The pain in his knee beats a lovely rhythm with his stride, keeping up the sensory stimulation. There isn't a sound from the basement levels of his Mind Palace. Sherlock feels better than he has for weeks. He is so relaxed that he is nearly at Crossharbour DLR station when he remembers to put his battery and SIM card back in the phone.
Immediately, the red light at the top of the phone blinks and the phone vibrates.
He taps the messages icon and scrolls.
3.12 pm Molly rang- said you had a fall. You ok? It is John's number. He deletes it.
Then two in rapid succession from Lestrade:
3.45 A body, 29 Ryder Lane, SE4 1YW. Weird, definitely *not* boring.
4.06 Where are you? CoD = elephant! Zoo keeper and Watson on way.
He types a reply.
4.26 ETA 4.46. Keep the elephant there SH
He takes the DLR six stops south, under the Thames and then on to Lewisham station, only ten minutes. From here, it is only a ten minute walk to Ryder Lane. His bruised knee will hold out.
Lestrade greets him at the door of what appears to be yet another one of the identikit 1930s semi-detached houses that lines Ryder Lane.
"You're not going to believe this, but there is a real, live elephant in the middle of the crime scene." Sherlock hobbles past him into the hallway, where he can see John Watson standing in the dining room, along with a number of white clad forensic officers, obviously loitering with intent. The doctor comes out into the hall.
"What happened to your leg?"
"Not now, John." Sherlock heads for the back of the house, where the living room is likely to be. John follows; Lestrade brings up the rear, saying "Watch out. We haven't cleared the room yet."
Two steps into the room, Sherlock stops and John does, too. Despite being told what to expect, it is still a shock to see a real live elephant in the living room. It is being stroked by a handler wearing a green waterproof jacket emblazoned ZSL on the back in big white letters. Nevertheless, the elephant clearly doesn't like the intrusion of new people; it raises its trunk and trumpets a challenge that is definitely ear-splitting inside the room.
The assault on his senses floods his brain. The unexpected sight, so out of context in the room, is punctuated by a one hundred plus decibel noise, and underscored by the rank aroma of both urine and shit. The white living room carpet is fouled with the stuff.
The handler speaks quietly. "Just stay where you are." Then he resumes stroking the elephant, and her trunk lowers again. He is feeding her something from a bag by his feet. A low rumble can be heard from the animal.
Through the sliding patio doors, Sherlock can see a large van reversing up the back garden, adding its reversing beeps to the soundtrack of the crime scene.
"Do you know this elephant?" He asks the question very quietly, but pitches it just loud enough to reach the handler.
"Yep. This is Myana. She was supposed to be on her way last night, on Turkish Airways flight 1984 from Heathrow. Before you ask, I have absolutely no idea how she got in here, or why. And if you give me ten minutes, I will have her out of your way."
"She may be a witness." Sherlock points to the crumpled form, only half of which he could see from where he is standing. The sofa is between him and the rest of the body. "Or even the murder weapon."
The handler shakes his head. "Not this one; she's not a killer. Her mother was. Mya killed her keeper, Jim Robson, in 2002. Myana is her daughter."
Sherlock sniffs, trying to get past the overwhelming scent of animal dung. "You're from Whipsnade."
The handler nods.
"I remember the case." He snaps on his pair of blue latex gloves.
John's eyebrows rise. "The case?"
"Coroner's inquest concluded that Mya killed her keeper with malice of intent. She trapped his legs with her trunk so he couldn't get away and repeatedly stepped on his head*."
The look on John's face tells Sherlock he is imagining the damage. Behind him, Lestrade whispers, "Gross."
"Hmm." The van's reversing beeps have stopped, and two men also in ZSL gear are now opening the back doors and lowering into place a ramp that has metal fences, to ensure an animal would board. The patio doors are slid open just far enough to meet the fenced ramp.
The handler begins to push on Myana's chest, leaning in with his weight. Obligingly, she backs up to the left of the coffee table and then executes a three point turn before following the handler up the metal ramp and into the truck. John closes the patio doors, as Lestrade yells back down the hallway, "Coast is clear."
Immediately, three white suited Forensic officers come into the room. They stop for a moment on the threshold, obviously stunned by the scent and the mess. Then one heads for the patio door to dust for finger prints, while a second joins Sherlock where he had crouched down beside the body. The third starts taking photographs.
John joins him, too, looking over the consulting detective's shoulder at the wound in the dead man's head. The doctor comments, "The elephant has an alibi, unless it's learned how to fire a gun."
Sherlock stands up, a little unsteady on his injured knee, before grinning. "Don't be so sure, John. An elephant's trunk has over forty thousand muscles compared to the human body's paltry six hundred and thirty nine."
Lestrade is standing with his arms crossed, his expression a mixture of bafflement and annoyance. "So, what the hell is an elephant doing here, instead of in a zoo or running around the plains of Africa?"
"Not Africa, Lestrade. Myana is Elephas maximus, not Loxodonta. The Asian elephant is more genetically similar to the extinct woolly mammoth than to the African elephant."
"That doesn't answer the question, Sherlock. What does an elephant, any elephant— African, Asian or European— have to do with this dead body?"
"There's no such thing as a European elephant; can you really be so ignorant about zoology?"
Lestrade loses it. "What the hell has a full grown bloody elephant got to do with this body?"
"Myana is not a full-grown elephant; she's only two meters tall, and less than twelve years old, with another meter to go before she reaches full maturity. And the blood is not on the elephant; it's on the floor." Then Sherlock points to something else, a sports bag lying up against the wall, between the television and a bookcase. "Not just under the body; it also appears to be oozing from that bag as well."
Immediately, the forensic officer by the patio doors zeroes in on the sports bag, and uses his gloved hands to pull the zipper. Lestrade and Sherlock lean over the man's shoulder to see what is in the bag.
The photographer is in action, too, the flash in repeated use, as his colleague pulls something out of the bag.
Lestrade gives voice to his dismay. "That's a hand. A severed hand."
Sherlock grunts an agreement. "And there's more where that came from, if the amount of blood is anything to go by."
The officer by the body comes over and spreads a plastic sheet onto the carpet. "Keep it separated from the elephant shit and piss. The lab's going to have a hard enough time."
By the time the sports bag is empty, they have enough parts to make up a human body. John thinks the butchery had taken place post mortem, "But here and soon after she died, because my guess is there is more blood here than you'd expect to find, if she'd been killed elsewhere."
The severed head's rictus grin stares up from the plastic sheet, her short brown hair plastered to the skull by blood.
"White female, Mid-thirties. Musculature well-developed; either she was a gym fanatic, or did something in the martial arts. Possibly military." Sherlock is talking to himself now, and looking at the pieces of blood-soaked fabric. He finds what he is looking for and holds it up.
"John, your professional opinion, please. You've seen enough blood soaked versions of this fabric."
John's brow furrows. "Enough for a lifetime. That's a light olive anti-static cool max combat T-Shirt; part of the British Army's PCS."
The forensic officer has taken a fingerprint off the severed right hand onto his electronic scanner. His laptop is open and on the coffee table. It pings and all eyes zoom in on the message.
"Identity withheld. Contact S&ILs."
"Oh, shit." Lestrade's expletive is echoed by a sigh from John. Sherlock is already in motion, spinning away from the pair, while pulling his phone out and hitting speed dial.
A moment later, his brother answers. "What is it this time?" There was the usual blend of annoyance and boredom being used to cover concern that Sherlock is ringing him rather than texting.
"Someone is taking exception to your people these days. One dead confirmed by finger print." He gestures with his hand at the body by the sofa and then says to the Officer, "See if this one is playing for our side, too." Then he turns to John. "Take a photo of the woman's head, and send it to Mycroft."
"Where?" His brother's tone has shed the ennui and become utterly focused.
"29 Ryder Lane, SE4 1YW." John takes the photo and sends it by e mail.
"Let me talk to Lestrade. At least, I assume he is on the scene. I can hear police procedures going on in the background."
"That's not necessary. Tell me, and I can tell him."
"No. Hand the phone over. NOW."
"Piss off." Sherlock cuts the connection. He wants more time with this most intriguing case.
Barely three seconds later, Lestrade's phone rings. His "hello" is a tad wary. The silence lengthened as whatever Mycroft is saying to him makes the Detective Inspector's eyebrows ascend his forehead.
"Alright, alright. Keep your shirt on. We'll get out just as soon as one of your people shows up. But, I'm not walking away from a crime scene until I've got someone to pick up the ball."
More silence, as Sherlock deduces from Lestrade's posture that a rather heavy duty series of threats is being made.
"B…" Lestrade is going to say 'bye', but changes it to "bugger just cut me off. We've got ten minutes at most. But I'm supposed to take you two out of the house right now."
Sherlock glares. "No."
"Yeah, he said you'd say that. I'm to tell you that he'll have my head instead of hers on a platter in front of the Chief Superintendent if you two aren't out on the pavement in three minutes." He points to the ceiling. "Big Brother will be watching. Apparently, he's got drones in the air already."
John's eyes widen. "Bloody hell, this isn't Afghanistan."
Sherlock is in motion. He picks up the CSE's laptop. "Any joy on the other body?"
"Nothing yet, so probably not one of ours."
Lestrade walks over and plucks the laptop out of Sherlock's hands, giving it back to the officer.
"And on that note, we're out of here."
Less than a minute later, Sherlock is pacing up and down the pavement outside of the house, still limping slightly. The pain now annoys him, almost as much as his brother's attitude. The relaxation of the afternoon's private session at Dagmar Close has evaporated. Now, a new kind of anxiety is taking hold while Lestrade keeps going on about the elephant. "They must have delivered the elephant the same way the Zoo collected him."
"Her." Sherlock mutters as he passes the DI.
Lestrade rolls his eyes. "What difference does it make whether the elephant is male or female, Sherlock?"
"None." He is so annoyed by his brother's interference that he is being reduced to monosyllabic answers.
Lestrade carries on. "So, someone comes with an unknown victim accompanied by an agent, shoots him on the spot, kills the agent, chops it up and stuffs her body in a bag, and puts an elephant in the room. Why?!"
Sherlock whirls about to face the DI. "Can you really be so dense? Everyone knows the saying, the elephant in the room. It is a metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed— an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss."
"So, you think the murderer has gone to all this trouble—kidnapping an elephant, driving it here, killing and then dumping the bodies and the elephant in here—what, just to make a point about something that no one is addressing?" Lestrade's incredulity makes his voice rise with each word.
"Yes. That much is obvious, even to an idiot." Sherlock rolls his eyes, to make his ridicule obvious enough for even Lestrade to register.
"Well, pardon me."
As three black cars turn onto Ryder Lane at speed, John calmly asks "What's the issue that no one is addressing?"
"That is the proper question to ask, John. And unfortunately, my brother doesn't want me to find out the answer. But whoever is engineering this little crusade against his agents does. And that is rather intriguing, don't you think?"
From the Personal Blog of Doctor John Watson:
"Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for what we found at 29, Ryder Lane in Brockley.
Greg called us in. It was a typical suburban house in a typical suburban street. But inside that typical suburban house were two bodies. And an elephant. An actual elephant. Standing there in the middle of the room looking, well a bit bored, to be honest.
And... sorry! It's another one that I can't actually blog about because of the Official Secrets Act! I've probably said too much as it is. Although I'm not as bad as Sherlock. The amount of times I've had to stop him telling people about it."