There was a crumpled piece of paper in the deceased’s hand. John crouched closer, angling his body so he wouldn’t have to see the wrongness of a body with no legs, and worked it free. The wind, sharp and cold, cut into the alleyway that was the site of this week’s crime scene.
cat with hands, the paper said, in a slanted, nearly illegible script.
“The cat with hands,” Sherlock muttered from over John’s shoulder. Judging from the way his fingers flew over the keys of his phone, he was Googling feverishly. Fifteen seconds later the mobile was returned to Sherlock’s coat pocket.
“An urban legend, created to explain mysterious deaths which occurred at this exact location over a period of twenty years in the mid-to-late nineteenth century,” he reported. “The well has been filled in long since, and it’s surprising anyone would recall the story. Especially as the deceased is not native to the area, and should not be familiar with it. In fact, prior to yesterday he had not been here at all.”
“So we have a copycat murderer?” Lestrade asked, eager for a quick resolution.
“Hmm,” Sherlock replied, ruminating.
“What is the point of a cat with hands?” John asked as they walked back to the main road.
“People are scared, even terrified, of things that don’t fit. Animals with human body parts are one such example, as many consider the human form in a sense sacrosanct. Perversion of this is unsettling to the average individual. You must recall that ‘Human Centipede’ film from last year.”
John shuddered, pushing his hands farther into his coat pockets.
“I wasn’t afraid, it was bad surgery! I was offended on a professional level.”
“I’m sure you were,” Sherlock said, tone clearly indicating he thought otherwise, as he flagged down a taxi.
John gritted his teeth, forging ahead to be first into the warmth of the cab. As he sat back in his seat, a thought occurred. “You didn’t even know James Bond before I made you watch the films; how do you know about some crap horror film?”
“Several members of the Metropolitan Police pooled their money and gave it to me as a Christmas present last year. They seemed to think I might enjoy it,” Sherlock said, gazing absently out the window at the buildings flashing past.
“And did you?” John asked.
“Most certainly. It’s the most farcical representation of medical science on film! Consider the intestines...” And Sherlock continued in great detail all the way back to Baker Street.
Then they found a body with no ears in the Yard itself, and the finger-pointing began.
John knew the answer. There was only one person unpleasant and, frankly, strange-looking enough to be the culprit. “Anderson’s the cat with hands!”
“I am NOT,” said Anderson.
“Yes, you are! I knew your hair wasn’t real!”
Donovan returned from the photocopier holding a massive stack of paper.
“Sally, Anderson’s the cat with hands!”
Donovan fell back in shock, slamming the pile of papers onto the nearest desk. “I’ve shagged the cat with hands? I thought his cock was too big to belong to him.”
“Look, I’m not the fucking cat with hands!” Anderson started banging his head against the wall.
“Wait, what’s his wife, then?” John asked, puzzled.
“The cat’s wife? Or Anderson’s?” Lestrade asked, looking more than a little confused.
Sherlock strode into the room, coat billowing behind him. “What’s this? Of course Anderson’s not the cat with hands.” He extended his arms outward. “I am.”
Everyone froze in horror. Sherlock dropped his arms, huffing a breath exasperatedly. “You lot actually believed that, didn’t you? I’m so disappointed.”
They shifted away all the same, except for John, who couldn’t be bothered.
“You’re all so stupid. Sorry John, even you,” Sherlock said. John shrugged. He was used to it, and an apology was more than he usually got. “You’re all overlooking the most obvious person, the one who is definitely the cat with hands!”
“Me?” Donovan and John asked simultaneously, then glanced at each other, weirded out.
“No, it’s Forensics Team Member #3!” Sherlock said, gesturing grandly to the doorway. “If you think back you’ll realise he hasn’t had any lines in any of the episodes, even though his expertise would be called for at the murder scenes.”
“Huh. I thought it was unusual when he didn’t answer any of my questions, and then when he started chewing one of the deceased’s fingers I didn’t know what to think,” Anderson said.
“I thought he was just getting over a cold,” Lestrade said.
John boggled at Lestrade—how did that make sense?—but collected himself enough to ask, “But Sherlock, why were you pointing at the door if it’s that man from Forensics? He isn’t actually ther...“ he trailed off.
Reflexively everyone glanced to the door. The Forensics man stood there. He looked completely normal if one were to overlook the large fangs and the hissing.
“Shit. Run!” Lestrade said, and they ran as fast as they could. To the other end of the room.
“Shouldn’t there be another exit?”
“This is Scotland Yard, not bloody Cluedo,” Lestrade snapped, back against the window. “What, do you think we have a secret passage in every office?”
“We can go out the window, if you prefer,” Sherlock said. He was smiling far more widely than one should when threatened with imminent and painful dismemberment.
The cat with hands was advancing slowly for dramatic effect, its steps making a thump-thud on the tiled floor, giving them plenty of time to go out the window, even with Anderson shoving to get out first.
“Sherlock, you can’t keep it as a pet,” John said as they climbed. He was far too used to this sort of thing.
“What if I just keep the corpse? It would be such a useful thing to have,” Sherlock said.
“And what if it reassembles itself?” John asked. He really didn’t fancy going to sleep every night with the possibility he might not wake. That was what Afghanistan had been for.
“Fascinating,” Sherlock said, and John could tell from his tone of voice that he was talking about John’s reaction, and not about his words.
Lestrade was the last one to clamber onto the roof, and they stood for a moment to catch their breath.
The door slammed open, swinging on its hinges.
It was the cat. With hands.
John shot it in the face.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that, in light of how you just saved us from being eaten by a cat. With hands,” Lestrade said.
“I don’t understand why everyone keeps calling it that,” Donovan said. “It looks...ah, looked...just like a real person.”
“It’s the principle of the thing,” Lestrade said. “Not to mention it sounds so much scarier.”
“It’s also more accurate,” Sherlock added. “If we call it a cat with hands, John didn’t commit homicide and as such he doesn’t have to go to prison.”
“The grateful thanks of an adoring public,” John said dryly, returning his gun to his waistband at the small of his back and shaking his coat over it.
“You don’t have that pistol with you all the time, do you?” Donovan asked. “I can understand how it helped in this instance, but it’s not really safe, is it? Not to mention being completely illegal. How do you still have it, anyway? I thought all servicemen had to return their sidearms.”
John coughed, reaching back. Sally tensed for a moment, then realised he was just scratching his head. “No reason. It’s just more convenient for the plot if I have it.”
“Ah. Less strain on the writers,” Lestrade said, nodding sagely.
“This is too meta for me,” Anderson complained, moodily kicking at the corpse of the ex-cat with hands. “Once I get rid of this, is there any reason why we can’t go for a pint?”
“Fine with me,” Lestrade said, stretching.
“And me,” Sally said, “But you have to get the first round.”
“Fine,” Anderson acquiesced. He glanced over at Sherlock and John. “Coming?”
Sherlock shook his head. “Sorry, normally we’d love to, but we’re contractually obligated to go to a dimly-lit restaurant (in pursuit of a case, of course) and make stilted conversation littered with innuendo. Everyone else will assume we’re together, which we’ll deny in unison, and then John will have to eat his meal in front of me whilst I pretend I’m not a functioning human being.”
“They never let him eat!” John exploded. This was obviously a sore spot for him. “I keep having to sneak him cereal bars whenever there’s a quiet moment! You have no idea what it does to his blood sugar!”
“At least you have each other,” Lestrade pointed out, rather stroppily. “They won’t even give me a backstory! I don’t know if my motivation for being a good DI is that I have two small children at home for whom I want to make London a safer place, or if the job is all I have!”
There was a pause as they watched Anderson grasp the corpse under its arms and drag it across the roof. Panting with effort, he had to stop halfway to catch his breath. “God, this is heavy. Any help? Anybody?”
“Here,” Donovan said, pushing Anderson out of the way. “Like this.”
She bent and hauled the corpse the rest of the way, dropping it at the edge of the roof.
“And they say women don’t have to be any more skilled than men to get into the Force,” she wheezed, brushing off her hands.
“Everyone hates me, full stop!” Anderson piped up from the edge of the roof. He shoved the corpse into position and let go. Everybody else gathered round and stared at the dark splodge that was the former cat with hands, far below.
“Suicides are so depressing,” Donovan said, after a moment. “Even fake ones.”
“I still don’t think this was necessary,” Sherlock said. “I’ve lost a valuable opportunity to study what was either a very old serial killer or a homicidal supernatural phenomenon.”
“There’ll be more to come,” John commiserated, patting him on the shoulder. “They haven’t got to the Hound of the Baskervilles adaptation yet.”
Sherlock brightened immediately. “Oh, right. That will be good.”
“I hope I’m not in that one,” Anderson said. “I hate animals.”
“You hate everything,” Sally retorted. “But I don’t think I’ll be in it either, although I’d just like to say that all the cases I’m not involved with are stupid. I’m sure you can see why.”
“They’re not stupid necessarily, just racially insensitive,” Lestrade pointed out.
Donovan glared at him, in case he was being glib.
“What?” Lestrade said, spreading his arms in a placating manner. “I could be seeing a very nice woman from an ethnic minority group. Or a man, for that matter. I just don’t know!”
“Right. Well. As exciting as this has been, we all have things to do,” Sherlock said. He strode to the door and made an abortive move to open it. “Ah,” he said in an enlightened tone.
Donovan tapped her foot impatiently. “I’d like to get to the pub before last orders, if it’s all right with you.”
“I can’t open the door,” Sherlock said. “None of us can. We can’t leave the roof.” He stepped aside as Anderson yanked at the handle to no avail. Donovan, Lestrade and John all had a try, also with no success.
“Why can’t we move?” John asked.
“The author can’t think of an ending,” Sherlock said, to a chorus of exasperated groans from the rest.
“God, we could be here all night,” Lestrade said, sitting down.
“I don’t know why anyone thinks they can write us. It’s not at all easy,” Anderson whined.
“What if there was a completely unrelated occurrence to resolve the conflict? Like some sort of deus ex machina?” Donovan asked.
“Wasn’t the conflict the cat with hands? You know, the one I shot in the face?” John asked.
“Yes, why didn’t they just end it when John killed the cat with hands?” Lestrade queried, turning to look up at Sherlock.
“Ah, but is it really dead?” Sherlock asked, looking down from his vantage point on the edge of the roof. The half-moon cast a silvery glow over his dashing figure, and his coat billowed and snapped in light of his dramatic pronouncement.
“God, I want to shag you,” John said.
“Doesn’t everyone?” Lestrade remarked.
“Focus,” Sherlock said, pointing at the pavement, far below. The dark shape of the cat with hands was unmistakably moving.
“Oh, hell,” Lestrade said.
There was a minute of silence as everyone thought of what to do, except for Sherlock, who of course thought out loud. “From this height we could drop something on it. Nothing heavy and moveable on the roof, though,” he said, spinning in a circle as he took in the roof. “We could use Anderson, he’s practically expendable anyway.”
“I do have a problem with that,” Anderson muttered, sotto voce.
“Sherlock, I know it seems unlikely but he might be needed later on,” Donovan said. “Think of something else, please.”
“Oh, if you will insist on keeping him alive,” Sherlock said, with a definite eye-roll. “John?” he asked.
John had been watching the cat with hands attempt to stand, lose its balance, and fall down again, but he looked up at this. “Yes?”
“When you shot the cat with hands—“
“In the face.”
“In the face, yes. Did you by any chance use silver bullets?”
“No, standard-issue .40 Smith & Wesson cartridges. You think I should try silver instead?” John asked.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Sherlock said.
John sighed and began pulling out pieces from various places on his person, assembling what turned out to be a sniper rifle. By the time he was connecting the bolt and bolt support, the others were dumbfounded. Sherlock’s smug expression had gradually shifted into grudging admiration, and as John connected the magazine full of silver ammunition he was grinning broadly.
John pulled on a pair of gloves and dropped to his knees on the uneven gravel of the roof. He positioned the rifle, adjusting the sight as he focussed.
“D’you know what? I’m not even...” Lestrade trailed off, wiping a hand across his brow.
“A sniper rifle? Really?” Donovan said, taken aback.
“I suppose there’s never been a time when you’ve thought to yourself, ‘Gosh, if only I had a sniper rifle right now, life would be so much easier,’” John retorted.
“Actually, no,” Sally snapped.
“Well—“ Anderson started, before Sally cut him off.
“No! There is absolutely no call for you to have one of those,” she said, gesticulating wildly at the rifle propped at what looked like an extremely difficult angle against John’s shoulder.
“You do have to admit it’s useful now, though,” Lestrade put in, and Sally whirled to glare at him.
“Oh, do shut up. Sir,” she added, for good measure.
John chuckled. It was not precisely a good-humoured sound. “You must have thought I wore these jumpers because I was cold.”
Sally drew breath to start in again, but was stopped by Sherlock.
“Quiet, John needs to concentrate for this,” he said.
“I don’t really,” John said, painstakingly shifting the stock very slightly. “I’ve done this enough times, after all, and in more stressful conditions than this.”
He inhaled and took the shot.
“Although it would have been easier if I was on top of that building across the way,” John continued, gesturing. “Better angle, more room for error. Although silver ammunition tends to drop more, so it wasn’t too difficult.” He began to disassemble the rifle.
The other four clustered closer to the edge, peering down at the figure far below, now unmoving. Sherlock pulled a small pair of high-powered matte black night vision binoculars from a coat pocket and brought them to his eyes, zooming in on the scene below.
“Clean through the upper torso, very nice,” he said. “No visible respiration, no sign of a pulse, and a large puddle of blood and gore round the exit site, ensuring complete obliteration of the heart and incompatible with continued existence. God, I want to shag you,” Sherlock said, dropping his hands and returning the binoculars to his pocket.
John looked up from where he was detaching the hand guards on the rifle. “Any time,” he said, meeting Sherlock’s eyes.
There was an expectant silence, which Lestrade broke by coughing and shuffling his feet. “Right, lots to do. They’ll probably suspect it wasn’t a suicide, what with half his chest gone, so we should get down there and clean it up. Then—“ he said, taking in Anderson’s martyred expression, “Then we can go for a pint.”
Anderson grinned and bounded to the door, pulling on the handle. His pleased expression quickly changed to one of shock. “It’s—it’s not opening!” he shouted, yanking vigorously at the door.
John and Sherlock broke their staring contest at this, and turned to the door.
“Really?” John asked. His outstretched hands were poised at his waist, and it looked as though he might pull out another, even larger weapon from somewhere.
“No, not really,” Anderson said merrily, pulling the door open and skipping through. His laughter floated behind him as he began to descend the stairs.
“Tosser,” Sally spat. “I know his weakness, though—give him three WKDs and he’ll start singing Eurovision songs to the entire pub. He’s actually quite good; he knows all the words, going all the way back to the first contest. Last month he won our local’s open mic night with his version of this year’s winner, you know, that German girl? He did the weird accent and everything.”
“Obviously a man of hidden depths,” Sherlock said dryly. “I’m so pleased we didn’t push him off a building after all.” He rubbed the side of his head distractedly, looking fixedly at a point in the opposite direction from John.
“He’ll drink as many alcopops as I can buy if I have to order him,” Lestrade said gruffly. “Donovan? Got your mobile?”
Sally pulled it from her pocket, handing it to the DI.
“You’ve got a better camera on yours,” Lestrade said, examining it and handing it back. “You know what to do.”
“Yes, sir,” Sally said, snapping a salute. The two police officers started down the stairs together.
“See you later,” Lestrade called over his shoulder. There was no response.
Almost three flights down, Donovan clapped a hand to her head. “I’ve left my notebook on the roof! Catch you up,” she said, waving Lestrade on. He shrugged, eager to remove the corpse formerly known as the cat with hands.
Sally rushed up the first flight, then slowed. She crept stealthily up the rest, mobile poised in camera mode. Luckily the door was ajar; she carefully extended the phone, grinning. Sherlock and John were...well, it could be called kissing, but to do so wouldn’t be strictly accurate.
“I want to be subtextual with you,” Sherlock ground out, gasping as John did something intriguing with his hands.
“I thought you’d never ask,” John responded.
As soon as she uploaded this, the Sherlock fan page on Facebook would be ecstatic. Sally tried to get closer, and winced as the door creaked. She started at the sound of familiar disdainful tones from outside.
“You’re not going to upload that anywhere, Donovan, because I’m claiming it for my own personal use,” Sherlock said, pulling the door open. His attempt at intimidation was undermined by his hair, sticking out wildly in all directions, and his voice, which was significantly more ragged than usual.
“God, finally,” Sally said, skipping out of reach. “I thought we were going to have to wait until Christmas and Sellotape mistletoe to your heads.” She paused, phone behind her back. “Actually, can we still do that? Because we had this thing all planned, and—"
Sherlock lunged forward, grabbing her mobile, and retreated. The last thing Sally saw before the door slammed shut was John’s hand, grasping Sherlock’s scarf and pulling the taller man’s face down to his. She grinned, and slid down a handrail with glee. If she wasn’t too quick, by the time she got to the street, cleanup would be mostly done. Then there were alcopops to be had and embarrassing videos to be filmed on her boss’s mobile. And Halloween was next week. Somehow, she was sure, John could guilt Sherlock into wearing a really terrible costume. Mind busy with possibilities, she slid down the next railing, smiling with anticipation.
Outside on the roof, John and Sherlock were modifying their dinner plans.
“We can spend a really obvious amount of time in the loo together. See how they like that,” John said.
“I might even eat a breadstick,” Sherlock said, enthused at the novel idea.
John smiled up at him. “Small steps, I suppose. Seeing as you’re not on a case now, maybe you can have a salad?”
“Let’s not get carried away, John.”
“Shag you under the table if you eat the entire salad.”
AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER, EXCEPT FOR THE CAT WITH HANDS, WHO WAS DEAD DEAD DEAD, ON ACCOUNT OF GIVING ITSELF AIRS AND GRACES AND THINKING IT COULD BE A PERSON. SILLY CAT, BODY PARTS ARE FOR SHERLOCK.