The handcuffs were cold against his opalescent wrists. He squirmed and protested as Lestrade dragged him away, his face gruffer and more exasperated than usual. John sat in the passenger seat of the inspector's slim blue Jaguar. Sherlock brooded in the back.
"I told you so," said Lestrade monotonously, momentarily switching his gaze from the road to the distressed groom.
John frowned and his forehead creased. Putting up with this was making him age five times faster. "What?"
"Remember, that night with the cabbie? Told you he was gonna end up putting a body somewhere."
"I think that was Sally."
"She meant well."
The windows were steaming up with condensation. Outside, the afternoon went by, not caring for what had happened just less than an hour ago. John had left Sarah with her surviving bridesmaids, allowing her to clean up and to grieve the loss of her friend. His heart dropped. She'd looked so beautiful in that white dress; she was almost glowing as she had walked up the aisle, every pair of eyes on her. Her hair was perfect, her posture was perfect, her make-up (apart from being a bit thick around the eyes) was perfect. She was like an angel. His angel. He almost smiled. In all his life he hadn't thought himself as being a romantic. She'd cried little, probably over-come with shock mostly, unable to register what had happened. Coralie lying dead at the foot of the stairs, a horrid gash in her side, blood soaking her airy dress as scarlet as a shepherd's sky. And to make matters worse, Sherlock crouched by her side, fingers caked in red. John could imagine Sarah now, her mind alight with contrast. She'd hate him for being involved with such a man, hate him for running off and leaving her behind, even though she said she didn't mind. She'd hate him, but only a little bit. John traced a straight line on the foggy window. Someone had been murdered at his wedding.
Of course they had. How typical.
"You shouldn't even be in this car, Watson," Lestrade said after a long silence. The atmosphere in the front seats was tense. In the back, the detective couldn't have cared less. "You should be with your missus."
"We didn't even say the 'I-do's," John pointed out. "And besides, I want this sorted out."
Sherlock grinned a sly smile that read: 'told you I'm more interesting.'
Lestrade cleared his throat and nodded to the road. "Once we get him locked up, I'm taking you straight back, okay?"
"It wasn't me," Sherlock protested, yawning.
"Don't try that sort of thing with me, mister. Of course it was," Lestrade accused. "As much as I don't want to believe it
you had it coming. You're a brilliant man, Holmes, just not in a way we like."
"Oh come on; a stabbing? Me? You're joking," Sherlock scoffed, offended at the thought that he would commit something as common as a stabbing. "I'm much more creative," he added under his breath.
"You were found with that poor girl's blood all over your hands, you were last to see her! You're looking very guilty."
"Okay that, where's the weapon?" Sherlock said cryptically. Finding a flaw in Lestrade's theory was as easy as finding Wally in an empty room.
The inspector chewed his lip and John could see his best man's eyes sparkle mischievously in the rear-view mirror. He was honestly like a little school boy. Give him a pebble and he could probably make a nuclear bomb from it. He played with the handcuffs he'd managed to slip out of.
"With your cold mind, Sherlock, you could've ripped a hole in her chest by just thinking," Lestrade grumbled pathetically.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and made himself comfortable in the back seats, stretching his legs. John sighed. The car rocked as it went over a speed-bump. He rubbed his temples half-heartedly. He could hear church bells ringing in his ears like a forgotten echo.
Sarah wiped her eyes with a crusty tissue and settled her shoulders. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying. John was an idiot, leaving her behind. Didn't he know that when a woman says she's okay, she's really not? Her friends buzzed around her like drones around the Queen, fixing her vodka shots and chocolates and hugs galore. They sorted her hair and forever touched up her make-up; floundering with her dress that was bunched up around her like giant feathers. Still, she shook with the fright. The room in which they huddled was cramped and decorated with sickly smelling flowers and old-age retro wallpaper. The chairs looked as though they'd snap. The furniture looked like it should've been in a museum. There wasn't any food, except the emergency chocolate box (now shredded and messy and stained with smudges made by desperate hands) and hairspray had left a thick smog in the air that rose suspiciously up to the ceiling like smoke from a flame. The stench of perfume was vile.
"Poor Coralie! She
she was one of my
I've known her for
" she couldn't finish. Abruptly she coughed and forced herself to focus. Her veil had been discarded and her hair had lost its perfection. A brunette rubbed her shoulders for comfort. Sarah suddenly stared wide-eyed up at her. "What am I supposed to tell the police? They're going to come around asking, aren't they?"
"Sarah, let's not worry about that
" the brunette said, holding out a glass with ice in it. "Here, calm your nerves. This is your wedding day! You're supposed to be smiling! You're too pretty and too smart to go to jail!"
"Go to jail?!"
A scruffy haired auburn tutted. "Gerrof, Jina. You're making her feel worse!"
Jina the brunette slinked off like a disapproved animal. The auburn sat beside Sarah. Her hair was choppy and her eyes were restless and churning. She was one of those friends women don't want at their weddings- the ones that look prettier than the bride.
"Listen, honey, you ain't gonna go to jail. There's no way in hell we're gonna let those coppers take you down to the clink," her accent was strong, although not British. Indefinable, for a better word. "It wasn't you, and don't let people make you think that. Here, what about your groom's buddy?"
Sarah blinked then scowled. Him. That detective man. "You mean Mr Holmes?"
"Yeah! He'll sort it out. Sort your hair, get your coat and we'll go get a curry. Ditch the dress for a day, eh? Take off your shoes and let your hair down a little, mm? No point in having a wedding without getting drunk. We're gonna have some fun. You can sleep off the headache in the mornin' and get your man back. Eh?" the auburn grinned and patted Sarah's knees. Immediately she felt better. The auburn wasn't dressed in wedding-y clothing. Her body-hugging dress was a pale ocean blue.
Sarah called after her as she went towards the door. "Irene?"
The auburn called Irene caught the door with one hand and turned around. "Yes?"
"How do you know Sherlock'll fix this?"
Irene winked. "I'll make sure of it."
John was waiting. The plastic chair he had previously sat on was uncomfortable, and he had smartly began to pace; wringing his hands and chewing the inside of his cheeks until blisters appeared. He hated waiting. Every time he was made to wait, he couldn't help but think of the trenches again
wondering how long it was going to be before the next grenade. The police station smelt like sweat.
"Okay, John, we can let him go," Lestrade came in, he looked weak.
John sighed with relief and stuck his tongue between his teeth like he always did when he was thinking. "Thanks. Um
it definitely wasn't him?"
"He's said he'll figure it out. Prove himself innocent," Lestrade didn't seem to believe what tumbled from his mouth. He gestured to the door, silently telling John to get lost.
Anderson walked in. Sherlock was behind him, still dressed in his tux. He looked like a god compared to Anderson. The two men exchanged sour glances. John blinked up at them, feeling like a spare part. He picked at his collar and remembered he was still dressed like a groom. He thought of Sarah. Guilt growled in his chest.
Lestrade cleared his throat, cutting through the near-visible tension. "If you don't mind, I'm off to get myself a coffee and catch a murderer. I don't care what you two get up to, just
stay out of trouble. Please?" he nodded and left.
Anderson rolled his eyes. "I must say, this is low, even for you, Doctor Watson. Leaving your wife at the altar for this man
I mean, that's gotta be a record." His face was a picture of mock surprise. Twisted glee was like slime on his mouth.
"Shut up, Anderson," the men said it at the same time, except John's was more riled.
Anderson sneered. His face was incredibly tempting to slap with a fish. It'd make him smell better at least
He shrugged. "I'll leave you two alone then."
Once he had gone, John hailed a taxi. The drive to the wedding venue was a tense one. Sherlock still had his hands in his pockets. John couldn't look at him.
"Thanks a lot, you know," he muttered.
Sherlock swivelled to stare at him. He had a habit of that; not watching or looking: staring. His pale eyes were bright again. "Mm, what? Sorry, I wasn't listening."
"You were meant to be my best man. You were meant to be up there, beside me, helping me. Being a friend. You weren't there, Sherlock."
Sherlock stroked the scarlet petal on his lapel fondly, mulling things over. He teased his black curled hair. He couldn't bring himself to apologize; frankly, he thought he had done the right thing.
"You thought that I would be standing in front of all those people? Really? I didn't think
" he paused and then gulped. Better be nice, it is was his wedding day after all. "Sorry. I know, I should've been there."
John didn't hear him. He didn't seem to want to. Any way, if he'd been there, he'd probably have revealed the Vicar's private life to the entire church. Not something that will have gone down well. If an argument was about to arise, he knew he was going to lose.
"So why did they think you did it?" John asked at last, a question that had been biting on his tongue for a while now.
"What do you think?"
"Pfft. Could be anything."
Sherlock hesitated and took a breath. Slowly, the words formed on his mouth as though he was embarrassed to speak them. "They thought that I
jealous. Of Sarah."
"Jealousy?!" John piped up, turning quickly to Sherlock and cocking his head like a puzzled bird. "What could you, of all people, possibly be jealous of? Her dress?"
Sherlock wasn't paying much attention, he was incredibly calm, however- John could see him fidgeting a tad. "No
The taxi turned a gentle corner, bouncing over a speed-bump. The destination was coming up. John blinked surprised.
"Nothing. Never mind."
The taxi came to a halt and the gruff driver barked for his pay. Eagerly, as if trying to wriggle out of something, Sherlock paid him in loose change and opened the door, stepping out into the late afternoon. John clambered after him.
"No," he said, grabbing Sherlock's sleeve as he attempted to move away. He fixed John with a piercing glare that caused the doctor to shiver. "What do they mean? And who are 'they' any way?"
"Lestrade, Sally, Gregson, Anderson. Every one who tried to 'question' me. God they're boring."
"Anderson's a git."
"That's true, yes."
"And that means you can't believe what he says. But what do you mean?" John pressed again. The taxi crawled away with a new passenger.
Sherlock stood up straight and looked directly down at his friend, taking another inhalation; expression fed-up and tired. "They meant I am jealous of Sarah
because she's got you." He went quiet. "Nonsense of course."
John was stunned, but only for a moment as he worked out what Sherlock was saying. He went numb, unsure how to react. Angry? No. Upset? No.
He coughed as Sherlock raised his eyebrows in a way that said: 'see? Do you get it now?'
"What?" John felt stupid.
Sherlock sighed and grumbled. "Come on, I'm not explaining it again."
John followed him muttering: "Nonsense, of course," over and over again.
Somewhere in the city there was a street, and somewhere on the street there was a house, and somewhere in the house a phone rang.
"Hello?" he said as he picked it up, his hands steady and strong as a tree.
The person on the other end murmured something and he smirked.
"Yes. Yeah, I know, right? Easy as pie. Whaddya mean by that? Listen; can I get what I wanted? I did what you asked, boss. Oh, right okay I won't. Sorry."
The reply was obviously a refusal. The man wasn't pleased. There was a flicker in the corner of his eye and he slowly took his feet off of the coffee table, setting his mug of rum down. His brow furrowed and he followed the scarlet flicker as it dotted around the skirting boards.
"Now, now, don't go setting your rats on me, sir," he smiled as the sniper's dot scurried around his feet like a curious pup. "Send your spies away, I know they're watching. Yes
you're right, I am smart."
The red dot faded away. Suddenly, the voice on the phone snapped and nearly roared. He winced, taking the phone from his ear for a moment. He shuddered, and paled, the colour draining from his face quicker than rainwater down a drainpipe. He nodded jerking and the red dot scampered up his arm like a rebel snake. He stared at it, and stifled and coughed. He choked back his fears.
yes of course, sir. I'll get him. I'll
yes. Yes of course. Easy as pie
He pressed the hang-up button and placed the mobile as far away from himself as possible as if it might be a bomb.
Even the strongest trees can fall.