The Last of August

Page 43

August Moriarty had scooted up a swivel chair behind her. He leaned over her shoulder, saying something into her ear.

“I have a Watson for you, Miss Holmes,” the guard announced.

Neither of them moved.

I cleared my throat. “A bleeding Watson, who’s been kidnapped.”

August stood up. Holmes wrenched her head around.

“Thanks,” I said. “If I want to get your attention next time, should I be an actual bomb?”

For the record, I was in a really bad mood.

“Your hands,” Holmes said, and she crossed the room to me. “What happened to your hands this time?”

I held them up, letting the blood drip on the floor. “Black car, plate 653 764. Lavender air freshener. Two people in the car, maybe three. I’m not sure. I was blindfolded, I didn’t get the particulars, but I think they drove around in a circle. It took about five minutes—”

“Watson, I don’t need a report just now—”

“They told me I was useless. That I should leave you here and go home.”

She looked at me steadily. She didn’t say a word.

“And when I rolled out of the car, I think I dislocated my shoulder. August, could you? I need it put back into place.”

He went pale. “Isn’t there a doctor on the Greystone staff?”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Holmes said, “what on earth did they teach you at Oxford,” and after mapping my shoulder with her palms, she made me lie on the floor. Then she stuck one foot on my stomach and jerked my arm back into place.

I shouted. Louder than I needed to, maybe. I took a breath. Straightened. I tried my shoulder. The pain wasn’t any worse—it had lessened slightly.

“It would probably be a bad idea for me to ask you for painkillers,” I said to her as she helped me to my feet.

“Probably,” she said. “Though I might have something in my shoe, if you want me to look.”

I looked sharply at her, which set off another spasm of pain, and she put up her hands. “Watson, please, I’m joking. The plate number you gave me is one of Milo’s cars. The cars in his personal fleet all start with 653. I’m sure he’s just worried about your safety. This isn’t exactly your mission.”

I wasn’t looking for reassurance from her, but I also wasn’t looking for her to join in to that particular chorus. “Right, then,” I said. “Your brother wouldn’t, I don’t know, call me and ask me to leave?”

“I’m sure he appreciated the theatrics of it all. Lavender air freshener? That sounds wretched enough to be him.” She took one of my arms by the wrist and peered at my palm. “These are fairly minor abrasions. I’ll call down for some bandages, and we can get back to it.”

“Back to what, exactly? How have you spent your afternoon?”

“Picking apart that screen.”

“I didn’t realize you’d started up an AV club in my absence.”

She frowned at me. “That was the security feed we were running. It stopped working. I’m fixing it.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child.”

“Stop acting like one, then. How was Marie-Helene?”

“How do you think she was?”

“Stupid enough to find your little act charming.”

“She isn’t stupid.”

“Really,” she said. “I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, and right now I find both you and Simon obnoxious. How do you square that?”

I kept my voice cold. “I made out with her until she showed me a floor’s worth of forged paintings. They were done as assignments for a Sieben class taught by Nathaniel Ziegler. I didn’t see any of Langenberg’s work, but I didn’t get through the whole building. It doesn’t matter. We have enough to know this is the connection Leander was exploring. I know this isn’t exactly my mission or anything, but if I were to guess, I’d say that Leander was just trying to track down the intermediaries. Figure out how the money was changing hands. You always follow the money, right? It’s like hot potato. Whoever’s left with the cash in the end is the guiltiest one.”

I’m not stupid. I’ve never been stupid. I got good grades. I paid attention when someone was teaching me something, and I made it a point to learn it fast. Fine, I didn’t have Holmes’s training or her aptitude, but just because I wasn’t a genius didn’t mean that I wasn’t smart.

And no, this wasn’t my mission. It was our mission. Her uncle was missing, but he was my father’s best friend, and I had as much of a right to be there as she did. I was done taking a constant backseat. Taking bullshit from strangers who hauled me off the street at gunpoint to dress me down. I was done with the way August was looking at me, even now, with the kind of indulgence you showed to a well-behaved Chihuahua.

“You want this solved by midnight?” I said, rubbing my shoulder. “Then I’ll get my father to give up the IP addresses on Leander’s emails if he won’t give us the emails themselves. Your uncle had to live somewhere while he was conducting his investigation. Let’s go there. Shake it down. Someone run Nathaniel Ziegler through Milo’s criminal databases. Can we get some known associates? It was smarter to send me on a date with an art student while you played mechanic here at home?”

Holmes stared at me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

“Your uncle is missing, Holmes.”

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