Back to Part 1
Four hours earlier Sarah had walked through the gates of the memorial garden and made her way to the place where John’s and Sherlock’s ashes had been scattered. She was remembering Harry’s face when the two of them had first visited the spot a few days after the funeral service; her lip had curled when she had seen how the two non-religious sets of remains had nevertheless been laid into cross shapes, but then her eyes had widened and she had clutched at Sarah’s arm. “Oh, look,” she had breathed. “Look at them.”
Sarah had looked more closely and then battled to swallow her tears yet again. Whether it was coincidence or had been deliberately done, perhaps at Mycroft’s instruction, the crosses had been arranged in such a way that one was lower than the other and the horizontal bars slightly overlapped. The gap between the bars was less than a centimetre.
“Still guarding each other,” she had said softly. “So close together that you can’t crowbar them apart.”
And now, twelve weeks later, she let her tears fall as she talked to the faded shapes, mumbling a quiet stream of consciousness as she told them her thoughts, talking softly enough that she couldn’t be overheard and ignoring the sympathetic glances she got from other visitors to the garden, and then finally she tilted her head upwards as she murmured, “I’m sorry; I’m so, so sorry,” into the sky. Looking down at the inter-linked shapes once more, she wiped her eyes, blew her nose and then walked back to the gates, fishing her phone from her bag and dialling as soon as she got outside.
“Harry, it’s me,” she said. “Sorry I’ve not seen you in a bit. You know what it’s like – work and everything ...”
Harry reassured her that she understood. They exchanged a few pleasantries and then Sarah got to the point.
“I’m outside the memorial gardens,” she told her. “I’ve just visited the boys, and I’ve realised something that I should have known ages ago.” She drew in a breath. “Harry, we were awful to Mycroft. I’m not saying that we were wrong – there was no way we could let him take Sherlock away but we really did trample all over him and didn’t even let him talk. He must have been just as distraught as we were – actually, he might have felt even worse ...”
She listened to Harry’s snort before explaining her thinking.
“What I mean is that Mycroft might have been able to save them if he’d only been tracking them a bit more closely. We’ll probably never know and I’m definitely never going to ask him, but he must have felt guilty about not being able to prevent them being killed, and then on top of that he had the grief itself, and then we charged in and wouldn’t even let him take his brother to his family’s vault. Imagine if it had been the other way round and Mycroft had barged in and told you that you couldn’t bury John where you wanted to.”
Harry mumbled something indecipherable.
“I’ve known him longer than you, Harry,” Sarah told her, “and he was so sad at the funeral. That sounds like a stupid thing to say but he was so ... distant from everyone else. We took his brother away from the rest of his family and we didn’t even make much effort to include him as part of our family – the friends and relatives of John and Sherlock.”
“You did,” Harry retorted, “and he just blanked you.”
“Is it any wonder?” Sarah asked as she lifted her head resolutely. “I can’t leave it like this. I’m going to go and see Mycroft and try to apologise. He probably won’t want to listen, but I’m damned well going to make him.”
“Good luck with that,” Harry told her sarcastically. “He’ll probably have you taken out and shot. Seriously, Sarah, can’t you just leave it alone?”
“No, I can’t,” Sarah replied. “I’m going to Mycroft’s office right now, and I’ll stage a sit-in if I have to, but I’m not leaving until he sees me.”
“Bloody hell,” Harry said. “Well, if you haven’t rung me by five o’clock tonight, shall I send out the search parties, or should I just light a candle in your memory?”
“Thanks for the support,” Sarah said, smiling a little.
“I don’t mean it, you know that,” Harry reassured her. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“No,” Sarah replied. “I mean, yes, I would like you to, but I have to do this alone. The last time you and I faced him we just upset him, so it’s best if I go on my own.” She sighed. “It’s going to be a nightmare trying to get in, but I’m not going to give up. I need to do this, Harry.”
“Well, good luck,” Harry told her. “Just don’t get yourself arrested. I may be saving a fortune by not buying booze but I still can’t afford to bail you out.” She giggled. “But I’ll come and visit you in prison ... if it’s a nice day.”
“You’re so sweet,” Sarah retorted, and Harry laughed again before warning her to be careful and promising to ring the press if she hadn’t heard from her by the evening. They said their goodbyes and Sarah hung up, put her phone away and headed back to the nearest bus stop.
“I’ve treated you horribly,” she told Mycroft several hours later. “We used to be friends and then I walked all over you and refused to take your wishes into consideration. I want to tell you how sorry I am.”
Mycroft’s expression was unreadable as he gazed steadily down at her. “You made rather a fuss at reception simply to deliver an apology, don’t you think?” he asked. “Did you not considering phoning and making an appointment, or asking if you could see me outside office hours? I’ve had to postpone an important meeting with an ambassador in order to have this conversation and I had rather been hoping that your reason for wanting to talk was somewhat more essential.”
Fighting off the urge to shuffle her feet and mumble, ‘Sorry, sir,’ Sarah kept her head up and held his eyes. “Apologies are never easy,” she told him, “and I’m more than likely to make an idiot of myself and start crying or something while I’m trying to make amends. I imagine that you’re monitored pretty much wherever you go and I don’t want to embarrass you, so I figured that this office must be the most secure place in the whole of the UK.” She paused, then added, “Actually, it’s probably the most secure room in the entire Commonwealth.”
She risked a brief smile at him but his demeanour didn’t change. Instead he straightened up, walked over to the window near his desk and looked out at the view.
“I really am extraordinarily busy today,” he said in a disinterested tone, not bothering to turn and look at her. “And while I’m sure you feel that any apology can’t possibly wait, it really would be helpful if we could bring this conversation to an end as soon as convenient so that I can get back to work.”
“Mycroft, please,” Sarah breathed, her face full of pain.
He glanced over his shoulder briefly and gave her a short contrite smile before turning away again. “None of this is necessary, Sarah,” he said. “We were all under stress at the time, and you and Harriet did what you thought was necessary. It happened several months ago and nothing can be done to change any of the events. Perhaps it would be better simply to move on and to put that tragic time behind us.”
Sarah sighed heavily and looked up at him. She genuinely did miss their occasional lunches and regretted the way that their tentative friendship had disintegrated over the past few months.
“I need to get this off my chest, Mycroft,” she told him sadly. “Let me say this to you, and then we can go our separate ways again.”
Mycroft didn’t turn towards her, continuing to look out of the window, but his body language indicated that he had relaxed a little. His chin dropped an inch or two, a conciliatory nod giving her permission to speak. Sarah drew in a slow breath, forcing herself not to tense up, and then fired the question at him.
“Where are John and Sherlock?”
Mycroft flinched. It was such a tiny movement that if she hadn’t been looking for it she would never have seen it. But Sarah had been looking for it, and now she felt like she was being electrocuted as a surge of emotion shot through her. Before Mycroft could react further she sat forward and spoke quickly.
“Actually, I withdraw that question immediately. It’s the one question that you can’t and mustn’t answer. So I take that back and replace it with this one: are they together?”
Mycroft finally turned around. His face was calm as he looked at her thoughtfully. She smiled back at him humourlessly and said, “And now you’re wondering whether you can have me killed without John and Sherlock killing you when they find out.” She watched as his eyes narrowed momentarily, and she promptly added, “Or you’re wondering whether you should be a little less drastic and just have me committed and locked away securely until it’s safe to let me out again.”
“The only reason I’m considering your mental health is because you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Mycroft began but Sarah held up a hand to stop him.
“I’m not here on a fishing trip,” she said. “I’m not guessing, and I’m not even hoping. I know they’re alive, Mycroft. And the only reason that I risked everything – including my freedom – to come here and confront you is because I need to know that they’re together. Because if you’ve separated them for their own safety, then you’re killing them far better than the explosion didn’t.”
Mycroft grimaced as she once again mangled the English language, but then looked at her sternly. “Please, Sarah, you have to stop this nonsense immediately. I’m sure you wish that they were alive – as do we all – but you know it can’t be true. Why would you ever think that it was so?”
“Because you told me,” Sarah said calmly.
“Don’t be absurd ...” Mycroft started, but Sarah interrupted him.
“You told me on the day you met me and Harry at the flat. You told me again on the day of the funerals. And, actually, when I come to think of it, you told me just now as well.” She pursed her lips disparagingly as he looked at her with mild curiosity. “The only reason I didn’t hear you before was because I wasn’t paying attention. But Mrs Hudson made me realise what I wasn’t noticing and I’ve been kicking myself ever since.”
She raised her head and locked her gaze more firmly onto his face.
“You told me they’re alive, Mycroft, and I’m asking you again: are they together?”
(“Very well,” Mycroft said tiredly. “You may have a joint funeral service. Both bodies can be cremated and scattered together.”)
(Mrs Hudson blew her nose and tucked her tissue away. “But then I realised that he wasn’t angry,” she said, “just hurt that he couldn’t take his brother home.”)
(“He wasn’t angry at all,” said Mrs Hudson, “he was just sad and quiet.”)
(Perhaps at Mycroft’s instruction, the crosses had been arranged in such a way that one was lower than the other and the horizontal bars slightly overlapped.)
“You would never have handed over your brother’s body to us,” Sarah said. “Good grief, you would have fought the entire police force if they had insisted on keeping him much longer, and you certainly would never have given in to two women who simply had an over-emotional desire to keep him and his best friend together. Your family tradition must be far more important to you than that and I don’t know if you would even have allowed John’s body to be buried with him, but you absolutely would not have let us take Sherlock away.”
Her voice was starting to shake as she really began to believe the truth herself for the first time. “But more than that, you weren’t angry enough, Mycroft. Someone had killed your brother. You should have been raging; you should have been throwing things around and screaming blue murder.”
Mycroft quirked an eyebrow at her.
“No, not literally,” she said. “You’re a Holmes – you would never have shown any obvious sign of how you were feeling when you were with other people, but nobody should have been able to look you in the eye without flinching. You should have been absolutely furious and visibly bottling up all that anger inside, but you were far too calm. And even just now when I asked where they are – if they were dead you would have been really angry at me for asking such a stupid question but you weren’t.”
She raised a trembling hand and pointed to herself.
“I didn’t put it all together until last night,” she told him. “I had been too busy grieving and missing the boys to think straight. But yesterday I went to see Mrs Hudson and when she mentioned how you had been sad at the funeral rather than angry, it all started to come together in my head. I remembered how you’d been that day, and how you were at the flat with Harry and me, and then it suddenly all started to make sense.”
Mycroft’s expression didn’t change, so she had no clue whether he was ever going to relent and tell her the truth. She pressed on regardless.
“So I went to the memorial gardens this morning, as you know ...” She paused for a moment in the hope of a nod of confirmation but he didn’t move. “I needed there to be a good reason why I would come here to your office. I don’t know whether Moriarty’s people are still keeping an eye on me, but if I came to visit you after all this time it would look suspicious. I needed to make a big deal out of it; needed to make myself look like a silly girl coming over all emotional and sad and pathetic. I thought that if I went there and cried in the garden and then stood outside and had a phone conversation with Harry and told her that I was going to come here and insist on apologising to you, then it wouldn’t raise Moriarty’s suspicions so much and it would alert you that I was coming.”
Mycroft raised an eyebrow slightly.
“I figured that you’d picked that particular crematorium because it must be the easiest to keep surveillance on,” Sarah continued. “There’s a CCTV camera just outside the gates but I’m sure you’ve got other cameras all over the place as well. Anyway, I stood at the gates while I was talking to Harry, made sure I was facing the camera and said your name every other sentence and hoped that your people were watching so that you’d get the message that I was coming. But while I was in the garden talking to the ashes I realised that they were a clue as well. You’d had them scattered in cross shapes even though John and Sherlock weren’t religious – so the ashes obviously weren’t theirs.” She shook her head ruefully. “Sherlock will never forgive me for taking so long to work it out.”
She sighed shakily. “I’m assuming that the boys actually were caught in the explosion,” she continued, “and I’m guessing they were injured. What I’m most worried about is whether you thought it was safest to separate them and take them to different locations so that they wouldn’t attract so much attention.” She gazed up at him imploringly. “If they are injured, they really need to be together. If Sherlock can’t be out investigating and tracking down Moriarty, and if he can’t even work with Greg and the rest of the police, he’ll be going insane with frustration and boredom. The only person who stands a chance of keeping him calm is John, and if John’s elsewhere and knows that Sherlock’s going crazy without him, he’ll be going mad too. Mycroft, please, I have to know. Tell me you let them stay together.”
Mycroft looked at her for a long while, his expression unreadable. Finally he turned and walked over to his desk, picked up the phone and spoke a six digit code into the mouthpiece before hanging up again. Sarah looked at him nervously, wondering whether this was the summons for security men to come in and make her disappear forever, but he met her gaze and gave her a small smile in what she hoped was meant to be a reassuring way. Walking around the desk he took up his original position leaning against the table, folded his arms once more and looked down at the floor for a moment, then he sighed and raised his head again.
“Yes, they’re together,” he told her.
As the sun shone down on her in the memorial garden, Sarah let her tears fall as she gazed at the inter-linked and faded crosses on the ground in front of her. “I don’t know who you are,” she murmured softly, her lips barely moving. “I don’t know whether you were there at the factory, or whether he found you somewhere else. You might even have been responsible for setting the explosives – in which case you got what you deserved – but if you were just victims of the explosion, then I hope that you’re able to rest peacefully. Mycroft’s going to do everything he can to find the man who was responsible – and so are John and Sherlock.”
She smiled very briefly. “I don’t actually know what’ll be worse for him – Mycroft getting to him first, or the boys. Whichever, it’s going to be bad for him, and he’s going to deserve every miserable moment. If Moriarty did this to you, then I promise you that he will pay.”
She gazed down at the faded shapes in silence for a while and then her eyes widened. “Oh, for goodness’ sake,” she whispered to herself as the last clue fell into place. “That’s why they’re in cross shapes.”
She closed her eyes for a second. “Why didn’t I realise that before?” she asked herself softly. “Sherlock, I’m an idiot and you’re never going to forgive me for being so stupid.”
She raised her head, murmuring, “I’m sorry; I’m so, so sorry,” into the sky as if to project the words to wherever Sherlock and John were hidden, then looked down at the shapes one last time before wiping her eyes, blowing her nose and walking back to the gates, fishing her phone from her bag as she went.
“Yes, they’re together,” Mycroft told her.
Sarah put a hand over her mouth and allowed herself one sob before fiercely pulling herself together and lifting her eyes to his. “Tell me what you can,” she said.
Mycroft shifted uncomfortably against the desk. “The code which I just spoke into the telephone has shut down all surveillance of this room for the next ten minutes,” he told her. “After that the surveillance will begin again whether or not we have finished this conversation. I trust my own people implicitly but in case anybody else in this organisation is in the employ of James Moriarty, it’s best that the shutdown lasts as briefly as possible to avoid staff gossip. I will tell you as much as I deem it safe for you to know ...” He paused and grimaced ruefully. “Although I don’t really think it’s safe for you to know anything.”
“I realised last night that they hadn’t been killed,” Sarah said. “Did you see me dancing around the streets or even in my own flat singing, ‘They’re alive, they’re alive’? And did you see me give the slightest hint to Harry about what I know? I haven’t quite worked out specifically why they’ve gone into hiding, but I know it has to be for their own safety and I realise that I can’t tell anyone – not even her – that they’re not dead.”
“They’ve gone into hiding for your safety, Sarah,” Mycroft told her sternly. “For your safety, for Harriet’s, and for everyone who has any kind of friendship with them – Mrs Hudson, even their friends in the police.”
“Does Greg know they’re alive?” Sarah asked.
“Nobody in the police does,” Mycroft replied. “Apart from myself and my people – and now you – nobody knows.” He looked pointedly at his watch.
“I’m shutting up,” Sarah said. “Please, I’m just going to listen to whatever you’re able to tell me.” She made herself sit back and clasped her shaking hands together in her lap. Apparently noticing her distress, Mycroft unfolded his arms and reached behind him, placing his hands onto the table. As he pulled his feet off the ground and sat fully on the edge of the desk he not only looked less intimidating but he suddenly appeared younger and more vulnerable, and the strain of the last few months’ events began to show on his face as he started to speak.