"Oh, John," he says, running a thumb over my cheekbone. "You poor, naive, little man." I swallowed hard, finally managing to force a few words from my mouth. "What... what do y-you, uh, mean?" Jim sort of snickers at my awful speech, and I redden, my anger rising. Don't let him get to you. Don't. "When we met in the bar," he says sweetly, "my face was slathered in makeup to keep people from recognizing me. And most people don't." He breathes for a moment, staring at me. "But you did. And I thought, as your reward, I would allow you to see me as I actually am. So." He runs his hand across my thigh. "I am going to have to ask you to look at me," Jim orders, his soothing voice taking on a certain sharpness. "And, just so you know, I will not ask twice." Not wanting to lose a second kneecap to the blast of his gun, I obey him. And when I do, although I fight the impulse, I gasp. When Sherlock emerged from his death-defying stunt, there was barely a scratch on him. But as for Moriarty... if it were another person I would feel an overwhelming sense of pity.
His nose is viciously wrenched to one side, and a piece of bone seems to have been removed from his jaw, as his left cheek falls a little closer to the ground than his right. Scars twist and turn across his once flawless skin. The most prominent one snakes around the bottom of his left eye and over his lips, curling his mouth into an ugly shape. There is another scar that cuts across his scalp, making it so that no hair can grow in that spot. It then winds past the left ear and finishes less than an inch from the jugular. The scars are obviously from burns, and brutal ones at that. The final deformity - at least of the ones on his head - is located just above his cheekbone where the skin appears to have been scooped from the side of his face, like a vendor would an ice cream cone. The horror of his injuries envelops me, and my stomach lurches with nausea. Easy, John, easy. Just breathe.
"Too brutal for you, Doctor?"
I breathe deeply, trying to keep the day's meals from reaching past my throat. "How in the hell," I ask between gasps, "did that happen?" Jim pulls himself from my lap and twitches with anger, two horribly burned fingers playing with his suit jacket. "My trick," he begins, voice low. "My stupid, little trick. I wanted to outplay Sherlock, to force him to jump from the rooftop." He turns his back, consumed by the memory. "But he was the one who outplayed me." A wisp of laughter escapes my lips. "You're damn right he did."
Suddenly he's in my face, catching me by the neck and tipping the chair over on its back. No no no no no. Five fingers tighten around my throat as the others dig themselves into the carnage that was my knee. And the pain! I scream in agony, or I try to, but I can't breathe, I can't breath, oh dammit, Sherlock, i need you i need you i need
black spots dance before my eyes. everything dims. total blackness. then light. a little bit of light. flickering at me. i should be in pain but i feel weightless. a cool breeze brushes my cheek. i sort of smile, but i feel confused. where am i? what is this place? and then my mind flashes back to those hands around my throat. and the knowing of an unavoidable death. but who held my neck? who pushed the life out of me? with those beautiful eyes and that deformed face no no no it's
A force slams against my chest and I shoot up, gasping for air. The world around me is a blur, and my head roars with pain. I scream, trying to clear the fog, and finally a bit of sanity stills my mind. I stretch my arms out. Wasn't there...? Yes, yes, there was rope on my wrists, right? "Sher..." I whisper, my voice cracking painfully. "Sherrrrlock."
A hand cups my cheek and I smile and I look up and my stomach lurches and my breathing quickens and I can't I can't I can't
"Oh, John, my poor boy, are we having a little anxiety issue?" Jim holds tight to my shoulder, a worried look on his face. I hiss, sucking in a breath of air. Breathe, I remind myself. Just keep breathing. The psychopath tilts his head to one side and pulls my eyelids back in some sort of inspection. I am so exhausted that I do not even try to stop him. Whatever he’s doing, I’ll let him do it, and hope he won’t end up killing me.
“You alright?” He asks as he drops his hands, and I almost think I hear a touch of concern in his voice. I look up at him, my eyes meeting his. “What the hell did you do to me?” Annoyance flickers across his face as he gets to his feet. “You died, idiot. I held you down for too long and you died.” My teeth begin to chatter. No. No no no no no. Moriarty curls his deformed lips in distaste. “I had to bring you back using my dwindling supply of sheep gland extract.” He raises a near-empty syringe up to his face and sighs. “One day I’m really going to regret giving some of it to you.”
Jim takes a step back and just looks at me for a moment, thinking. Suddenly I hear the opening lyrics to ‘Staying Alive,’ and it takes every bit of my power to keep from throwing up. That stupid song. That bloody stupid song. Every time something horrible happens, Moriarty and his stupid, stupid song are involved. I tuck my chin against my chest and close my eyes as Jim takes a cellphone from his pocket. But he lets the song play on. “I absolutely love this song,” he says, taking in my discomfort with a smirk. “Don’t you?” Without responding, I curl my knees up against my chest. I can feel my body shaking. How can a single man infect my mind with so much fear?
The psychopath presses the phone to his ear. “Hello?” A pause. And a smile. “You’ve got him? Good. Good.” His eyes flick over at me. “Yes, he’s here.” I stare straight at him, chest tightening. “Of course I can,” Jim says, then crouches down in front of me. “It’s for you.”
I snatch the phone from his hand and hold it tightly against my ear. “H-hello?” “Jonathan Watson!” A voice crows. “How are you feeling?” “Apart from dying?” I snarl, glancing up at Moriarty. “Quite well, actually. Who’s this?” I can hear him smiling over the line. And it scares me.
“Colonel Sebastian Moran, at your service.”
My breathing quickens at a dangerous pace. “Where is he?” I ask icily. “Where is who?” Moran asks, his voice mocking. “You know who I’m talking about!” I bark, trying to sound unafraid, but my voice cracks and he laughs. “Sherlock, you mean?” He doesn’t wait for a response this time. “Your boyfriend just went to get us both some drinks. A charming man, your lover is.” His voice goes husky as he slurs, “And a great kisser, too.”
I can feel a heat flood across my face. My hand tightens around the phone and I want to say something but all I can do is try and slow my breathing. “You still there, John?” Sebastian asks, but he knows that I am, he knows that he just dealt me an almost lethal blow. And he’s loving it. “Oh, it looks like I’ll have to hang up,” he says suddenly. “Your boyfriend is on his way back.” “Wait---” I protest, but there’s nothing I can do. “I’ll give him a kiss for you,” the marksman teases, and then the line goes dead.
“NO!” I scream, throwing the phone across the room. Jim squeals and runs to catch it, but he’s too late. The phone slams against the wall and shatters. The psychopath drops to his knees and scoops the pieces up in his hands. I can’t help but laugh; the man seems about to cry!
Moriarty stands and turns around, the phone pieces falling from his open hand. The coldness in his eyes chills me to the bone. “I’m sorry---” I begin, but he is already in my face, a hand wrapping around my throat as he jerks me to my feet. He takes a pair of handcuffs from his jacket pocket and I hiss in pain as he tightens them cruelly around my wrists. I’m screwed now, I know it. He’s going to kill me, no, not kill me, that would be too nice. “Please---” I say, and the next thing I feel is his fist hitting my face, blood spurting from my nose as I crash to the floor. I cry out in agony, my hands pressed tightly against the carnage.
“You should be bloody happy I haven’t killed you!” Jim screams, slamming a steel-tipped shoe into my side. “I’m having enough trouble as it is; I don’t need you to bugger it up even more!” I’m sobbing now, and I don’t know anymore if the tears are simply from the pain. Pulling myself to my knees, I watch as my blood and tears fall steadily to the floor. Meanwhile, Moriarty pulls the chair to him and stands on it. I watch through my fingers as he pulls a long hook and chain from its resting place on one of the ceiling pipes. He loops the chain around the bar once, then a second time, finally slipping the loop at the end of the chain over a bolt. Tugging on it twice, he nods to himself, then gets down from the chair.
“Oh, Johnny boy!” He sings, tugging me to my feet. “Let go of me!” I roar, trying to pull from his grasp, but it’s no use. I am too weak from the drug he gave me, as well as from losing so much blood. The psychopath leads me beneath the hanging chain and pats the chair. “Climb on up,” he says, smiling. I pause for a moment, but then I feel the steel mouth of his gun lightly touching my side. He leans even closer. “I said, climb on up.” I close my eyes and step up onto the chair, at the same time trying to calm myself. And failing completely.
Jim climbs up in front of me, so close that our chests are pressed tightly together. I wince and go to move, but there is no room. “Raise your hands.” I look down at the man. I could kill him right now. Give me the chance, and I’ll kill him. Moriarty purses his lips and says scoldingly, “Now, John, don’t make me ask twice.” And so I move my hands above my head, and with great care he slips the hook through the chains of my manacles. “Now,” he whispers, running his fingers over my chest. “Isn’t that better?” I look up at the ceiling. “Please,” I say again. Jim pulls loose one of the buttons on my shirt. “Please, what?” He murmurs. “Don’t, please, I, I mean---” I begin, but stumble over my words and a small smile appears on his face. “You know what?” He says, leaping down from the chair. “I do believe you’re not completely ready for your performance.” I glance down at him. “Sorry?” The man picks up the video recorder and the stand leaning against the wall. My body stiffens. “What are you doing?” I demand. But Jim doesn’t answer. He just sets up the camera and faces it in such a way that I know it is capturing me entirely. “Moriarty!” I bark, and this time he turns in my direction. A long-knife is in his hand. “Patience,” he says. I reel backwards as he moves to the chair, but he catches me by the shirt so that I do not fall. “Take it easy, honey,” he murmurs, climbing up onto the chair. Moriarty touches the knife to my chest, the tip beneath one of the buttons. “Now don’t move,” he says, a thumb skimming my cheek. And that is when he makes the first slice.
The knife flicks upwards so quickly that I barely have time to register the fact that my shirt is no longer covering my chest. The sleeves hang limply from my arms, and I hiss as Moriarty reaches towards one of them with his knife. “Easy,” he whispers. Leaning forward, he kisses me on the lips. I freeze in surprise and his knife hand slices the blade clean through the sleeve. Almost my entire shirt is gone.
Jim pulls back and runs his tongue over his upper lip. “You taste like him,” he smiles, but before I can even begin to comprehend what he just said, the knife tears through the last sleeve. The shirt falls from my body, my skin naked to the world. I can feel the heat of his breath on my chest as he traces my stomach with his finger. He stops when he gets to the belt. I look down at him, and him up at me. “I’d like to,” he frowns, disappointed, “but I’m running late. You’ll have to wait for another time.” My brow furrows as I realize what he was implying. Jim smiles at my rage as he steps back onto the ground. He moves towards the camera then suddenly stops. “Oops!” He says, giggling to himself. “I almost forgot!” Moriarty takes three steps in my direction then kicks the chair out from under my feet. And I fall.
“Oh God!” I scream as the chain catches me at a sudden stop. Pain shoots through my chest and into my arms; my wrists begin to bleed from the tightness and chafing of the cuffs, and my feet just barely skim the ground. I scream again, and tears begin to fall from my eyes. My vision is blurry as I look over to where Jim is standing; he has taken his position behind the camera.
“You ready for your close-up, Doctor Watson?” He asks, tapping at the ‘record’ switch. Blood slips down my face and begins to dot my chest. I’m bruised and hurting. My knee is gone, as is most of my nose. I’m not ready for this. I’ll never be ready for this. I’m all alone. Again. I look up at Moriarty with the plan to plead for my life.
And then the record button begins to blink.