“It’s good to see you again, Greg.”
“Likewise, sir,” Lestrade replied, as he took a seat next to Dumbledore.
The two sat in companionable silence for a beat. Lestrade refrained from asking the former headmaster of Hogwarts how retirement was treating him. He knew exactly how Albus Dumbledore spent his waking hours, and more specifically with whom. And those were far from relaxing.
“You know, the last time we had an one-on-one, we were talking about John and Sherlock,” Lestrade began.
“How they got married, to be specific,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “You never did finish the tale.”
“True, I ended on a cliffhanger. What did I tell you?”
“You told me Jim Moriarty framed Sherlock for a crime the latter did not commit. Your colleagues at the New Scotland Yard tried to arrest him, but Sherlock took John as his ‘hostage’ and vanished. The best of the professionals couldn’t find them, including Mr. Mycroft Holmes.”
“Did I tell you Mycroft kidnapped me for a meeting?”
“You did. Mr. Holmes persuaded you finding John was of greatest importance. The world respects her voice, therefore she must publish the facts, said he.”
“Which led to him giving me a list of things Sherlock would never, ever do,” Lestrade said. “And me doing things a copper won’t do when it comes to missing people cases.”
“At which point you were obliged to pause your narrative to attend lessons,” said Dumbledore. “I must also note you didn’t mention why Mr. Mycroft ordered you to do such unorthodox things.”
“Okay, I’ll start from there,” said Lestrade, leaning into his seat. “See, the official NSY stance was Sherlock would try to leave the country, what with the manhunt going on and him not cooperating. Only a guilty person would have something to hide, blah, blah.”
“That would be the normal conclusion,” Dumbledore said. “As for Mycroft?”
“He did not tell me at first. Instead, he sent me off to do a random search in London,” Lestrade emphasized the last word, “While in the meantime ordering me to do a thorough investigation of John.” Lestrade gave Dumbledore a meaningful look. “You know, treat her like a person of interest. Act like a copper for this instance.”
“What did you find?”
Lestrade drew in a deep breath. “A week before Moriarty stole the Crown Jewels—and I mean this literally—John gave Sherlock durable medical power of attorney.”
There was a crashing silence.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” said Dumbledore slowly. “But does that not give Sherlock the power to make medical decisions on her behalf?”
“Yeah,” Lestrade confirmed. “People usually do it when they expect they won’t be able to make decisions in the near future.” He wet his lips. “John updated her will, too. Named Sherlock her sole beneficiary.”
Dumbledore ran a hand over his mouth. “What prompted this?”
“Hell if I know,” Lestrade grumbled. “John won’t say and heaven forbid Sherlock give me a straight answer.”
Another brief pause.
“Me and a couple of lads took a deeper look at John and Sherlock’s activities before, during, and after Moriarty’s heist,” Lestrade continued. “This is what we found: John tapered off locum work without giving reasons. Sherlock was called as a witness at Moriarty’s trial, but he declined at the last minute.” He paused. “I always wondered why. It’s not like Sherlock to refuse a chance to show off how damn clever he is.” Another pause. “Anyway, Sherlock didn’t show and Moriarty got acquitted. The jury declared him not guilty despite all the damning evidence.”
“I sense corruption. Or coercion,” said Dumbledore.
“Your senses are damn right. Turns out Moriarty threatened key members of the jury,” said Lestrade in disgust. “So that was that. Moriarty left scot-free, and things quieted down. Sherlock took things easy. And by this I mean Sherlock went from taking three cases at a time to maybe one every fortnight.”
Dumbledore’s eyebrows jumped. “That’s not normal for him.”
“Absolutely not,” Lestrade agreed. “Now let’s take a step back. Forget about Moriarty for a second. Here is a man who the for sake of simplicity is a work addict. He winds down his workload right around the time his best friend gives him the power of attorney for medical decisions. Aforesaid best friend also updates her will. If it were anyone other than Sherlock, what would your hypothesis be?”
“The man decided to devote his time taking care of his best friend because he or she was suffering from a grave illness that has a good chance of ending in death,” Dumbledore replied. “Whether he was motivated by altruism or avarice depends on his character.”
“And there was the rub,” said Lestrade, pointing a finger at Dumbledore. “You and I know Sherlock would rather upend this whole damn island and throw it into the Irish Sea than let John get hurt.”
“Yes. But the same could not have been said for your colleagues.”
Lestrade nodded grimly. “Half of them were convinced he was a psychopath. My own Sergeant told anyone who’d listen one day we’re going to find a body and it would be Sherlock who put him there. The Moriarty thing just brought all the ugly to light.”
“You were not so easily persuaded,” Dumbledore noted.
Lestrade flicked his gaze away. “I knew something they didn’t.”
“And that is?”
Lestrade hesitated for a second.
“Sherlock got involved with a case that had nightmare gas in the middle of it,” he said. “By
“And rather wished it had gone unfulfilled,” Dumbledore said gently.
Lestrade let his silence speak for itself while shying away from the memory of seeing John locked in a nightmare day in Iraq. The memory of the anguish on Sherlock’s face as he hovered. Wanting to reach out but knowing better than to touch.
“Once you understand a man’s real priorities, you know what to ask,” Lestrade went on. “What would Sherlock Holmes do if he was convinced he had only a handful of months left with John Watson?”
“Let Mycroft Holmes and Co. handle the details of apprehending James Moriarty’s criminal network and spend those days alone with John,” Dumbledore answered. “If this means he must destroy his life work and be condemned a fake in the eyes of the public, to convince Moriarty his scheme had worked, so be it.”
“Obviously,” Lestrade said, heavy with self-deprecation.
Lestrade waited while Dumbledore mulled over the facts he’d learned.
“The details of how Sherlock and John remained under radar is less important than the strength of Sherlock’s motivation to stay hidden,” Dumbledore reasoned. “From the fact he didn’t resurface despite Mr. Mycroft’s no doubt ardent efforts, means he wished not to be disturbed. I presume the marriage happened after Moriarty issued his high-stake puzzles where failure means he’d detonate the bombs strapped on his hostages.”
“You presume correctly.”
“I also presume Moriarty stipulated he would disable the bombs if someone brings Sherlock Holmes to him.”
“I can almost taste the furor to find him,” Dumbledore remarked.
“The worst adrenaline jitters of my life,” Lestrade confirmed.
“Mr. Mycroft Holmes knew Sherlock would answer Moriarty’s challenge because he cannot resist and John would not have it any other way.”
“Again, correct,” Lestrade replied. “Interesting side note: Mycroft contacted me after Moriarty posted the first puzzle. Gave me the bullshit line about the world waiting for John to speak.”
“Dear me, he lied to you?”
“He argues he gave me as much truth as allowed at that point in time,” Lestrade growled. “Anyway, there I was, racing against the clock trying to figure out where Sherlock would show his face before Moriarty did. This was when the list of ‘What would Sherlock not do’ came into play.”
“Process of elimination.”
“And sheer luck,” Lestrade said. “I staked out at the marriage registry office that fateful day because it wasn’t on the list.”
“Was that your only reason?”
“Not the only one.”
“Do tell me more,” Dumbledore urged.
“Call it a moment of madness,” Lestrade said. “But I imagined Sherlock as any other sane man who met the woman of his dreams. I’d marry that girl, come hell and high water. Because she was, you know? To him. I mean, he basically committed suicide without actually dying to spend what he thought was her last hours together.
“The rest you know. Sherlock and John showed up an hour into my stakeout, with Mycroft Holmes showing not a minute later. They said their vows, and judge rubber-stamped their marriage certificate. John later told me, and I kid you not, they decided to get married to give Sherlock a plain, ordinary name he can go undercover with: ‘William Watson’. Ha ha ha.”
“I never did learn what grave illness John had,” Lestrade mused. “I also don’t know how they whiled away their time underground. Sherlock won’t tell me and I’ll probably die never knowing. But I fancy he spent those days just … holding on and listening to her breathe.”