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The Go-Between (2/4)

The Go-Between

BBC Sherlock

Rating 12: Non-explicit het

Summary: Sherlock's learned some more about Mary from talking to her; now he needs to start making deductions.

Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing

Part 1

John's mood is increasingly filthy towards the end of the month and Sherlock can't immediately work out why. Until he finally does some calculations and realises the likely issue.

"So how did the twenty-week scan go?" he asks, and John's hands clench till his knuckles go white.

"I didn’t go, “John says sulkily. “I don't even know whether it's my child."

Sherlock's natural reaction is just to roll his eyes, but he suspects that won't be enough this time. Someone has to talk some sense into John and it seems, unfortunately, that it will have to be him.

"Prenatal paternity tests are possible," he points out. "Slight risk to the foetus, of course, but if you think it's not yours..."

"Of course, I wouldn't...I wouldn't put Mary through that." The same priorities as that last night in Baker Street: My lying wife. And only then: The woman who’s carrying my child. Mary first, the child second.  John'll doubtless be an adequate father, but you don't marry a forty-year old woman if you're desperate for a family. It's Mary who matters to John, it always has been. Sherlock just has to remind him of that, help him see her again.

"And really, John," he says, "you have no reason to suspect that she has been unfaithful, especially given her obvious devotion to you." He had hoped that John would have learned something from the parade of adulterers traipsing through 221B over the years, but obviously his mind's still clouded.

"Devotion? You call that devotion?"

"She was ready to kill a man to protect her marriage. You may think she showed extraordinarily poor judgement, but it certainly doesn't suggest shallow emotions. None of the other obvious symptoms of clinical psychopathy either. No lack of remorse, and the CIA wouldn't have taken her on if she'd had early behavioural problems."

As he expects, mention of the CIA gets John's attention again. John can normally cope with facts slightly better than with his own emotions, and he asks, clearing his throat: "Mary's working for them?"

"Was working for them. She's clearly not doing so anymore."

"Because the CIA never goes round London terrorising people? I must tell Mrs Hudson that," John says, with what he probably considers devastating sarcasm. There's nothing like pointing out the flaws in someone else's arguments to cheer you up temporarily, as Sherlock knows very well.

"No, Mary was doubtless doing similar things and worse during her time with the CIA. But you saw how the Americans operated in the Adler case: a team comes in for an operation and then leaves. The CIA wouldn't need Mary to go undercover in Britain for five years, and if for any reason they did, they'd have made a more professional job of setting her up. Provided someone from her early life to confirm who she was. Whereas what we have here is a freelance effort, albeit by someone who knew roughly how to carry it out."

"So we can be fairly confident she's an ex-spook from somewhere, at least?" John says and Sherlock watches an idea slowly dawn. "I know you thought she wasn't English, but could she be ex-British intelligence?"

"She'd have been a fool to stay in London if she was. And especially to invite my brother to her wedding reception."

"Yeah, I suppose so. So what was Mycroft doing all the time I was engaged to a killer?"

That's actually bothering Sherlock as well, but it's a problem for a later date.

"You'll have to ask him. I suspect as usual he's up to some particularly devious game, and doesn't mind about the collateral damage."

"Not the only one," John says, and how does he stop John's mind hammering away and hurting himself like this? Give him a case, that's all he can do. The case of his own wife.

"Do you want to know how I deduced that Mary used to work for the CIA? And what else I've deduced about her?" he demands, and John's reply is immediate.

"OK, we'll do it your way. How did you deduce that?"

"She was brought up in both Britain and the US. Her English accent is flawless, and she uses British childhood slang unselfconsciously, like 'bogs' for toilet. On the other hand, shooting a tossed coin is a quintessentially American trick, almost certainly learnt in childhood. I wasn't sure whether you'd be more impressed by Mary's skill or horrified by her carelessness about gun safety."

"Bit of both, really," John says automatically, and then shakes his head in frustration.

Possibly even aroused, Sherlock thinks. At some point in the future, he will have to get both Mary and John along to a rifle range, because it's going to be hilarious to see who'll win and how exactly John will react if he loses. But right now, John needs to focus on facts about Mary, so he can possibly forget at least some of his nightmares about her.

"Her accent is working class and southern," Sherlock goes on. "Her familiarity with guns from an early age suggests most likely to be from a rural red state area in the US. Neither is the kind of background where you'd move easily between continents, under normal circumstances. But there is one obvious possibility: that one or both parents were with the US Air Force."

"You mean that they were stationed over here during some of her childhood?"

"It's a working hypothesis, at least. If she went to school here, at least for a while, she'd have adapted her accent very quickly. It'd also be far less risky coming up with a plausible back story for herself if she knows the British education system well. And there's no obvious gaps in her knowledge of early eighties trivia, I presume?"

"Not really, no." John's picturing Mary in his mind, now, trying to remember her. Seeing her as a human being, however flawed, not just a cardboard cut-out with a label marked ‘killer’ round her neck. Keep that going.

"One other hint that might fit with her being a service brat," Sherlock goes on. "She comes to London knowing no-one five years ago, yet she's soon got a wide circle of friends. Used to having to make friends quickly, possibly suggests she moved around a lot during her childhood."

John nods her head. "She's a lot more positive towards soldiers than your average Guardian reader. Quite happy for me to invite Major Sholto along to the wedding and no snide comments about war criminals." His left hand clenches again. "But then I suppose that'd have been a bit hypocritical even for her. She hasn't just worked for the CIA, has she? She said life imprisonment for what she'd done. That means something pretty serious after she'd left them, some reason they wouldn't protect her."

Sherlock has to agree. He's on thin ice now, but he has to keep the deductions coming, because his brain is starting to rev up and some of what he says, at least, is almost sure to be right. He's thinking clearly about Mary at last, putting the evidence together, and the words start to form in front of his eyes. Unfortunately, there are some aspects he can't soften. Here's hoping there isn't one too many deduction this time, he thinks as he opens his mouth again:

"There are a number of crimes for which you can get life imprisonment, but there’s one that comes immediately to mind. Mandatory life sentence for murder in the UK; possible death penalty in the US. And she'd been trained to assassinate people during her time at the CIA."

"Great. I married a contract killer. It'll look good in Hello magazine, won't it?"

John's gallows humour never fails him, but suddenly Sherlock can see the way forward.

"She could have killed one person or she could have killed fifty: life imprisonment either way. But that's not the important point right now."

"It's not?"

"No, it's when she killed them. When she became Mary Morstan five years ago, was she doing that to hide her previous identity as a killer or in order to establish an identity in which she could continue to kill?"

"We can't know." John's voice is bleak.

"We can make some deductions, surely. She wasn't carrying out killings in London," Sherlock says, because he's already rechecked his memory files for those. "And there's not a lot of demand for hired gunmen outside the M25. The lucrative jobs are mostly overseas. Besides, there's the fact that she's a nurse."

John mutters something indistinct about Harold Shipman being a doctor.

"The point is, John, she would have to train, or at least retrain as a nurse in the UK. Someone would have spotted if she was unfamiliar with NHS procedures, wouldn't they?"

"She told me she'd worked as a shop assistant for years," John says quietly. "She got to her mid-thirties, decided she had to do something more with her life and came to London, to Guy's."

A woman trying to reinvent herself: a plausible story. And more or less true if you substitute 'assassin' for 'shop assistant'.

"Several years training, then working as a practice nurse. Doesn't leave much time for overseas trips to carry out hit jobs, does it?"

"She was working part-time," John says, and then bites his lip, because even he can see that doesn't change the equation substantially.

"The overwhelming balance of probability, therefore," Sherlock goes on, "is that Mary was on the run for her crimes before she came to London. For the past five years, she has not been working as an assassin, but instead trying to hide herself away and build a new life. Unfortunately, there is no statute of limitations for murder."

"So Mary killed someone back in the US?" John sounds calmer. "Or at least when she was based there?"

Do long-ago murders count less? Maybe if you want to believe that someone can change. But Sherlock can’t allow too much wishful thinking by John.

"One person or possibly more," Sherlock says. He concentrates, trying to work out times, probabilities. The CIA would probably have recruited Mary out of college, so mid-1990s, but unlikely to be employed by them for assassinations in her early years. So active period perhaps around 2000 onwards. On the run by 2008. What was happening in America then? Anything to make Mary want to leave?

He shakes his head. Too wide a timeframe to give useful information. Mary could have had time for dozens of freelance killings, before she decided to retire, but no way of telling. Oh, but there might be. Don't think about time. Think about retirement funds.

"Mary came to London in 2008," Sherlock says. "She'd need money to set up her new identity."

"London's not cheap either," John replies with feeling. "And if the CIA's like the army, she wouldn't have had much of a pension. Even if she didn't leave in disgrace."

"So how did she raise the money?"

"Killing people. She's a killer, remember?"

"Not cheap to hire a contract killer either," he says. "Even allowing for expenses, you'd make a decent profit from each job."


"So where's Mary's money if she'd made a long-term career out of it?"

"Stashed away in some Swiss bank account!" John retorts without hesitation.

"The wedding put you both in debt. Mary's an orphan; well, she claimed to be. Perfectly easy when you started living together for her to say, Oh, I inherited something when my parents died or This is the insurance payment from the car crash. Follow the money, John. Either she was a hopeless bargainer, or she doesn't have much money because she didn't kill many people."

"Or she's a spendthrift?"

John's instinct for ridiculous hypotheses is kicking in yet again. Why can't he see the evidence?

"Mary's not a spendthrift, and she's certainly not a hopeless bargainer. You know how much she got the catering for the reception knocked down."

John scrambles to his feet, starts to pace around the room. "So that's proof that she hasn't killed many people, is it? That we got a good deal on our wedding?"

Sherlock waits as John thinks about punching the wall, doesn't (because he knows it upsets the nurses), finally remembers to breathe and very slowly turns round to look at Sherlock. Waiting for him to say something, because John clearly can't manage a coherent sentence.

"If you want proof of what Mary's done," Sherlock says, as gently as he can, "you read the files she gave you. If you want logical deductions, you ask me."

"So what do you talk to her about, when she's here?" John asks in frustration, his anger automatically rechanneling itself into a different direction.

"Knitting. And musicals, sometimes."

"And what does she...?" John begins and then he stops, running his fingers up and down his neck. Trying to be the reasonable man he likes to imagine he is.

"Don't ask me what she thinks. I've been wrong about her before," Sherlock says, because he's not up to that responsibility.

"Not as wrong as I was," John says wearily. "I...why did you say that I knew what she was? I didn't see anything."

"No, you wouldn’t. That was the point," Sherlock says, because he's been blind too. "Last November, your life was being threatened, and Mary and I came to rescue you. I didn't think a car was fast enough, so I stopped a motorbike. Your fiancée got on as a pillion passenger, without bothering to enquire whether I actually had a driving licence, and proceeded to hang on uncomplainingly while I went rather spectacularly off-road. She then helped me drag you out of a bonfire where someone was attempting to incinerate you."

"Yeah, she told me about the bike ride. Sounded pretty hairy." John's almost smiling now.

Sherlock's starting to feel the need for another morphine dose, but he keeps going, pushing the words out and hoping that John's slow mind can catch them.

"Did you at any point suggest that she should not undertake such rides in the future?"

 "I couldn't tell Mary that. She'd have kill–" John bites off the word, and Sherlock hurries on, because he may not have much longer for anything to register.

"And did she do anything more the next day to warn you off further adventures? Apart, presumably, from cracking a rather tasteless joke about how hot you were. Moving swiftly along. Ten months later, your pregnant wife accompanied you to a crack den, and then went off on her own with a junky and a drug dealer, because you needed to sort out your best friend's own drug problems. Does that sound like the action of a responsible father-to-be?"

"I couldn't just let you–"

"But you could just let her. John, if you thought Mary was an ordinary, commonplace woman, you have treated her with appalling disregard, and let me do so too. We treated her the way we did because we knew she could cope with it. You may not have known it consciously, but the evidence was there for us both to see."

He can hear the emotion in his own voice. He can't keep calm, detached, not when John's pain is even greater than his. He wonders if he should offer some of his morphine to John.

"It's your job to see the bloody evidence, it's not mine!" John yells. "Why didn't you see it?"

Nothing left but the truth now. "Because you wanted to be with her and I wasn't going to stand in the way of that. I knew she was a liar, but I also know that you don't stop loving people just because they're liars."

John blinks and ducks his head and then walks out of the room. And that's the problem, of course. John deep down still wants to be with Mary. That's why he hasn't read her files: because it's hard enough for him to cope with what he already knows about her. But he also hasn't simply walked out on her. Easy enough to move back to Baker Street and make polite statements about how he'll help with the baby when it's born, but the marriage is over. Everyone would assume he'd finally realised he was gay, but John can surely live with that?

John's staying with Mary even though he's furious with her. Can't even bear to speak to her. Only one logical deduction to draw. But John's logical thoughts take a long time to surface from the entanglement of his emotions, and there's no easy way to short-circuit the process.

Eventually, John's mind is going to have to accept what he's already instinctively decided. For the moment, all Sherlock can do is rest, before he goes back to trying to work out the central problem.  How to get into Appledore and remove the threat to both Mary and Lady Smallwood.


What he ideally needs, Sherlock decides, is an inside man or woman. Vicky the maid, perhaps, who once dated a ghost? She wouldn’t be scared of what Magnussen might find out about her personal life. But it’d take months to install her or someone else in Appledore and he’s not sure how long he’s got. Quicker to suborn one of the staff already there; should be perfectly feasible once he knows all about them.
He can’t send John down to Hampshire – far too conspicuous – but he has Billy Wiggins and Langdale Pike and a string of other anonymous figures who drift into the hospital to take orders and bring back reports. Invariably, disappointing reports. Magnussen’s chosen his staff with great care. Janine may have been able to break from him – or did Magnussen let her go? – but none of the others would dare swap sides. Years in jail or worse for any subordinate who dared let Sherlock into Magnussen’s lair. He needs another approach.


What would Mycroft do? Not a question Sherlock ever likes posing, but necessary on this occasion. And he’s picked up a lot about his brother’s more dubious methods over the years. But in this case, Mycroft too would be stymied; Magnussen’s too important a man for his brother’s normal tactics to work. Mycroft could spirit Jim Moriarty off to an underground dungeon for weeks, but Magnussen would be missed. Compromising secrets found on Magnussen’s computer? Hard to pin on Magnussen personally and his newspapers would fight back. God knows there are enough embarrassing stories about the secret service to discover, and Magnussen’s bound to have found out some of them. Mycroft can hardly risk having the Bruce-Partington Programme or Operation Coventry appearing on all the front pages, can he?

So Mycroft’s no use, and Sherlock certainly can’t talk to Lestrade about his plans. But John can’t think straight about Magnussen at the moment, when he’s still obsessing about Mary. Maybe if Sherlock can work out a few more deductions about her, John’ll be of use again. Be back to being the sounding board, the conductor of light that Sherlock needs to solve the whole case. If he can just solve the problem of Mary, that’s the first step.

Part 3


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 31st, 2014 05:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'd been wondering where part two was, and it turns out that I'd missed it! Very glad to catch up, and (again) to read the new material.

There's a slight typo at "Did at you any point suggest that she should not undertake such rides in the future?"
Nov. 16th, 2014 07:25 am (UTC)
I've now finally fixed the typo and posted the last part of the fic. Thanks very much for your help on this. I also need to get myself a Mary Morstan icon - your's is very good.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )