Someone was knocking on the door. John ignored it. After a minute or so, the knocking stopped. Then he heard a click and the door opened.
“Excuse me for intruding in this manner, doctor, but I needed to contact you,” spoke the man John never thought he’d see again.
“You,” said John in a flat tone. Rage was beyond him. He looked at the man: he had dark circles under his eyes and looked paler than usual. He has grown considerably thinner for reasons John suspected were more than finally finding a good diet regime. So, even Iceman can mourn, then, he thought, remembering one of few details he was willing to share afterwards about The Woman Debacle.
That reminded him of that meeting in the café: they seemed like allies then. Friends, even. But then he hung them out to dry.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“There is something your expertise could be used in,” said Mycroft.
“I’m sure there are enough medical professionals around,” said John.
“Doctor,” said Mycroft, “please. There are lives at stake.”
He put a folder on the table and walked out.
John picked up his sandwich, last vestiges of appetite lost, and went to dispose of it. When he returned to the room, his eyes kept straying to the folder. Normally, he would have shoved it into rubbish bin together with his breakfast, but…
I took an oath, he reminded himself. I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings.
He picked it up and opened it. First case listed explained why Mycroft himself was involved – it was a member of a prominent family. Hospitalised last night for diarrhoea and odd behaviour. Escalated into heart arrhythmia. Doctors doing their best to keep him alive.
He turned the page. Another case, across the town, a 62-year old woman. Near death.
Another. A thirty-year-old company executive.
Another. A female student.
Another. And yet another. And then another. And then…
John walked to the cabinets covered in a cloak of dust. He opened the upper left drawer, dust sticking to his fingers in a film; it contained files with basic symptoms of various poisonous substances, arranged in alphabetical order. He didn’t have to search long – the entry was near the beginning.
Why would someone poison that number of people with aconite? Is it supposed to be set up, other victims chosen randomly when the main target is one person? Is there another link?
John walked back into his room and reached for his old notebook, sitting in the corner of his desk. He stood still for a few moments, fingers reaching for it but not quite touching; then he shuddered and left it be.
Instead, he grabbed his wallet and threw on a jacket, walking to nearby newsagent's. The new notebook was not a fine moleskin, merely hard cardboard, not black but red - but it would do. John would not be sleuthing, merely doing his duty as a doctor.
He returned to 221B and sat down, copying the symptoms and few remarks there were about treatment from the file. He continued searching through the cabinet just in case there is another poison with similar effects - there was little time, but wrong treatment might prove more disastrous than the delayed one. Research for treatment in various online databases that followed kept him up well past midnight - a rare occurence these days. Exaustion made his sleep dreamless, another rarity since the fall.