Part 2

by Maureen S. O'Brien (mobrien at dnaco.net)

Holmes sat down with his syntholin. It was shaped like a violin, but it was really a keyboard instrument. He had never really taken to keyboards; even his preferred typing style was two-fingered, though he managed a respectable number of words per minute. But if he was still laughably bad at producing tunes from the thing (admittedly, from lack of application to practice), he could still use it to assist his thoughts or express his mood through -- well, it wasn't quite worthy of being called improvisation. 'Noodling around', as Lestrade would have it.

Watson, thankfully, didn't mind. No one had ever programmed him to dislike discords or odd tempi, and his patience was nearly infinite. Besides, he was busy just now at the console, writing another article while overseeing his website's interaction room. Noodling wouldn't bother him in the slightest.

So, with his knees drawn up nearly to his chin and his syntholin thrown across his knees, Holmes noodled, letting his fingers wander across the keys without his conscious volition. His usual pattern of thoughts was swept away. Music had its own logic, one which bridged the precise equations of mathematics and the deepest longings of the soul. He gave himself up to it, leaving more mundane problems to another day.

The vidphone came on. Holmes barely heard it. He played on, knowing in the back of his mind that Watson would answer it. His fingers flew faster, chord after chord, never resolving.

A metallic hand touched him lightly on the shoulder. He looked up, a little dazedly.

"It's Chief Inspector Grayson," Watson said apologetically. "I'm afraid it's important."

Holmes shook himself mentally, stood up, and walked over to the console. "Good evening, Chief Inspector," he said coolly.

"It's good now that you've stopped that caterwauling!" Grayson said. "We've got trouble. The prime minister's triplets have been kidnapped from his nursery. Out the window, would you believe! I don't know what those idiots over in Protective Services were thinking!" Grayson subsided. "You were asked for, so get to 10 Downing Street A- S-A-mmediately. I'll join you there, since Lestrade doesn't seem to want to answer her vidlink."

Watson walked into range of the screen. "That's strange. I spoke to the Inspector just before her shift was over. She said that she was headed straight home. Did you try her there?"

"Yes, I tried her there. I tried her cruiser. And of course I tried her wristphone. Not receiving calls, any of them." Grayson frowned. "It's not like her."

"No," Holmes said, frowning. "Watson, would you mind...."

"....Using the autotracker to find Lestrade's cruiser and see where she's gotten to?" Watson shook his head. "Although it's probably nothing."

"'Course it is!" said Grayson. "I'll see you at Number Ten." He switched off without another word.

Watson let Holmes out at the bottom of Downing Street. A minute later, the hovercoach was off again, soaring into the New London traffic. This had to be done carefully, for the quiet of Downing Street was enforced by a no-fly zone. Also by discreetly armed guards, who tonight were no longer quite so discreet. "Pass," one demanded, fingering the butt of his ionizer. "Please."

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes," he replied. "I'm expected." And a mere DNA scan, overly intimate search, and cane confiscation later, he was indeed allowed through the famous black door and across the famous black-and-white marble floor. Holmes was unimpressed. He had been here too many times before, and there was no use locking the barn door after the horses were gone.

"Mr. Holmes," said the Prime Minister, pushing aside the Georgian doors. "Please, come in. Come upstairs. Chief Inspector Grayson is already inspecting the scene."

"If it is all the same to you, sir," Holmes said, "I'd rather see the ground outside the nursery window before it is wholly ruined." Fortunately, he had become adept at distinguishing the heavy tread of the police and army boot from the light ones of a criminal, but time was of the essence.

"Oh. Yes, certainly." The Prime Minister motioned to one of his people. "Show Mr. Holmes outside."

Watson found Lestrade's cruiser parked in a dark inconspicuous alley off Kensington Square (which adjoined one of her usual routes homeward). This was his old partner's usual practice before sneaking up on a suspect or doing a recce. His heart sank. He activated the instruments in his arm and began scanning for Lestrade's DNA.

The trail of tiny skin cells led him to a dark house which hadn't been maintenanced in years. He sent off a brief message telling his whereabouts just in case, but when he entered the place, it was entirely empty. There were signs that some kind of scientific equipment had been installed in some of the rooms, but he could not determine exactly what. Lestrade left a veritable puddle of cells (indicating a longer stop) in a room which had been occupied by at least seven other people. He scanned it for a moment more, then transmitted the data to New Scotland Yard. Let their database sort it out. Then he followed Lestrade's trail -- and the others' -- back into the hall and out the rear exit. There he found the ion trail of a heavy, long-range hoverlorry, and no more of Lestrade's DNA.

Holmes paused and answered his handheld. It was Watson. "I found out why Lestrade isn't answering," said Watson, his elastomask brows furrowed with worry. "I believe she has been abducted."

"By whom?"

"The DNA scan was inconclusive," Watson admitted. "One was Antonio Bartoli, an Italian presently living in Brazil. There was also a man and a woman, both with unregistered DNA. Some of the others had inconclusive scans, the sort one gets from one of the less advanced DNA washers -- but at least they were human."

"So the rest...."

"Simian, but not human. I'll need someone to analyze the hairs I found to determine exactly what type."

"Interesting. But not totally unexpected."

"What do you mean, Holmes?"

He grinned at the disgusted constables clustered around the borders of the small yard, still waiting for him to finish. "Because I have been crawling on my hands and knees for the last quarter-hour, tracking impressions left on the grass by floodlight. I then borrowed a hoverboard from one of the younger State servants on the night shift, and am presently hovering halfway up a tree."

"Good heavens, what for?"

Holmes shifted his weight slightly and the board rose a little more. "I'm tracing the marks left by someone -- or rather, three someones -- who shimmied up it. Your evidence has cleared up several points which were puzzling me. Stay there, will you? I'll be done here very shortly." Holmes turned off the handheld and went back to work.

A few minutes later, he reentered 10 Downing Street. He spent perhaps five minutes in the nursery. No more was required, for the kidnappers had spent as little time here as possible and left few marks. He took more time with the ransom note.

"To the Prime Minister and his wife", it read on the outside. Within, it said simply, "A child is beyond price. We do not ask for money, therefore, but rather a list of demands to be named later. Your children will be safe with us until then."

"So, Holmes," Grayson asked impatiently, "care to tell us what you've found?"

"They have gone to the trouble of using English paper, but the handwriting is not English," Holmes rapped out. "There are a few other points of interest, but I will leave those to the labtechs to report. As for the rest, beside the fact that the abductors were ape-folk from Maple White Land in association with a few humans, and that they are almost certainly connected to Inspector Lestrade's abduction, I can tell you nothing."

On to Part 3!

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