CHAPTER 11: Endgame
"Weren't expecting that, were ya?"
Sherlock stared at the two containers. There was no difference between them. The pills within each looked the same also. Sherlock Holmes may have been a self confessed genius, but even this was slightly beyond him. So, he thought, back to method A: get the man with the info to blab.
"Oh, you're going to love this," Jeff continued.
"Love what?" Sherlock asked.
"Sherlock Holmes! Look at you! Here in the flesh. That website of yours, your fan told me about it."
"You are brilliant. You are a proper genius. The Science of Deduction. Now, that...is proper thinking. Between you and me sitting here, why can't people think? Don't it make you mad? Why can't people just think?"
A spark went up in Sherlock's mind. The words coming out of Hope's mouth. He had heard them before. From his own mouth.
"Oh, I see," Sherlock realised. "So you're a proper genius too."
"Don't look it, do I? Funny little man driving a cab. But you'll know better in a minute. Chances are it'll be the last thing you ever know."
Hope was right. He was a genius. Maybe a bit high opinionated of himself, but so was Sherlock whenever he was in a good mood. But Hope was smart. Sherlock wasn't going to be able to con the info out of him, so, reluctantly, he went for the last option in the book: Direct Approach.
"OK, two bottles. Explain."
"There's a good bottle and a bad bottle. You take the pill from the good bottle, you live. You take the pill from the bad bottle...you die. Simple enough, init?
"Both bottles are of course identical, yes?"
"In every way."
"And you know which is which."
"Of course I know."
"But I don't."
"Wouldn't be a game if you knew. You're the one who chooses."
"Why should I? I've got nothing to go on. What's in it for me?"
"I haven't told you the best bit yet. Whatever bottle YOU choose, I take the pill from the other one."
Sherlock eyes widened. And I mean, they widened. Not a small raising of the eyebrows, but the image of the eyes enlarging. Sherlock was shocked, for the first time in a long while. And the worse thing was, Jeff went on.
"And then together...we take our medicine. I won't cheat. It's your choice. I'll take whatever pill you don't. Didn't expect that, did you, Mr. Holmes?"
The simple answer was: no, no he didn't.
"This is what you did to the rest of them? You gave them a choice?"
"And now I'm giving you one. You take your time. Get yourself together. I want your best game."
"It's not a game; it's chance."
"I've played four times. I'm alive. It's not chance, Mr. Holmes; it's chess. It's a game of chess, with one move...and one survivor. And this - this...is the move." Hope raised his right arm and placed the connecting hand on the corresponding container. And then, quite simply, he moved it forward. Sherlock Holmes seemed to know what he meant by this action, and his thoughts were confirmed when Jeff asked him directly. "Did I just give you the good bottle or the bad bottle? You can choose either one." And so the game began…
"No, it's Detective Inspector Lestrade I'm looking for; I need to speak to him. It's an emergency." Watson, at this moment, was stuck in a cab, following the first lead found that night. And trying to give directions to a cabbie whilst attempting to get through to the Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard is no easy feat. Even for someone who has been forced to go through Afghanistan. "Er, left here, please. Left here…"
"You ready yet, Mr. Holmes?" Jeff asked. "Ready to play?"
"Play what? It's a 50:50 chance."
"You're not playing the numbers, you're playing ME. Did I just give you the good pill or the bad pill? Is it a bluff, or a double bluff? Or a triple bluff?"
"It's still just chance."
"Four people, in a row? It's not chance."
"It's genius! I know how people think. I know how people think I think. I can see it all like a map inside my head. Everyone's so stupid, even you. Or maybe God just loves me."
"Either way, you're wasted as a cabbie."
Meanwhile, just outside, John arrived at the college. Only one thought was buzzing through his mind: Sherlock, where are you?
This entire predicament seemed wrong to Sherlock. Why is he doing this? What does he get out of it? "So," Sherlock continued. "You risked your life four times just to kill strangers? Why?"
"Time to play."
"Oh, I am playing. This is my turn." And then, he began…
"There's shaving foam behind your left ear. Nobody's pointed it out to you. Traces of where it's happened before, so obviously you live on your own - there's no-one to tell you. But there's a photograph of children. Their mother's been cut out. If she'd died, she'd still be there. The photograph's old, but the frame's new. You think of your children, but you don't get to see them. Estranged father. She took the kids, but you still love them and it still hurts. Ah, but there's more. Your clothes. Recently laundered, but everything you're wearing is at least...three years old? Keeping up appearances, but not planning ahead. And here you are on a kamikaze murder spree. What's that about?"
And then it dawned on him. There was only one reason he would do this. And it only made sense now, when he knew all the facts.
"Ah… Three years ago. Is that when they told you?"
"Told me what?" Hope said, pretending he didn't know what Sherlock was rambling about. But he did. Being told you were dying wasn't something you'd easily forget.
"That you're a dead man walking?" continued Sherlock.
"So are you."
"You don't have long though, am I right?"
Hope gave a small smile. Holmes had cracked it, but that didn't mean he had won. Not yet anyway. He raised his right hand to his temple and tapped his index finger upon it.
"Aneurism. Right in 'ere. Any breath could be my last."
"And because you're dying, you've just murdered four people?"
"I've outlived four people. That's the most fun you can have with an aneurism."
"No..." thought Sherlock, knowing that what he heard could not be the reason for the cabbie's actions. "No, there's something else. You didn't just kill four people because you're bitter. Bitterness is a paralytic. Love is a much more vicious motivator. Somehow, this is about your children."
"Oh...You ARE good, ain't ya?"
"When I die they won't get much, my kids. Not a lot of money in driving cabs."
"Or serial killing."
"You'd be surprised."
"I have a sponsor."
Sherlock's mouth nearly dropped with what he heard. Even he was disgusted with the words that emanated from Jeff's mouth. "You have a what?"
"For every life I take, money goes to my kids. The more I kill...the better off they'll be. You see? It's nicer than you think."
"Who'd sponsor a serial killer?"
"Who'd be a fan of Sherlock Holmes? You're not the only one to enjoy a good murder. There's others out there just like you, except you're just a man. And they're so much more than that."
"What do you mean...more than a man? An organisation...? What?"
"There's a name, that no-one says. And I'm not going to say it either. Now, enough chatter. Time to choose."
"Sherlock?! Sherlock!" John continued to call out, but received no answer. He was now worried. Was the only man who seemingly cared about him, save his family, going to die tonight? John continued with the only two things he could do right now: shouting and running.
"What if I don't choose either?" Sherlock asked. "I could just walk out of here.
Jeff presented the answer. He held up the gun and aimed it at Holmes' forehead. "You can take a 50:50 chance, or I can shoot you in the head. Funnily enough, no-one's ever gone for that option."
Sherlock took one quick look at the gun, and his confidence grew. "I'll have the gun, please."
"Are you sure?"
"Definitely. The gun."
"You don't want to phone a friend (?)"
"The gun." Holmes stared into Hope's eyes. He kept on staring even when he pulled the trigger. But no bullet emerged. Instead, something less sinister; a small flame. The gun was a lighter. "I know a real gun when I see one," Sherlock said, a smug grin plastered upon his face.
"None of the others did," said Hope, his expression unchanged.
"Clearly. Well, this has been very interesting. I look forward to the court case." As he finished talking, he rose from the chair and made for the door. He would have passed through it, were it not for Hope's next choice of words.
"Just before you go, did you figure it out? Which one's the good bottle?"
"Course," Sherlock answered. "Child's play."
"Well, which one, then? Which one would you have picked? Just so I know whether I could have beaten you. Come on! Play the game." Sherlock closed the door and darted towards the desk where he sat half a minute ago. He looked at the two capsules upon the table, and made his choice. He picked up Hope's canister, leaving the one Hope offered him still standing on the desk. "Oh! Interesting," Hope remarked, as he grasped the remaining canister, opened it and held the tablet between his fingers, as Sherlock did the same. "So what do you think? Shall we?" Sherlock took his own tablet and held it up to the light, hoping to find an identifying mark. Nothing. It appeared that the outside appearances of both tablets were identical, as Hope had said. "Really... What do you think?" Jeff continued. "Can you beat me? Are you clever enough.....to bet your life?"
Two windows away a sound was made. Sherlock didn't hear it, even thought it was intentionally directed at him. If he had turned around at that moment in time, he would have seen what was causing the sound he couldn't hear. It was Watson, in the building opposite, and the sound was a message. A very simple, one word message: "SHERLOCK!!!!!"
"I bet you get bored, don't you?" Sherlock still stared at the tablet.
"I know you do. A man like you. So clever." His hand came closer to his face, particularly his mouth.
"But what's the point of being clever if you can't prove it? Still the addict. But this...this is what you're really addicted to." Sherlock's mouth opened.
"You'll do anything..." The tablet came closer.
"...anything at all…" It touched his lower jaw.
"…to stop being bored." The upper jaw rested on the tablet.
"You're not bored now, are ya?" In his mind Sherlock thought only two things; one: yes, you're right, and two: bite.
"Isn't it good?"
BANG!!!! The sound of glass cracking and bullets firing entered the air. Jeff Hope's mind did not think about the oddness of these noises. Currently he was on the floor, contorting in pain due to a bullet entering his shoulder. Sherlock was genuinely surprised. This was one thing in his life he did not see coming. Someone saved him. He darted to the window, still intact, despite having a bullet pass through it. There was no one on the other side. But a new thought entered his mind. A new question, a question where only one person knew the answer and that person was currently lying on the floor dying.
"Was I right?" he asked, sticking the chosen tablet in the cabbies line of view. "I was, wasn't I? Did I get it right?!" But he stayed silent. He wouldn't answer. Even Sherlock Holmes, it seemed, wouldn't be able to make him spill the beans. So there was only one last thing he could decipher from the man. "OK…" he began. "Tell me this. Your sponsor. Who was it? The one who told you about me, my fan. I want a name."
"No..." said Hope meekly. Last option, Sherlock thought. He raised his right foot and pressed in upon Hope's injured shoulder. Jeff let out a small whine of pain.
"You're dying, but there's still time to hurt you. Give me...a name." Hope still did not answer. Holmes pushed down further. "A name! Now!" Sherlock exclaimed, his patience deteriorating, his force increasing and Hope's pain excruciating. "THE NAME!" Sherlock bellowed. Hope could not stand the pain any longer. With all his energy, he utilised his last breath and spoke his last word. It was a name. One single name.
Sherlock let his foot off Hope's shoulder. It was too late. His eyes closed, his lungs empty and his heart ceased, Jeff Hope was dead. Before he left the college, he took out his BlackBerry and dialled Lestrade's number. As the dial tone rang, he silently said two words to whoever saved him.