Light casted brightly from the windows of 221B onto the persian carpet, creating the perfect reading light for John Watson to read the paper and enjoy his tea - one of his well-favored rituals. Or rather, it would be if John did not live with the intolerable mystery called Sherlock Holmes.
“Quiet, calm, peaceful. Isn’t it hateful, John?” The silk dressing gown hanging loosely off the man’s shoulders flowed behind him like a cape as he paced belligerently about the room.
John sighed routinely, accustomed to the eccentricities of his complex flatmate. “Sherlock, just calm down.”
The tall man stopped abruptly near the arm of John’s chair. “Calm down? How am I to calm down when my mind is starved, craving the work it so vitally needs to maintain its stability? John, I need a case!”
“You’ve just got a case!” John retorted aggravatedly, giving up his effort on the impossible task of having a peaceful afternoon in the company of a bored Sherlock Holmes. “Mycroft assigned you the case of the Crown Jewels theft!”
Sherlock sighed exasperatedly, turning behind him, completely disregarding the table in front of him to flop dramatically on the couch. “I will not do work for my insufferable brother.”
John rolled his eyes in an affectionate sort of manner, expelling yet another sigh. “Your sibling rivalry with Mycroft drives me up the wall sometimes, you know that?”
“I’m aware,” Sherlock replied with a glance at John, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He steepled his hands beneath his chin - his usual position of thought - and to John’s relief, calmed down to a certain extent.
John peered down at the paper in his lap to the jewel theft article on the front page headlines. “I’m surprised you wouldn’t take the jewel case anyways, it sounds like something right up your alley to me,” John mentioned, taking a sip of his now-cold tea.
Sherlock replied with a short, dull moan. “Theft does little to interest me, I’m much more invested in practical criminal investigation.”
John smiled fondly at the complication of his companion, the unsolvable enigma. He didn’t believe even Sherlock Holmes could figure out Sherlock Holmes.
Breaking through John’s thoughts, Sherlock’s cell buzzed, and almost immediately he raised to answer it.
After only a moment of questioning, Sherlock grabbed his scarf and began putting on his coat, the bounce returned to his step again. He looked much more like the animated, excited detective he knew so well.
“Put on your coat, John,” Sherlock beamed, pulling up his coat collar. “We’ve got a case to solve.”
The taxi pulled up across the street from an alleyway in Southend, enclosed with crime scene tape and Yard officers. John treaded by Sherlock, and as they got closer, they could see a body of a young woman surrounded by forensics. Nearing the edge of the tape, Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade hung up his phone to see the two men arriving.
“Afternoon, fellas,” He greeted, holding up the tape for Sherlock and John. “We’ve almost got this one wrapped up, but we figured this is something unusual enough for you to take a look at,” Lestrade informed Sherlock, leading them to the body.
Now that they could see the corpse closer, her features were much more clear: the woman had messy brown hair and wore a long, brown coat. In contrast to the modest clothing she wore on the rest of her body, a terribly gaudy scarf encircled her neck, standing out from the rest of her like an orange traffic cone. Most notably, though, were the wounds on the body; the woman had an unusual amount of stab wounds to the stomach and abdomen, making it much more understandable as to why Greg had consulted Sherlock.
Straightaway, Sherlock knelt down to examine the body, and John stood nearby, prepared to be of his assistance.
Greg began to apprise them of the crime information. “The victim’s name is Katherine Samson, formerly Katherine Minola. She works next door at the pier restaurant Fisherman’s Wharf.”
“Any witnesses?” John asked.
“Afraid not. She was only found this morning by one of her coworkers.”
“Well, there isn’t much other than what’s been found as seventeen stab wounds to the abdominal area.”
“Hm,” John mused. “You said you’ve almost got the case wrapped up?”
“Yeah, we’re almost positive she was murdered by her husband, Petruchio Samson. Our victim Katherine was enormously wealthy, and it wasn’t to hard for us to figure out Petruchio’s motive was the money.”
Meanwhile, Sherlock continued to meticulously inspect the body, rather quiet for his usual methods.
“Any ideas?” John asked curiously to the consulting detective.
“Five or six,” Sherlock replied as nonchalantly and presumptuously as usual. He leapt to his feet from his kneeling position - managing somehow to make it look graceful - and deposited his pocket magnifier in his coat. “First, I’ll need to speak to her husband.”
“Honest, Mr. Holmes, I didn’t kill my Kate,” Petruchio pleaded in last effort of his defense, gripping the table in the interrogation room.
Sherlock scanned over the man like someone would a document for a moment before replying, “No, you didn’t.”
“What?” John and Lestrade gasped in unison. John furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and immediate shock registered on Lestrade’s face.
“Obviously,” Sherlock replied brazenly, propping his elbows on the table with a sly grin, in no hurry to offer an explanation.
John sighed in habitual annoyance. “Sherlock, the showing off thing, you’re doing it again.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and pointed across the table to Petruchio. “Mr. Samson and his wife were applying for a postnuptial agreement; why would he want to murder his wife if he could not gain a penny of her wealth from it?”
As usual, Sherlock’s response to his deductions raised more questions than it answered, further perplexing the other men.
“How did you know that?” Petruchio croaked astoundedly, “Kate and I hadn’t told anyone yet, my dearest wanted to keep it a secret.”
“No, you hadn’t,” Sherlock replied cooly, standing up and walking over to Petruchio. He removed a small piece of paper from the breast pocket of the man’s coat and held it up to John, and then Lestrade. “Peter McMullen,” He read off, turning to Petruchio. “Marital mediator. After applying for a postnuptial agreement from your marital mediator, unless Katherine wanted you to have her wealth in event of her death - which is more than unlikely judging on the state of your marriage - you would not leave a moneyed widower.”
“How did you know my darling Kate was unhappy with our marriage?” Petruchio queried sadly.
“I saw your wife’s ring at the crime scene: the outside of the band was filthy, uncleaned, and the inside was remarkably shiny. Obviously, she doesn’t clean it, yet removes it regularly; the only polishing it gets is when she works it off her finger. There’s the state of your marriage right there.”
“Wait,” Lestrade interjected, still disoriented by Sherlock’s string of deductions, “If it wasn’t him, who else could it have been?”
As Sherlock contemplated for a moment, John marveled at the rare sight of a clueless Sherlock Holmes. “I don’t know yet, but I guarantee the case will be solved,” He promised, walking toward the exit. “Come along, John. We’ve got work to do.”
“So, how are we supposed to figure out who really killed Kate?” John asked, watching the passing bustle of London through the cab window.
“Simple,” Sherlock replied, reaching inside his coat pocket and pulling out a photograph. He passed it over to John. “Nicked this from Petruchio when I pulled out that business card.”
John sighed, looking at the picture. “Pickpocketing again, how lovely,” he murmured. “Now, how’s this supposed to help us?”
“It’s a picture of our ‘happy couple’ Petruchio and Kate, with Bianca Minola, who is now Bianca Harcourt - Kate’s sister - based on their alikeness in appearance. The other man beside her is her husband Lucentio Harcourt. It was taken at a house - presumably the Harcourts’ - after their wedding quite a while ago.”
“And how’d you deduce all that? The architectural style of the house, the angle the photograph was taken ...”
“Don’t be ridiculous, John, it’s written on the back of the picture.”
“Oh, right,” John muttered, flipping over the picture to read the address. “So that’s where we’re going then?”
“Of course that’s where we’re going. Why sit around when there’s finally something fun to do!”
“You said you’re here to investigate what happened to my sister?” Bianca asked, audibly sniffling.
“Yes, we’re very sorry for your loss,” John said softly.
Sherlock and John sat on the couch in Bianca and Lucentio’s house, at the address written on the picture. Opposite of the men sat Bianca and her husband Lucentio, arm around his wife in consolation as she blew her nose into a tissue.
“Can you inform me of your whereabouts last evening?” John prodded cautiously.
“I was at the pub for a while, with a few colleagues after work,” Lucentio replied, “And my wife was volunteering at the local charity house; her work at the Museum of London is only part-time, so she usually does volunteering when she’s not housekeeping.”
“When did you find out about Katherine?” Sherlock asked flatly.
“We only found out this morning,” Bianca explained sadly, tucking her hair behind her ears, displaying a pair of sapphire blue earrings. “It’s just dreadful, even for someone like my sister.”
“Someone like your sister?” Sherlock queried.
“Yes,” She replied in downcast, “My sister and I have never really gotten along to be quite honest. Truthfully, Kate has never really gotten along with anyone.”
“So you’d say she was somewhat of a wallflower?” John asked carefully.
Bianca’s eyes widened, along with Lucentio’s. “No, no, no. She wasn’t shy at all, she was entirely the opposite. She was very … outspoken. A, a-”
“A shrew.” Lucentio finished harshly.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “Mr. Lucentio, you seem very tense with the subject of your sister-in-law. Care to interject?”
Lucentio sighed. “Kate was a shrew, no denying it there. She was rude, feisty, aggressive, pugnacious; I don’t know how Petruchio dealt with her at all.”
“Lucentio, calm down,” Bianca croaked.
“How can you defend her? She’s been so horrible to you!” Lucentio exclaimed, growing disgruntled.
“Darling, please, don’t. Can you please just go for now, I can’t handle this.”
Bianca hesitated. “What do you want me to-”
“Just, do the dishes. The laundry. Something else for now. Just please, go.”
Bianca nodded, smoothing down her skirt as she stood up. “Yes, dear.”
Sherlock and John watched as she left the room, unfairly deserved of her husband’s commands.
Lucentio sighed again, rubbing his face. “You must understand, gentlemen, that I am not a violent man.” He paused, his voice turning pitiless. “But when someone becomes a threat to my beautiful Bianca, they become a threat to me as well.”
John widened his eyes slowly nodding, while Sherlock’s remained narrowed.
“Thank you for your time, we’ll be going now,” Sherlock announced, briefly flashing a feigned smile of sympathy after the few moments of tense silence.
Lucentio simply nodded and showed the men out, excluding to bestow them with any farewell.
John and Sherlock exchanged a quick, knowing glance. “I believe we know our murderer,” John remarked matter-of-factly.
“Yes,” Sherlock replied slowly. “I believe we have.”
“So what is it exactly that you want me to do?” John asked, speaking into his battered-up mobile. The sun was just beginning to set and the sky was darkening.
“Just keep an eye on the house while I’m off, exposing Lucentio’s alibi as a fake,” Sherlock urged from the other line. “I need to know where Lucentio goes if he leaves, which is why you’re there to follow him.”
“Right, yeah, okay. I’ll just watch them with my binoculars from a tree then, shall I?” John retorted derisively, covertly surveilling the Harcourt residence from behind a thick column on the corner of their house.
“Just watch for him, John. I’ll meet you soon.” The line went dead and John sighed in exasperation, pocketing his mobile inside his coat.
“I must be out of my mind,” John muttered to himself for about the millionth time since he’d met his crazy flatmate.
Suddenly, a loud series of crashes resonated from within the house. John couldn’t see through the window; the blinds were closed, so he raced to the door as furtively as possible.
John hesitated, unsure what to do next; he didn’t think knocking would be a very wise decision with a potential murderer inside. Instead, he tried the door handle, and to his surprise, it was unlocked.
He slowly opened the door, maintaining his soldier-like calm as he quietly shut the door and proceed silently around the corner. The living room - where John and Sherlock had interrogated the Harcourts earlier - was a complete mess. The lamp was knocked over, shattered on the ground; tables were overturned, and the papers previously atop them were strewn across the room. Struggle, John presumed, carefully stepping around the wreckage.
It wasn’t until he had maneuvered around the sofa that he stopped dead in his tracks: on the floor in front of him lied a bloody Lucentio, with a knife plunged into his chest.
“Oh my god,” John breathed out slowly.
Before he could even think to react, he felt a hard blow to the back of the head and his vision went black, immediately knocking him to the ground, unconscious.
John awoke with a throbbing pain on the back of his head, with his hands and feet binded together strongly with duct tape.
“It’s not Lucentio. On my way. Be careful. -S. That’s cute.”
Even with blurry vision John could make out the woman in front of him, unconcernedly reading the texts off his phone.
“Bianca,” he stated with a fatigued sigh. “I guess I should have seen that coming.”
Bianca chuckled maliciously, pacing in front of John’s chair. “Don’t beat yourself up about it too much, nobody ever does. Why would anyone ever expect the charming, obedient housewife?”
“So you killed your husband because he found out you killed Kate?”
Bianca smiled wickedly. “Very good, Doctor Watson.”
“So you didn’t love him them?”
"Please,” Bianca sassed, “He’s just like any other man I’ve been with: authoritative, imperious, utterly dependent on his wife to do whatever he says.” She paused glancing at John with a smirk. “You’d be surprised how wealthy his family is, though.”
John struggled a bit in his confinements.
“Oh, don’t bother, John, I may be a woman but I know how to tie someone up and do a man’s job of it,” Bianca declaimed.
That’s when it hit John. “Why haven’t you killed me yet?”
Bianca snickered. “Why, we’re waiting for your boyfriend of course. I can’t just kill the companion of a man as smart as Sherlock Holmes and expect to get away with it.”
“We-we’re not a couple,” John stammered.
Bianca rolled her eyes. “Right. Anyways, the fun won’t get started until he’s here, so we’re gonna have to wait.”
“What if he brings help?” John asked as a last-ditch attempt of negotiation.
Bianca sighed amusedly. “Really? I’ve only known him a few hours and you’ve known him for who knows how long and you expect a man as big-headed as he is to call for help? I’m disappointed.”
John sighed hopelessly. She sure made a point with that.
“So, Doctor Watson,” Bianca started, placing a piece of duct tape over John’s mouth, “Make yourself comfortable. It’s the last chance you’re gonna have to do it.”
John’s head snapped up when he heard the click of the front door open. Sherlock.
Bianca grinned, grabbing her knife from the coffee table. “Showtime.”
After a moment of nothing but the sound of shuffling feet, a familiar head of curls came into view.
Sherlock slowly entered the dimly-lit room and paused when he saw Lucentio’s body, and especially when he saw John, tied up to a chair, with a dangerous-looking Bianca holding a knife to his throat. It was barely noticeable, but John saw Sherlock’s emotionless pretense slip in fear, just for a moment, before regaining his mask of indifference.
“Ah, Mr. Holmes, how nice of you to join us,” Bianca greeted.
“Oh, no, Bianca, the pleasure is all mine,” Sherlock replied, maintaining his usual display of confidence. His eyes flickered to John’s momentarily.
“I assume you know my whole story of the past few days at this point, don’t you, Mr. Holmes?”
“Oh, I think I know a little more than that,” Sherlock countered, pacing a few steps forward.
Bianca pushed the knife blade a bit harder into John’s neck, eliciting a moan of pain from John as it sliced a strip of his skin. Sherlock gasped slightly and immediately halted in his steps.
“Ah, ah, ah, Mr. Holmes.” Bianca tutted, voice turning bitter. “ If you come any closer, I swear I will kill him.”
Sherlock took a step back, taking a breath to retain his semblance of nonchalance. “Ironic how your sister was supposed to be the pugnacious one,” he remarked, motioning to knife.
Bianca laughed sharply. “I guess she rubbed off on me, didn’t she, my horrible sister?”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “When did Lucentio find out you killed her? Right after we left? Maybe an hour after?”
Bianca considered for a moment. “Not too long after you two left, actually; he wanted me to tell the police, but I just couldn’t do that.”
“Hm. He didn’t know the whole of it did he?”
She smiled wickedly. “But you do.”
Sherlock tilted his head. “You didn’t kill Katherine just because your bitterness is apocalyptic, no, you had a much fiercer motivator.” Sherlock looked down to John. “You remember the case Mycroft gave me, John? The Crown Jewels case? It really is a small world: Bianca, here, isn’t just our double-murderer, she’s a crack jewel thief.”
John’s eyes widened, completely astonished.
“It took me a little a while, I admit, to remember, but now I’m sure. Sometime last year, around June I think, there was a case in the paper about a famous pair of earrings being stolen; a sapphire blue pair - surrounded by diamond baguettes - that used to belong to Princess Diana of Wales, locked away in her famous safe of jewelry. Now, as I’ve told John before, jewel theft ceases to attract my interest, so I didn’t bother going into the case, but I must have saved the information somewhere in the back of my mind. I don’t think I would have ever remembered it at all, really, unless I had seen the earrings for myself. The earrings you are wearing, miss Bianca.”
Sure enough, the sapphire blue earrings sparkled on Bianca’s ears, unmistakable.
“From there, it was hardly a difficult deduction to make,” Sherlock continued. “Your husband said you worked part-time at the Museum of London. That’s a bit far from here, don’t you think? A few more miles than necessary out of your way? You could pick any museum in London, yet you chose one an hour away; extremely inconvenient for an antiquity fanatic, however, exceptionally opportune for a jewel thief. You stole the Crown Jewels last week, but you don’t keep everything you steal of course, no jewel thief would, especially one in it for the money.
“I figured you’d probably be wanting to send it out of the UK, and the odds of you shipping the jewels were fairly low - would you really risk wrecking such a fragile piece in the mail? So what else might you do? What other options do you have? By sea.”
Bianca sighed in incredulity. “You are one clever bloke, aren’t you?”
“So you want to trade it by sea,” Sherlock continued, “Where’s the closest pier? The very pier that your very own sister Kate works at. You went to Southend Pier last night to exchange the Crown Jewels with someone overseas - based on location, I’d say they were Belgian traders. As Kate left work, she saw you there. She waited until you were finished, walking back to the main roads, and confronted you in the alley by the pier restaurant. It took you completely by surprise - you never keep in touch with your sister, why would you? Like you said, you two have never gotten along.
“She found out what you did, or at least she got some idea of it; maybe she saw the money in the case you brought back from your trade. She threatened to tell the police, out of torment for you, and you had no choice to preserve your crimes but to kill her. It wasn’t too difficult for you anyways, in fact, you probably took pleasure in it. Only thing is, Kate didn’t die from multiple stab wounds, no, you strangled her. Having to kill her unplanned, you weren’t thinking about your wedding ring. After you strangled her, a bruise of a ring was left behind on her neck, and you thought that someone might figure out it was your ring. So what do you do? You tie your scarf around her neck to cover up the bruise and you stab her again, and again, and again. You distract the attention of everyone; anyone who would see Kate’s body would only assume that the stab wounds were her cause of death. I did. I never would have thought to look back at the body without the scarf again if I hadn’t seen your earrings and made a few simple connections. Little did you know, the one flaw in your plan was the cause of one entirely different piece of jewelry.”
Bianca shook her head in disbelief. “Bravo, Mr. Holmes, bravo; I never thought anyone could unravel all my secrets with one little detail. You truly are amazing.”
“Don’t feel the necessity to tell me how brilliant that was,” Sherlock reassured, “John has expressed that thought in every possible variant available to the English language.”
Bianca smirked, rolling her eyes. “Well, I’m sorry to cut the fun short, but it’s time to get to business now, Mr. Holmes. You will get me out of London tonight, somewhere across the world, and we will never communicate again. That is, if you want to save John,” She demanded, gripping the knife a little tighter.
Peculiarly enough, the fractional fear John could discern in Sherlock’s eyes seemed to almost completely decimate out of nowhere. “Oh I will, will I?”
“Yes, you will,” She emphasized.
To John’s utter confusion, Sherlock grinned and said, “No, but you will go to court, indubitably be found guilty, and rot in a jail cell for the rest of your life.”
“Oh I will, will I?” She repeated, mocking Sherlock.
Just then, the sound of a gun cocked behind Bianca. “Yes, you will,” Lestrade replied sternly.
“Drop your weapon, Bianca.”
Bianca gritted her teeth, and sighed deeply. She angrily dropped the knife to the ground - while Sherlock visibly relaxed - and Lestrade cuffed Bianca.
“Bianca Harcourt, or I guess now, Bianca Minola. You are under arrest for the homicides of Katherine Samson and Lucentio Harcourt, and on account of jewelry theft.” Lestrade walked Bianca out the front. “Anything you say can and will be use against you …”
Sherlock rushed immediately to John, ripping the piece of duct tape of his mouth. “Are you okay? John, are you okay?”
John let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding that whole time. “I’m fine, Sherlock, I’m fine, relax.”
Sherlock knelt down behind him to unbind the duct tape from his hands.
John chuckled. “Glad no one’s here to see this.”
“You, untying my hands in a darkened room. People might talk.”
Sherlock grinned. “People do little else.”
Leaning against the house, Sherlock and John watched as a few paramedics rolled away the body of Lucentio into the back of an ambulance, in the center of the bustle of officers going in and out the house.
“So you did call the police.” John held an ice pack to the swelling on the back of his head, small smirk tugging on the corner of his lips.
Sherlock’s eye roll was still discernable through the darkness. “I called Lestrade,” He corrected.
John shook his head and sighed warmly. “You deny that you need help to prove you’re clever,” He stated.
“And why would I do that?”
“Because you’re an idiot.”
The beam of blue and red lights from the police cars illuminated their faces, fond twinkling in their eyes more than evident.
“Dinner?” Sherlock suggested.