The Case of the Dead Caroller
Bitter Perfume* - 5 Dec 12
The first thing that struck him was the smell. Even in the biting cold, it permeated the still air. Sherlock inhaled deeply through his nose, taking in and analysing every scent element. Spicy. Dry. Aromatic. Warm.
John sniffed and grimaced. "Bitter?"
"Bitter perfume, to be precise." He scanned the scene inside the police tape as Donovan stalked towards them. She looked less happy than usual. He met her pursed-lipped glare with a single word. "Myrrh."
"Myrrh. Surely even you can smell it. Or--" Everyone was bundled against the chill, but Donovan more so. "Perhaps not through that congestion."
A dead caroller* - 6 Dec 12
"Thanks for caring," Donovan managed to snark through the misery of her stuffed sinuses. "Find your own way around. Body's over there. Obviously," she added before the freak could beat her to the punch.
He barely arched an eyebrow. More a dismissal than an acknowledgement. For once it didn't bother her. She was so ill she couldn't care.
John, as usual, apologised for his friend with a look, handing her a handkerchief.
"Who is it?" He tipped his head toward the body, partially hidden by Anderson, Lestrade, and now Sherlock.
She told him all they knew. "Dead carol singer."
Lestrade* - 7 Dec 12
The moment he saw Sherlock approaching, Lestrade signalled Anderson to back off. The last thing he needed was that sort of friction. It wouldn't generate warmth, so it wasn't useful to him. Anderson removed himself a single step, then stubbornly stayed put, arms crossed over his chest.
Lestrade heaved a small, eloquent, irritated sigh, his breath misting in the bitterly cold morning air. He tucked gloved hands deep into his anorak pockets.
"Lestrade. Anderson," Sherlock said.
It was a good sign. He'd acknowledged Anderson's presence without insulting him. Lestrade might have smiled if his face weren't damned near frozen stiff.
Christmas - 8 Dec 12
"Sherlock," Lestrade greeted him. "You're looking cheerful."
"It's Christmas!" Sherlock clapped gloved hands together, eyes alight and smile manic.
"Why do I think you mean the corpse and not the season?"
"Because you are occasionally intelligent."
Lestrade let the backhanded compliment slide. He waited, glancing about, as Sherlock examined the body. He spotted John speaking with Donovan at the edge of the police tape. He'd told her to go home and rest. Apparently he would have to make it an order.
"Strangled with her own scarf," pronounced Sherlock. "Even Anderson must have figured that out."
Ah. There was the insult.
"Oh yes," groused Anderson. "But what about the oil?"
Lestrade wished his medical examiner would learn to shut the hell up whenever Sherlock was around, but that was never going to happen. Sherlock, naturally, enjoyed putting the other man in his place.
"Myrrh oil, of course. It's permeating the air ten feet away despite it being so cold that it's congealed inside the victim's nostrils."
"You're sure that's what it is?" asked Lestrade. He'd never smelled it before that he remembered and so hadn't managed to identify the pungent aroma.
"Positive. The question is why the killer poured it over her face after strangling her."
Anderson couldn't resist a sarcastic quip. "Because she'd've fought if he'd done it to her before?"
Nativity/Crèche - 16 Dec 12
John crouched down next to the binder, noticing the paper image of a nativity scene glued to the front. It looked to have been cut from a magazine. "May I?" he asked, pointing to it. Lestrade shrugged.
"I'd tell you to put on a pair of gloves, but you'd be a fool if you weren't wearing some already. Although they're hardly the recommended type."
John glanced at his Thinsulate-lined leather gloves and shrugged. "Is that a yes?"
"Go ahead. It's been photographed and you know how to handle evidence."
John took the binder by the edges and carefully opened it.
A short while for dreaming* - 18 Dec 12
A gust of wind picked up the pages, turning them over on myrrh-scented draughts. John caught a few titles as they flipped past and when the breeze died, he turned the pages more carefully. "God. I wouldn't have wanted her carolling at my house. These are the most depressing Christmas carols ever written."
"What's that?" Sherlock was beside him in an instant.
"Look. 'In the Bleak Midwinter', 'The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot', 'Bethlehem Down'."
"The last one isn't bad," argued Lestrade, quoting lyrics. "'Here He has peace and a short while for dreaming--"
John quoted back. "'Myrrh for embalming and wood for a crown.' Seriously? And here. 'We Three Kings'? Isn't that the only common carol in a minor key or something?"
Bells broke the otherwise quiet morning, heralding advent services in a nearby church. Only--
"That pattern's wrong," said Anderson. "I recognise it from when I was a bell-ringer as a kid." At everyone's stunned looks, he said smugly (and mostly at Sherlock), "You don't know everything about me. There's a hitch in the pattern. Listen."
The sequence repeated and they all heard it this time. "Sounds like someone didn't show up this morning."
Sherlock knelt again by the body and pulled the dead woman's mittens from her stiff hands. "We've found who's missing from that bell."
*Thanks to methylviolet10b for the prompts.