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The Go-Between (3/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 12: Non-explicit het

Summary: Sherlock's still having problems figuring out Mary Watson and Appledore

Many thanks to Kalypso for betaing

Part 1, Part 2

Another talk with Mary will probably allow some more deductions, but Sherlock has to wait, plan their next conversation correctly. Till he's sure he's observed Mary enough to know all her tells, confirmed at least some of his hypotheses about her past. Till he's feeling strong enough to lead the conversation where it needs to go. It’s just possible that the CIA have traced Mary to London and are using her again – not a likely hypothesis, but they do intrude on Mycroft's patch sometimes – and if so, she's hardly going to admit it easily.

"You read the Guardian," he says to her when she comes in one blustery autumn afternoon. Early morning shift at the surgery, baby kicking her a lot – he's slightly surprised John's child hasn't tried to head-butt her yet – but someone gave her a seat on the tube and that's almost restored her faith in humanity.

"Yeah," she says. "Not a terribly difficult deduction, that one, when I'm carrying a copy." She's almost back to her old manner with him now, treating him like some odd combination of friend and child. 'Mary Morstan' isn't a facade in that sense; there's no major difference in personality, not like with 'Rich Brook' and Moriarty.

"Why do you read it?" he asks.

"Because I like knowing who the Prime Minister is," she says cheerfully. She's good at putting on a brave face on a hopeless situation; must have helped her survive when she first came to London. "And if I put on the TV news, John starts yelling at it if people say something stupid. Dunno where he gets that from."

"Why the Guardian specifically?"

"Well, I wasn't gonna read one of Magnussen's papers, was I? Even before I knew about him, he came across as pretty slimy."

"There are other newspapers. And the fact that you regularly buy that one and don't just read it on your phone suggests a certain loyalty."

"Yeah, I've been reading it for years."

"How many years?"

"I dunno. Five, six, seven, maybe. Can't really remember." She's puzzled now, but not yet suspicious.

"But why would a former CIA assassin read a paper like that? One that makes clear its opposition to US foreign policy? Not very patriotic of you."


"The Guardian website had an upsurge in readership in the US during the War on Terror, didn't it? People who wanted a different view of the world. So did you become a Guardian reader because you were disillusioned with the CIA or disillusioned with the CIA because you were a Guardian reader?"

He watches her smile fade as she realises what he's up to.

"It doesn't matter, Sherlock," she says quietly. "None of it matters anymore."

"Because you were disillusioned with the CIA, weren't you? You'd killed too many people, killed the wrong people. You told us what you were that night. People like Magnussen should be killed. That's why there are people like me. You didn't try and claim to be a field agent, someone who only fought in self-defence. You outed yourself as a killer when you didn't need to."

When she doesn't smile she looks her age, the lines on her face those of a woman who's felt more than her normal share of emotions.

"I am a killer," she says at last. "I've made a lot of excuses for what I did, but I can't make them anymore."

"You left the CIA. You'd decided you wanted to help people, not hurt them, and you chose a job where being organised and unsqueamish was an advantage. But why didn't you simply retrain as a nurse in the US?"

She shrugs. "The Agency would have come back to me. If they think you're useful, they won't let you go for good. You can always be persuaded to do just one more job. And I couldn't live with AGRA any longer, I knew I couldn't."

She'd have a better story than that if she was working for them again, he thinks.  

"So what does an ex-assassin do?" he asks. "It can't have been cheap getting a false passport to travel to the UK. Putting things in place to create your new identity."

He waits for her excuses or for to her to confirm his deduction of not many. But she just looks at him and gives a brief, fake smile.

"It didn't seem any worse than the things I'd done in the Agency," she replies. "And it doesn't actually matter to most people why they're dead. Whether they deserved to be killed or not. Well, except to you, obviously. You had to come back to life, just so you could solve your own murder."

If they're going to get anywhere, he has to admit his mistake the night he found her.

"I was wrong about why you didn't kill Magnussen, wasn't I?" Sherlock says. "It wasn't fear that John might be a suspect; no-one would seriously have believed that he tried to kill me and Magnussen. One or the other, but not both."

She doesn't try to protest that John would never kill anyone; she knows her husband that well, at least.

"When I got up to the penthouse, you had Magnussen on his knees, but he was still talking, wasn't he?" Sherlock goes on. "He’d explained already that if you murdered him, your past would come out, hadn’t he? He asked if you were going to kill us both: he wouldn’t say that unless he knew by then that he was safe. You'd planned his murder well, Mary, but you hadn't planned what would happen afterwards, had you? Lady Smallwood might believe her husband's letters were in London, but you should have known better. You should have known about Appledore."

"Of course I knew about Appledore," Mary replies promptly, and it's as if they're back in the penthouse again, having the conversation they should have had if they both hadn't been so startled. "That wasn't the problem about me killing him. It was having Janine out cold downstairs. I was trying to work out if I could somehow buy her off, get her to say that Magnussen had attacked her as well."

"Your plan was going wrong already, and now you had an extra complication. Your one chance at that point was persuading me to keep quiet, but you didn't think you had any time left. And then I called you 'Mrs Watson'. That was my final mistake, wasn't it?" He'd thought at the time it would reassure her and it had nearly got him killed.

He watches Mary blink back tears from her eyes. "Showed where your loyalties lay. That I'd been stupid to imagine you'd ever help me without telling John."

"You thought of doing that? Of having me take your case?"

"I wouldn't have put it like that, but yeah. But I had to get rid of Magnussen first. You may hate the man, but you wouldn't kill him and you wouldn't have let me or John shoot him. And he had to die, Sherlock, he really did. Only way it could be done."

Mary's not talking about Magnussen deserving to die, as she'd told John. She's operating on the strategic level now, which saves Sherlock's time. So what was her plan? And is there any chance she might still be hoping to kill Magnussen?

"What was your next step after his death?" Sherlock asks.

"I’d told a friend of mine to take a letter round to you at Baker Street. For you and only you to read."

Sherlock’s now back at the crime scene as it should have been. With his visit to the CAM building deleted – which means he can’t get shot – and Mary being whisked up in a lift directly to Magnussen’s penthouse. In the office below, therefore, there is no John, and Janine has been sitting peacefully all evening, doubtless daydreaming of her boyfriend, until she hears a shot. And in the penthouse itself, there's a security guard who's been knocked out and had his gun taken. As well as Magnussen lying dead and a small pregnant blonde next to him who says she shot him with his own gun, because she was scared of what he was about to do. Signs of a struggle between the two of them.

The evidence might not entirely hang together, of course. Not to an expert eye, but she's only got to fool the Met, hasn't she? The white supremacist guard isn't going to admit he was taken down by a girl. He's going to say that Magnussen asked for his gun and then knocked him out. Or some other half-witted lie that will muddy the waters. Testimony from Magnussen's former staff about his crudeness. His invasion of personal space, fingering women, licking them. The jury are going to be glad a man like that is dead, not care too much about how.

What about the bits that don't add up? Mary's body armour, in case Magnussen did have a gun on him – American presumptions coming out there – three possible ways of disposing of that, he'll have to explore those later on. The marks on the floor where Magnussen knelt –  Mary was scaring the fight out of him, presumably, so that when she had to get in close for the kill shot he'd be too stunned to react. Other slips that she would inevitably have made and Sherlock would inevitably have spotted. Unless he'd been told not to.

"You did want to hire me, didn't you?" he says. "But not as a consulting detective.  More a consulting obfuscator. To explain away clues, not find them."

She mutters something about razzle-dazzle, but he's not listening. Because there's a second image in his mind now. Him sitting in an ambulance, a shock blanket round him, though not in shock that time, telling Lestrade:  you’re looking for a crack shot, but not just a marksman; a fighter. His hands couldn’t have shaken at all, so clearly he’s acclimatised to violence. He'd also deduced John had strong moral principles, but you can't get everything right.

He'd have covered for her with the police, wouldn't he, once he'd worked it out? But not with John, he couldn't have kept it from John. Whatever pathetic story she'd spun to him.

"What were you going to tell me in the letter?" he asks harshly, because she isn't John and she isn't him, and he's not sure how much more generosity she deserves.

"I was gonna give you the flash drive. Tell you to read it, so you'd know what to look for in Magnussen's files."

She was going to tell him the truth about herself? But that's ridiculous, for several different reasons.

"That makes no sense," he protests. "If you thought I could break into Appledore, you had no need to shoot Magnussen."

"Appledore's impregnable. I knew no-one could get in there. I couldn't and nor could you."

"Exactly. There's no use in killing Magnussen if you haven't cracked Appledore already. He must have told you that himself. If he's murdered, the vaults containing his evidence will be opened by the police, looking for suspects."

She nods her head, obviously still not getting the point.

"The police, not the Security Service," he goes on impatiently. "No point in expecting me to intercede with Mycroft, even if I could. His men would have to stay well away from any criminal investigation of Magnussen: there must be no suspicion of a cover-up. The police would read Magnussen's files. All his files. Did you not think about that?"

"Of course I did," she says and her grey eyes fix onto his. "But you work with the police, don't you? And there'd be hundreds of files for them to sort out. Are you really telling me you couldn't have nicked one file from a police station before they got round to looking it at properly?" Her mouth broadens into a smile. "John said you regularly used to pinch George Lestrade's warrant card."

"It's Greg Lestrade," he barks out, and for a moment her smile is triumphant.

"I told John you did know his name, really." She draws a breath and goes on, serious now. "It was risky, but it was the only way to do it. I couldn't get into Appledore, so I had to get the files out of it somehow. That's the problem."

"And the police were your solution."

"Yeah. Once Magnussen's dead, they go in there with a search warrant and just bring everything out. All the security systems in the world don't matter once the mind behind them's gone."

"That was your plan?" It's at once banal and wonderful, and surely he should have spotted her talent for lateral thinking during the wedding preparations? "No proof, I suppose?"

She sighs. "Sherlock, why do you think I had a flash drive with the details about who I really was on me? It’s not the sort of thing I'd hang onto after I became Mary Morstan, is it? Think I'd want to keep reminders of who I used to be?"

"You kept your equipment." He consider briefly. "But then I suppose John kept his gun. Highly illegal, of course."

"Tools of the trade," she replies. "Hard to let go of your protection. John's got other souvenirs from his army days as well. But then he doesn't have to be ashamed of what he did. I do."

So much data that he'd missed that evening, but then he had been haemorrhaging at the time. He's not in shock anymore; he needs to use his mind properly today.

"You said the files on your drive were originally intended for me, not for John.  That implies that you created them relatively recently, since I returned. When did you do that?"

"Just before the wedding. I knew I was gonna have to kill Magnussen. That's why I got so friendly with Janine, to try and find out about his routine. His favourite restaurants, his routes to the office, that kind of thing. But it took time; I didn't dare discuss him too much, in case she got suspicious."

Yet another advantage in being eccentric: Janine didn't wonder about Sherlock's peculiar questions to her.

"I thought maybe I could promise to show her some pictures from the honeymoon when I got back," Mary goes on. "Get up to her office that way, work out how to get in from outside, while I was still in a fit state to climb. But she was too busy with her new boyfriend to return my calls."

The wedding, then the pregnancy. Two obstacles that she'd tried to use for her benefit. All fits with what he knows of her, of course. Opportunistic, good at thinking on her feet, manipulative, but not a pathological liar. An odd sentimental streak and surprisingly honest at times. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that she and Janine hit it off.

He mustn't let sentiment blunt his mind anymore. He'd been mostly right about what she was, once he'd thought clearly, but he needs to double-check she's telling the truth now.

"When exactly did you create the files?" he asks.

"You know that day I sent you out to find a case, while I stayed at Baker Street? I used John's laptop when I was compiling the data. No-one's gonna wonder why Sherlock Holmes is looking up the details of a murder in 2007 or a CIA operation from 1998. I deleted it all off the hard drive afterwards, obviously. John's got the only copy now."

She must realise he can check those statements, if he needs to do so. Though if she is lying, he can probably crack her story open right now: elaborate lies almost always contain some flaw that a logical mind can spot. Sherlock props himself up a little more securely in the bed, somehow restrains himself from turning the collar of his pyjama jacket up, and says,

"You were going to slip the flash drive to me after the wedding service, were you, as a little thank-you for the best man?"

"I told you," Mary replies wearily. "I was going to give it to you after I killed Magnussen."

"Once you knew I'd survived the shooting, you could have given it to me then."

"In the hospital?" she protests. "You said Mary. The first thing you said when you woke up. The first thing you said to John."

"You needed to get me alone," he says. "You were looking for me with a gun in your pocket as well as the flash drive. Bit of a mixed message there."

"I feel safer with a gun," she says, and that probably is the truth. Sherlock wonders whether she wakes up sweating sometimes, knowing that if she had shot at him at Leinster Gardens, she'd have killed her husband instead. He still worries about that sometimes; he doesn't know if John's ever worked it out. Or maybe John would have preferred that to happen, which is a terrible thought.

"You didn't ask for my help even then, did you?" he says. She’d only said What do you want? and that could mean anything.

"No point. I knew by then you weren’t on my side."

"You'd been trying to get me on your side, hadn't you? Went out of the way to be friendly to me. You didn't think it was enough to count on my chivalry?" She's not Irene; she didn't try to use sex to manipulate him. She used friendship and that's a far more dangerous coin.

"I was counting on the fact that you love John and so do I. That you'd decide Mary Morstan was worth saving. I knew the minute you came back to England that you were gonna work out who I was eventually. I wanted to try and make you like me before that happened."

Her plans are simple; that doesn't mean they can't work.

"So that I could help you lie to John?" He can't help anger creep into his voice, and she smiles at him, shaking her head.

"Oh Sherlock, don't give me that. You spent two whole years lying to him. You lie to John over and over again. You always have done, you always will do. It's just that, eventually, he always catches up with you."

"And he's caught up with you now."

Mary's smile abruptly vanishes and her head sinks into her hands.

"Magnussen has as well," she says. "I'm going to drag all three of you down, aren't I? How do you want to appear in his newspapers, Sherlock? As the great detective who didn’t spot his best friend was marrying a murderess? Or the man who knew and let him marry her anyway?"

It's not what the headlines say about him that bothers Sherlock. Not after Rich Brook, not after Janine. It's John who's in danger. Sherlock's only vulnerable to pressure because of John's connection to Mary, but why does Magnussen need him to be vulnerable?

Something that Mary's just said. Drag all three of you down. A slip of the tongue, obviously; she meant Drag all three of us down. But suppose she is dragging three other people with her, not just himself and John? Because Magnussen's messages started before the wedding, before Lady Smallwood became his client, didn't they? This is something bigger than them, has always been been. And then he spots the metaphorical elephant in the room.

"It's not John that Magnussen's after," he announces. "It's not even me. It's Mycroft. Give Magnussen a lever long enough and he can move the world. You lead to John and John leads to me and I lead to Mycroft."

"Oh fuck," Mary says, and she sits there, frowning down at herself, and he waits to see if she can somehow be a conductor of light to him the way John is. Because her mind isn't anything like his own and that's the point, isn't it?

"Only one option left then, isn't there?" she says, looking up at last, and there's a resigned set to her face that he recognises now. Another bloody soldier going nobly to her death. "You help me fake my death."


"You know how to do that," she says and she gestures to her stomach. "I'd prefer not jumping off a building at the moment if you could avoid it, though."

"You were willing to ki...do serious damage to me to stay with John and now you're just going to run away?" It doesn't make sense.

"It's got too big, hasn't it? Magnussen won't leave this one alone. You might help me, but Mycroft definitely won't. It's going to come out, be in all the papers. And I don't want the baby born in prison."

All three of you. Not Mycroft as the third piece of collateral damage, but John and Mary's child. Suddenly he can see it; he is their child, age six or seven. And round him is the ring of other children, jeering: Your mother's a murderer. Not that. He can't let that happen.

"John would come with you, after we’d faked your death," he says. "I'd make him."

She shakes her head. "He can't forgive me. At least this way I can tell my daughter some story about her dead war-hero father, and she can imagine he loved me."

"He has to forgive you. For his own sake."

"How? He can't hit me and he can't talk to me. It takes facing certain death to get John willing to talk about his feelings." She shrugs. "Maybe that's how it should end. Not a fake death after all. Us two storming Appledore together, all guns blazing. Die like heroes. We might even be able to take out Magnussen as well."

For a horrible moment he can actually see it, or at least the aftermath. Lestrade on the terrace of Appledore, saying gruffly: John must have tried to cause a diversion, but he didn't know about the tripwire. It'd have been quick, at least.

"No!" he shouts and then he stops. Lestrade is there in his mind because it's a crime scene, and that’s who you get at crime scenes. The police. Which is who they want to be there, isn't it? That was Mary's plan all along. But they need a different crime.

"No," he says, because Mary can't help him now. "You don't have to die. And nor does Magnussen. Go. I need to think."

He doesn't know what her reply is, because he's already trying to work out how to get an invitation to Appledore.

Part 4