we're choosing the Service's weakest links to throw to the wolves."

"But do we need to talk to them before we set them up?" she asked. A good practical question, he was relieved to hear.

"I want to know how Dr Watson reacts under pressure. If he's tough enough to put up a fight, protest his innocence when he's accused of treachery, that could buy us time. We might still be able to pin something on the real mole. As for Donovan – I've got her into this mess. I should at least explain to her why she has been chosen to have her life wrecked."

"I'll get to work on the pick-ups," said Anthea. "But it may not be easy. We can't easily pull Donovan away from her colleagues without someone getting suspicious. Unless you're willing to use a distress call."

Your mother has been seriously injured in a car-crash. Please come with me immediately if you want to see her alive. It was an old trick. Sally Donovan's mother was called Rebecca, a Pentecostal matriarch who, even in the transcripts, had reminded Mycroft oddly of his own formidable mother. He didn't...he didn't want, even falsely, to kill the woman off.

"No," he said. "There must be some point at which we can corner her without that, if we keep our eyes open. What about Dr Watson?" Another innocent to be crushed to powder, although at least he sounded like a man looking for trouble in the first place.

"He's supposed to be meeting your brother at seven p.m. to see the flat. If we pick him up before, Sherlock may come round and protest about us scaring him off."

"Right. Well, in that case, we've got time to arrange something impressive for him, and then we'll go round to Sally Donovan's flat when she goes off duty. I presume she does so occasionally."

"She may not...she may go to someone's else house," Anthea pointed out.

"We'll deal with that problem when we come to it. But I think for John Watson, a little bit of theatricality may be called for. He needs to get used to it, if he's working with Sherlock."

"I thought he might be about to get sent to prison for treason," Anthea said.

"Oh, I'm sure we can get him off on a technicality," Mycroft replied. "And Sherlock will hardly worry about any criminality in his background, he knows the most appalling characters. That bit, at least, should be straightforward." 

***

John Watson turned out to be small and tough and unimpressed at being abducted, which were probably all useful traits in any friend of Sherlock. And also not prepared to be bribed, which meant they might have to plant evidence on him as well. Mycroft hoped it wouldn't come to that: yet another piece of collateral damage to add to the list. Nicky Pitch had been sent off that afternoon to break into Sally's flat and leave the passbook that would be used to incriminate her.

"Nicky says that Hackney's sorted," Anthea reported on her return from Baker Street. "So we can accuse Sergeant Donovan of corruption whenever we need to."

"Good," he said. "Any word on what Sherlock's doing? Is he going to solve the case?"

"He's taken Dr Watson out to dinner, according to the last update."

"That hardly sounds promising. In that case, we arrange an encounter with Sally Donovan as soon as possible, tell her she's been framed and offer her a place in a safe house with immediate effect."

Once Anthea had headed off to update the surveillance team in person, Mycroft pulled out his phone and checked his e-mails for the tenth time in less than an hour. If only he could get something from IT Angels that implicated Matheson. But things never happened as conveniently as that in real life, did they?

As he went back to his desk he realised he was once again spending Saturday evening at work, like the sad individual he was. Not that it mattered. There was nowhere else he needed to be, and at least here he had a role to play. Just unfortunate that tonight it was the role of executioner, as soon as Anthea got her hands on Donovan.

*** 

The first text from Anthea came twenty-five minutes later and soon there was a regular flow of them:

Subject no longer at Lauriston Gardens but location unknown. Somehow our watchers lost her. Will order sweeps of the area.

How hard can it be to keep track of one police officer? Our systems definitely need an overhaul. Will put on Monday's to do list.

Subject finally located back at NSY. Looks like they're planning a late-night raid.

They're raiding 221B!

Still at 221B and Sherlock and John are back. I'll let you know who gets arrested.

No-one arrested. Sherlock went off in taxi, police left building soon after, subject departed with Lestrade. We are tailing.

Lestrade and Donovan are back at NSY. We can try and extract her, but might be conspicuous. Getting signal interception into place.

Phone call to NSY saying Sherlock's traced the serial killer, Lestrade and Donovan are onto it. Need to get location confirmed.

Location is Roland Kerr FE College, NW2. Will pick you up from office in 5 minutes if you still want to proceed with the pick-up.

***

Mycroft mistimed his arrival slightly – what were they all doing at an FE college, for goodness sake? – and ran into Sherlock and Dr Watson leaving the scene. Though the latter appeared not as perturbed as you might expect from learning that his new flatmate's brother was the British government, or whatever ludicrous and libellous comments it was that Sherlock made. Indeed the man seemed positively chirpy; obviously impressed by Sherlock having solved the case. Mycroft still wasn't quite sure what had happened: something to ask Sergeant Donovan about.

He supposed he had no pressing reason now to encounter the woman; if the serial killer had been caught, they had a breathing space before needing to throw her to the wolves. But he'd spent ten days finding out all about her: it'd be interesting to talk to Sally Donovan herself.

She was smaller than she expected, but with the same no-nonsense beauty as in her photos. And when he strolled up to her, she looked him up and down from his carefully cut hair to his handmade shoes and asked, in an accent that was pure Cockney: "Who are you and what do you want?"

"I need to ask you some questions about the case," he replied.

"Oh you do, do you?" she said. "And why do I need to answer them?" He wondered if the accent had softened when she was as Cambridge, or if she'd clung onto it more determinedly than ever.

"Do you not read your e-mails?" he replied confidently. "I'm from 3G Consultancy. We're doing a cost-benefit analysis for the Met on their operations and this is one of the cases that falls within our sampling timeframe."

"Cost-benefit analysis?" Sally replied, smiling mirthlessly up at him. "Do you know what happened here tonight? We caught a serial killer. The man who got shot a bit earlier had killed four people already. He'd have probably killed a sight more if we hadn't stopped him. So what cost do you put on a human life saved, Mr Consultant?"

"My name's Michael Hutchinson," he said, trying to sound officious. It was amazing how eager most people were to tell management consultants exactly how wrong they were about everything. "Obviously, we have to take into account quality life adjusted years – how much longer the victim might have lived – but there are always issues of on-costs as well. How long did this operation take, for example? Several months, I presume."

"We wrapped this one up very quickly," she said. "Well, as soon as we spotted the similar patterns in the three cases."

"So how did you manage that?" he asked.

"We ran a lot of background tracing, to try and establish a connection between the three victims, but when we found a fourth body, with an apparent suicide note, we also brought in a consultant we've used in the past."

"A consultant?"

"A consulting detective. But don't worry, he was a lot cheaper than you are. In fact, we got him for free."

"So what did he do?"

"Looked at the body, and then he was able to suggest a few leads. Later, we went round to his flat, because he'd found some new evidence. We were able to trick the killer into coming to the flat, Sherlock went off with him as a decoy, and the rest of the team tracked him here. Only the man got shot before we could arrest him. Some other crook must have been tailing him as well."

It was somehow reassuring just how unconvincing a liar she was; her honesty was instinctive, her untruths clearly uncomfortable to her.

"It sounds like your consulting detective did most of the work," he said, just to see how she'd react.

"No, it was a team effort," she said. "But, yeah, Sherlock Holmes is useful to have around sometimes. It's just that he's a–" She broke off.

"Antisocial and abrasive personality?" he said. "I've encountered him earlier in this assignment." He could see out of the corner of his eye someone coming over, looming behind him. "Don't worry, Sergeant Donovan, it sounds like this operation was conducted in a most cost-effective manner. If I could just ask–"

"If you have any further questions," an angry voice said in his ear, "I'll deal with them." Mycroft looked round and got a glare from DI Lestrade, who was somehow managing to loom even though he was several inches shorter than Mycroft. It was probably the sheer righteous fury of the man, flexing upwards unconsciously on his toes, as if he was planning to thump Mycroft.

"Sergeant Donovan," Lestrade went on, "can you go and check if we need the paramedics any more? I'll handle this." He walked round to stand firmly in front of Mycroft, folding his arms and looking up at him.

"So what the fuck do you think you're doing, asking questions of my officers?" he asked.

"I'm doing consultancy work for the Met," Mycroft said smoothly. "My card." He dug out the appropriate one from his wallet. It was amazing how often it came in handy. Lestrade took it and looked it at for a moment.

"Right, Mr Hutchison. Two things you should know. One is, if you have questions about a case, you come to me, rather than one of my subordinates. Second is," he said, as his strong hands began to tear up the card, "that you don't fool an old lag like me with such a ridiculous story. No bloody management consultant is still on the job late on Saturday night. So whoever you are, get the hell out of my crime scene, before I arrest you for wasting police time."

"I can explain–"

"I'm going to count to three," Lestrade said, "and then I'm going to arrest you, despite the additional paperwork and expense involved. One..."

The top button of Lestrade's shirt was unbuttoned, emphasising his sturdy neck. For a moment, Mycroft wondered what it would be like to be arrested. Would the DI actually put him in handcuffs, lead him off to some police van...

"Two," Lestrade announced. Mycroft focused on reality and turned and walked away.

It was silent in his flat when the car dropped him off. Far, far too silent.

 

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
maggie_conagher
Dec. 20th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
Someone was just saying on another fic that we need more first person Mycroft, and here it is!

This story is so complex, intricate connections, fascinating.

Lovely intrigue for a rainy morning.
marysutherland
Dec. 21st, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying the fic - I've just put the final part up. Yes, I'm trying to clear out some of my fics pre S2. Though there are still things lurking I'm not going to be able to post in time.

I was briefly a minor civil servant myself, so I do like writing fics which show some of the grind of governmental work (though my stuff's rather more fanciful than Tinker, Tailor, Soldier. Spy, which does show espionage in its true depressing ordinariness).
uwsannajane
Dec. 20th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC)
This is twisty and fascinating and I just love it.
shezan
Dec. 20th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
This is pitch-perfect and HEAVENLY. MOAR PLZ?
marysutherland
Dec. 20th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'll try and put the final part up either tomorrow or Thursday (it's all lurking on my hard drive).
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )